Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ukhaidir (Desert Castle)

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Southwest of Baghdad in the Iraqi desert stand the two "desert castles" of Atshan and Ukhaidir. The former might be Umayyad, but Ukhaidir is generally believed to have been built for the "Abbasid prince Isa Ibn Musa after he went into internal exile around AD 776. Ukhaidir is particularly interesting because it combines poor masonry with a very advanced design, and as such, was typical of many aspects of medieval eastern Islamic fortification. The large fortified enclosure is approximately 170 m along each side, the intact parts of the outer wall including the wallhead reaching 17 m. Round towers stand at each corner, with ten half-round towers and split or quarter-round towers flanking three of the gates. The outer surfaces of the walls are not flat, but have two pointed blind arches between each tower. The towers themselves are solid, but at the wallhead was a covered walkway that opened into a chamber at the summit of each tower, and had slits in the floor, which enabled a garrison to defend the foot of the wall.

The drawing is of the North side of the court of honor in Ukhaidir before the massive restoration of recent years. It led to the Main Gate which was itself set between massive rectangular towers. The drawing is based on an Iraqi Ministry of Tourism photograph.


David Nicolle, Adam Hook (illust.), "Saracen Strongholds AD 630 - 1050," Fortress 76, Osprey Pub. Oxford, UK, 2008, P. 30.

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