To Put Mosul On The Silk Road Again

 In 1877 the term “Seidenstraße” (Die Seidenstrassen,
 literally “Silk Road”)
was coined by the German geographer, cartographer and explorer Ferdinand von Richthofen

A city from Iraq by Matrakci (Source)

Location: Once a fourishing industrial and commercial city, Mosul, in today’s Northern Iraq and the north’s major center for trade, industry and communications, was once a thriving city on the Silk Roads.

10th-century Muslim geographer al-Muqaddasi, described Mosul as

the metropolis of this region. It is a splendid city, beautifully built; the climate is pleasant, the water healthy. Highly renowned, and of great antiquity, it is possessed of excellent markets and inns, and is inhabited by many personages of account, and learned men; nor does it lack a high authority in the Traditions, or a celebrated doctor of the law. From here come provisions for Baghdad, and thither go the caravans of al-Rihab. It has, besides, parks, specialities, excellent fruits, very fine baths, magnificent houses, and good meats: all in all the town is thriving.”

Importance: Under the Abbasid Muslim dynasty, Mosul became a major economic hub on the Silk Road. From that point forward, Mosul continued to develop incredibly advanced techniques in the arts and fine goods production. It has given its name to the fine textile “Muslin”. 

The Blacas Ewer (629 AD), Shuja‘ b. Man‘a al-Mawsili. Jazira, Mosul. Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum, London

Key features: Beyond the Muslin weaving, Mosul also became famous for its fine metalwork and painting styles.. Those were only a few of the key industries that this great industrial centre was home to. Others included:

  • Crude Oil Production: Sources record crude oil production in Iraq where there were seepages on the eastern bank of the Tigris along the road to Mosul. Muslim travellers reported that it was produced on a large scale and was exported.
  • Textile Production: Mosul has always been celebrated as a weaving centre producing the finest of textiles. It’s textiles were especially famed.

(Sources and further reading 010203)

Famous Scholars: Those included the philosopher Bakr Kasim Al-Mawsili who authored an epistolary philosophical work entitled Fi’ al-Nafs; the 10thcentury astronomer and mathematician Al-Qabisi; and the infamous Opthalmologist Ammar Al-Mawsili.

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