Abu Hatab
Northwest of Niliyya (Ruined Site), Iraq

Abu Hatab refers to a ruined structure located approximately nine miles (6-7 kilometers) west of Niliyya, a ruined town in lower Iraq in the Babylon Governorate. Its function and precise date are not certain, but its plan (a domed cube) suggests it may have been a tomb. 

This structure is one of the many ruins dating to the Islamic period along the bed of the canal known as Shatt al-Nil, which cut through the alluvial plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris, branching off the Sarat Canal system in the west and running east toward Nu'maniyya before turning south. According to medieval Islamic sources, the Shatt al-Nil was dug (or re-opened) during the eighth/second century AH.1 

The building was a square chamber measuring 6.5 meters per side, and the southern facade buttressed by three-quarters-round towers on either end.2 The western facade contained a door surmounted by a lunette. The interior of the building is decorated in plaster.  A mihrab opened on the qibla wall. Remnants of an arabesque decoration in the plaster around the mihrab remained, whose style suggested a date of the twelfth or thirteenth/sixth or seventh century AH to the building's surveyors.3 The remains of an inscription band wrapped around the extent of the room above the level of the mihrab. Above this band, four windows framed by blind arches supported on engaged columns, all executed in plaster, open from each wall. The corners of the chamber at this level contain squinches formed by two plaster cells. The dome covering the chamber had collapsed when the building was recorded by German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in 1907-1908. 


  1. On the date of the Shatt al-Nil, see Guy Le Strange, Lands of the Eastern Caliphate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1905, p. 72.
  2. As described in Costa, "Islamic Shrines." Herzfeld reconstructed the building with four corner tower-buttresses in Archäologische Reise
  3. Herzfeld, Archäologische Reise, 244, Costa, "Islamic Shrines," 6.


Costa, Paolo. “Islamic Shrines on the Šaṭ Al-Nīl.” Annali Dell ’Istituto Orientale Di Napoli 31 (1971): 1-16.

Sarre, Friedrich, and Ernst Herzfeld. Archäologische Reise im Euphrat- und Tigris-Gebiet. Vol. 1, p. 243-244. 4 vols. Berlin: D. Reimer, 1911-1920.

Northwest of Niliyya (Ruined Site), Iraq
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ca. 12th-13th/6th-7th c. AH
Variant Names
ابو حطب