Raqqa from Above, photo by: Hamza al-Hussien, 2010



Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote in Raqqa Revisited by Marilyn Jenkins-Madina: “Raqqa occupied a site first settled by the Babylonians and expanded during the Hellenistic and the Byzantine periods. Taken by the Arabs in 639 or 640 A.D., by the late eighth century it had become, after Baghdad, one of the largest urban entities in Syria and northern Mesopotamia. Following this first Islamic flowering, nearly four hundred years were to pass before it would experience a second resurgence under the Zangids and the Ayyubids during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The city was destroyed by II-Khandis in 1265.”[1]

“Although Muslim spruces mention little about Raqqa after its medieval renaissance, a great interest in the city was rekindled in certain circles in the West starting at the end of the nineteenth century. Rooted in the nascent curiosity about the Islamic world in Europe and America a t this time, the rebirth of the interest in Raqqa in particular was connected to the publication of the translations into French and English of the Arabic literary classic The Thousand and One Nights. One of the protagonist of this classic was the legendary Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, who had chosen Raqqa as his royal city at the end of the eighth century.”[2]

And on Raqqa’s importance in the Abbasid Caliphate, Discover Islamic Art noted: “The twin Syrian cities of al-Raqqa and al-Rafiqa lie on the banks of the Euphrates on a strategic trade, postal and pilgrimage route that links the eastern and western parts of the Abbasid Empire. Although Raqqa’s history goes back to prehistoric times, it acquired importance in the early Abbasid period when in 154 / 770–1 the caliph Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur (r. 136–58 / 754–75) passed through it and fell in love with its location and pleasant air. He decided to build adjacent to it a fortified palace-city which he named al-Rafiqa. From then on al-Rafiqa (al-Raqqa) became the summer resort of the Abbasid court of Baghdad, as well as a refuge during periods of political unrest.”[3]


[1] Jenkins, Marilyn. Raqqa revisited: ceramics of Ayyubid Syria. Metropolitan museum of art, 2006.

[2] See source 1. 

[3] [http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;sy;Mon01;29;en&cp]