Al-`Ashiq (medieval name: al-Ma`shuq – ‘The Beloved’) was the palace of the last caliph of Samarra, al-Mu`tamid. It was built between 877 and 882, and is located on the west bank of the Tigris 16 km from the modern city. It was mainly excavated by the Iraq Directorate of Antiquities in the 1960s, and restored in the 1980s.
The plan consists of a principal building built on an artificial platform, and set in an outer enclosure. The outer enclosure is a rectangle of walls measuring 230 x 178 m. The main building is a rectangle 140 x 93 m, with a narrower extension to the north measuring 62 x 45 m. The lower level of the building is an artificial platform intended to level the slopes of the hill. The outer parts of the platform are carried on brick tunnel vaults, some of which were accessible through arched doorways from the outside for storage or other uses, although not suited for human residence in the form they were first built. The main enclosure has an outer wall with 22 buttresses. The outside face is decorated with three fine blind niches between each buttress, decorated with polylobed arches. Only the north wall has survived to full height, but sufficient traces survive elsewhere to show that all four facades had been treated in the same way.
The interior plan is based on a T-iwan and a square dome chamber on the north-south axis. The dome chamber was flanked by two pillared halls. The T-iwan faced onto an internal courtyard. On the west, east, and south sides, there are apartments whose plan has been complicated by rebuilding. It is evident that there is a complex sequence of occupation in the interior. The plan was rebuilt into smaller and smaller rooms. The palace continued to be occupied for a long time after the caliph left.
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