The construction of Medina's earliest city walls: defence and symbol


  • Harry Munt


Al-Tāʾif was, according to some, the only town in the Ḥijāz in Muhammad's time to have a city wall. Creswell used this to suggest the lack of an architectural tradition in the pre-Islamic Ḥijāz, but G. R. D. King has since pointed out that it is more likely that other towns had no need for a wall at this time. Why then and when did Medina come to require one? This paper analyses reports from local historians and geographers to answer these questions. The first phases in the construction of Medina's wall about which we possess information came in the late ninth and the late tenth centuries. (Reports about an earlier wall built in 63/683-684 should probably be taken lightly.) This paper will show how discussions of these earliest phases in the construction of Medina's encircling wall illuminate some aspects of the size and topography of the town and, furthermore, that a careful study of those discussions can help to shed light on a period of the Ḥijāz's history which is otherwise poorly known.





How to Cite

Munt, H. (2012). The construction of Medina’s earliest city walls: defence and symbol. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 42, 233–245. Retrieved from