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Medieval Islamic City in Morocco


Al-Basra is a medieval Islamic city located near the modern village of the same name in northern Morocco, about 100 kilometers south of the Straits of Gibraltar, south of the Rif Mountains. It was founded about AD 800 by the Idrisids, who controlled must of what is today Morocco and Algeria during the 9th and 10th centuries.

A mint at al-Basra issued coins, and the city served as an administrative, commercial and agricultural center for the Islamic civilization between ca AD 800 and AD 1100. It produced many goods for the extensive Mediterranean and sub-Saharan trade market, including iron and copper, utilitarian pottery, glass beads and glass objects.

  • Phase 1 (founding)
  • Phase 2 (Idrisid, 9th-10th centuries)
  • Phase 3 (Almoravid, late 10th and 11th centuries)
  • Phase 4 (Almohad and later)

Archaeology and al-Basra

The site extends over an area of some 40 hectares, only a tiny piece of which has been excavated to date. Residential house compounds, ceramic kilns, subterranean water systems, metal workshops and metal-working locations have been identified to date. A state mint has yet to be identified, but is known to have been established at al-Basra by the Isidrids. A city wall surrounded the site.

Chemical analysis of glass beads from al-Basra was accomplished and reported in 2011. The study indicated that at least six types of glass bead manufacturing are found at Basra, roughly correlating to color and luster, depending on how much lead, silica, lime, tin, iron, aluminum, potash, magnesium, copper, bone ash or other type of material was added to the mixture.


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Islamic civilization , and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Morgan ME. 2009. Reconstructing early Islamic Maghribi metallurgy. Tucson: The University of Arizona. 582 p.

Rimi A, Tarling DH, and el-Alami SO. 2004. An archaeomagnetic study of two kilns at Al-Basra. In: Benco NL, editor. Anatomy of a Medieval Town: Al-Basra, Morocco. London: British Archaeological Reports. p 95-106.

Robertshaw P, Benco N, Wood M, Dussubieux L, Melchiorre E, and Ettahiri A. 2010. Chemical analysis of glass beads from medieval al-Basra (Morocco).



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