added by archaeologs In the 9th and 10th centuries Siraf on the Persian Gulf was a leading entrepôt for the maritime trade which brought commodities and luxury goods from South and Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Red Sea to Baghdad and other cities of the Middle East. Despite torrid summers, poor soil and little rain, the city flourished as a market and the homeport for ships which ventured as far afield as Canton in China and Sofala in Mozambique. Siraf, which already existed in the Sassanian period, developed round a shallow bay, 4 km across. The heart of the Islamic city consisted of 110 hectares of houses, bazaars and factories built of stone and mortar. A larger area seems to have contained either gardens or bidonvilles of huts. Among the buildings disclosed by excavations in 1966-73 are the congregational mosque, houses, a palace, part of the bazaar, the potters’ quarter and a monumental cemetery. The principal mosque underwent three main periods of construction between c815-25 and cl 150. The original mosque measured 51 by 44 metres and consisted of a courtyard surrounded on three sides by a single arcade, with a sanctuary three bays deep. It was enlarged c850 by the addition of a lateral extension, external washing facilities and other features. In the 12th century, when Siraf was in decline, the mosque was repaired. The houses, some of which had several storeys, differ in detail but share a common plan with a central yard. The palace, which stands in the coolest part of the town, consists of several such units, protected by a wall. Among the finds from Siraf is abundant Chinese porcelain. See also ceramics, China.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983