Timelne: Tulunid {868-905}

Dynasty which ruled over Egypt and Syria in the late 9th-early 10th c./2nd-3rd c. AH

The dynasty was founded by Ahmed ibn Tulun the son of a Turkic soldier from Bukhara who was based at the Abbasid capital of Samarra. Ahmed was originally sent to Egypt as deputy to the governor but soon acquired the governorship himself. As governor of Egypt Ahmed soon extended his power to Syria and Palestine whilst the Abbasids were distracted by rebellions in lower Iraq.    Ahmed's son Khumarawayah is known to have built a beautiful palace with a golden hall decorated with sheets of gold carrying representations of himself and his wife. Not surprisingly the palace has not survived.

Ahmed's son and successor Khumarawayah received official recognition of his position from the caliph when he was granted Syria and Egypt in return for an annual tribute of 500,000 dinars. By the time of Khumarawayah's death in 896/282 AH the empire was weakened by extravagance and internal revolts. Three more Tulunid rulers followed but in the next ten years their situation was so weakened that in 906/293 AH an Abbasid general was able to take over Egypt and put an end to Tulunid rule.

Architecturally the most significant member of the dynasty is Ahmed ibn Tulun who established a new city as his capital in Egypt. This city was known as al-Qat'ic and was effectively an addition to Fustat. The city was famous for its similarity to the great Abbasid capital of Samarra. Not much remains of Ahmed's city but it is known to have had a triple-arched public entrance like the Bab al-Amma at Samarra, a polo ground, race track, and a park for wild animals. Ahmed also built structures useful to the general population such as a 60,000-dinar hospital. However, the only monuments remaining are the congregational Mosque of Ibn Tulun and an aqueduct. The mosque displays certain similarities to the congregational mosques of Samarra, in particular the minarets. The aqueduct is built of brick and has a large inlet tower at the village of Basatin about two miles south of the citadel.

Source: Petersen, Andrew. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

Additional Reading:

Abd Al-Wahab, Hassan. "Al-'Imara al-'Islamya- Al-Jami' al-Tuluni." Majallat al-Imarah 2, no. 2 (1940): 105-112. (Arabic)

Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. 1989. Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction. Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill.

Gordon, Matthew S. Ahmad Ibn Tulun: Governor of Abbasid Egypt, 868–884. Oneworld Academic. 2021.

Randa, Ernest William. “The Tulunid Dynasty in Egypt : Loyalty and State Formation during the Dissolution of the Abbasid Caliphate,” 1990.

architectural history
history of architecture
Islamic architecture