By Gilles Kepel

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Although they are made of mud-brick, they survive remarkably intact because this central desert region is one of the driest in Iran. (ICHHTO) 37 The eastern provinces \ Frontiers of the Islamic world c. AD 1500 Major routes • Cities Cities with known significant fortifications • Castles and small fortified settlements or towns X Fortified caravansaries OI RAT KHANATE jk. / ^---B^ / »< , Jl S 3<\Bukhara Al-Kama fflKulknWKayalik rukhia ^Banakath ^V/7 V ha S/s \ QamarnanH samarqand SfR/larw ©Balasaghun ^ ^ ^ _B J* -ffiUzgend Osh "i^^^^"^H Kuva ^ffiBalkh ^ XTashrabat N /Harat - Kashgar \ \ _—^ \ \ Srmagar^ /f^^Cfm^ Ghaznaffl' Kandahar^ ^ \ Wkabul / Lashkari / / y^Multan J ^^Gwaiior ^>HChitor^' ^Anhilwada 1 ) I / / ' \ Thana 1 sj •\jjjain J « i Dalautabad \ x 1 \f \\ ^ Sindab^r^ ^ / # / I \ I X \ 38 \ i ^ _ jv^ Sultanapur Kl \ !

It would also have been entirely surrounded by an Arabic-speaking and, at that date, largely Shi'a Muslim urban population. So the Turkish-speaking and Sunni Muslim Seljuk rulers of Damascus chose an already administrative, if not yet particularly military, site at the north-western corner of the city. The Arab Mirdasid dynasty, which ruled much of northern Syria in the 11th century, had used the tel in Aleppo as an administrative centre, but it was Nur al-Din who ordered its major transformation.

Ayyubids and Mamluks A number of military manuals written during the late 12th- and 13th-century Ayyubid period show how the governors, garrisons and inhabitants of a fortified place were expected to behave before and during a siege. These were largely based upon earlier 'Abbasid military texts, but also seem to reflect current reality. In fact the similarities between such advice and sieges described in Ayyubid chronicles can be quite striking. One of the most practical manuals was written for Saladin and his immediate successors by Abu'l-Hassan 'Ali al-Harawi, whose Chapter 13 includes sections on the materials to be stored in arsenals.

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