Located on the Tigris River, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, Samarra was the ancient capital city of the Abbasid Empire, which at one time extended from Tunisia to Central Asia. Largely unexcavated, the site features two magnificent mosques, Al-Malwiya and Abu Dulaf, both adorned with elaborate and unusual spiral minarets. Samarra is also the site of several of the largest remaining medieval Islamic palaces, including Qasr al-Khalifa, al-Ja’fari, and al Ma’shuq. According to UNESCO, “Samarra is the only surviving Islamic capital that retains its original plan, architecture and arts, such as mosaics and carvings. Indeed, Samarra has the best preserved plan of any ancient large city, being abandoned relatively early and so avoiding the constant rebuilding of longer lasting cities.” In ancient times, the city was known for artistic and technical innovations. For example, lusterware ceramics were developed in Samarra. In addition, a distinctive form of carved stucco, known as the “Samarra style,” was developed there and then spread quickly throughout the Islamic world.