Young Pioneer Tours

Malwiya Minaret, Samarra

by Andy Khong

The Malwiya Minaret is a spiraling tower located in the ancient city of Samarra [125 kilometers (78 miles) north of Baghdad]. It is part of the Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil (named after Caliph al-Mutawakkil who commissioned the building; it is also known as the Great Mosque of Samarra), which was built as an architectural masterpiece covering an area of 38,000 square meters (410,000 square feet) in the 9th century during the Abbasid Caliphate [Caliphates in sequence after the passing of Prophet Muhammad are Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mamluk Abbasid, and Ottoman. A Caliph is a religious and political leader of an Islamic State]. The Mosque was the largest in the world until the end of the 11th century, and was one of the most important religious and cultural centres of the Islamic world, and it continues to be an important historical site today.

Malwiya (means ‘snail shell’ or cylindrical spiral) Minaret is approximately 52 meters (171 feet) tall and 33 meters wide (108 feet) and has a distinctive spiral ramp that winds around the outside of the tower, which was once attached to the Mosque by a bridge. The muezzin (the person who proclaims the call prayer) would walk to the top of the Minaret to perform his call to prayer five times a day at the Mosque. The ramp spiraling to the top is broad with a rail on the inside but there is no protection (rail) on the outer side. Those who suffer from vertigo or have balancing problems might have to cautious; unless you are Superman, it is free fall down if take a wrong step! Despite this, it is an easy climb to the top of the minaret for a panoramic view.

The Mosque was destroyed by the army of Mongol ruler Hulagu Khan (Grandson of Chinggis Khan [spelled ‘Genghis Khan’ in the past]) in 1278, but the Minaret was spared due to its uniqueness. The Minaret was partially destroyed in April 2005 when insurgents bombed the tower to instigate secular warfare, and also because the US troops had been using it as a lookout position. Despite its history and cultural significance, the Malwiya Minaret remains a relatively little-known landmark, but is considered one of the most important examples of Islamic architecture in Iraq. The ruins of The Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2007.

Samarra is a derived from an Arabic phrase “Surra man ra’a“, meaning “A joy for all those who see it”. Do come and walk up the Malwiya Minaret, and admire its unusual design which has survived for over 1,150 years; a testament to architectural heritage and innovative design which was ahead of its time. It will be a joy for you to see it!

Malwiya Minaret, Samarra
YPT’s Gulliver at top of Malwiya Minaret overlooking the remains of the Grand Mosque of al-Mutawakkil

To read another article on the Malwiya Minaret or the Great Mosque of Samarra, go to:
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