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Oasis of the Pillars (Arabic: احة أركان) also known as City of Canals (Arabic: مدينة القنوات) and Medina al-Kanuat was once the most exotic and mythical city on Earth. Located in the middle of the Arabian Desert, the city was considered a myth and legend in most parts of Europe and Asia. Few knew of it until Ibn Battuta made it known in most of the civilized world in 1366. It is located 5 km from the city center of Riyadh.
Before its founding there was nothing at the place except for a small oasis. It was founded in 786 when Khayzuran bint Atta, Calipha of the empire began construction of a city that the world had never seen before and as her holiday residence. More than a million construction workers began building canals, aqueduct, houses and the Adzihar-Qasara (Floating Palace). Her personal advisors and architects designed a special system of aqueducts that carried water from the Eastern Arabian Aquifer and other sources of water to the city. In just 20 years of time the city grew from zero to more than 100,000 inhabitants. The city became one of the most habitable and pleasant cities of the world. Many trespassing caravans stopped in the city to rest and the city became an important trading center for all of the Arabian world. But it's location kept the city hidden for hundreds of years, only appearing in legends and tales in Europe and Asia. Only a few people have visited the city before 1366 and those who did never returned because they would stay in the city forever. The city prospered for many centuries and eventually became capital in 1603 after Baghdad was raided by France and Rome . The city was largely destroyed in 1750 by an earthquake and large sandstorm. The population crashed and soon less then 1000 people lived in the ruined city. The city was uninhabited by 1800 and was later almost completely buried in the desert by annual sandstorms. The ruins were rediscovered by a Persian archaeologist in 1950 while searching for "a lost city". Tourists began to arrive to visit the ancient city and benefited the city of Riyadh which began to grow explosively. In 2012 only 30% of all ruins were excavated and restored. In 2013 Caliph Hassan al-Wia ordered a massive rebuilding project to encourage tourism in the area.
Places of interest
The Hanging Gardens of Kanuat
This enormous monument was constructed to be the eight wonder of the world in order of Calipha Kayzuran bint Atta. It was constructed in a record time of only ten years, which wasn't rivaled by any construction project until the invention of modern technology. It was described Ibn Battuta as "an enormous sanctuary, more than 100 metres high and a masterpiece of Arabian architecture". He also described it's similarity with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as it was most likely based on it. The building is still standing today (albeit in ruined state) and is being renovated and reconstructed.
Perhaps the most impressive building in the city. This tall tower was constructed in a period of 30 years as an observation tower for the people. The tower was once more than 200 meters tall and was the tallest building on Earth for more than 800 years. It was described a by Ibn Battuta as a "enormously high and magnificent tower, that no other tower can rival". It used a ingeniously devised system of elevators that used pulleys and weights. The tower was the tallest building in the world until it collapsed during the great earthquake that ruined the city, today only ruins remain, but there are plans to reconstruct the building.
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque of Kanuat was a monumental mosque in the center of the city. It was the second largest mosque in the world after the Masjid al-Haram for more than 800 years. Its construction was commissioned by Caliph Harun al-Rashid in 800. It was intended to be the "most magnificent and luxuriant mosque in the world". It offered space for more than 300,000 people and it's main dome towered more than 80 meters above the city. It had 4 minarets which were each 100 meters tall. It was described by Ibn Battuta as "a very luxurious place and an attempt to create heaven on earth". It was partly destroyed during the earthquake that destroyed most of the city.