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The Abbassid period is characterised by large-scale design and city planning. In addition to their famous cities of Baghdad (762) and Samara (836), the Abbassids founded the settlement of Al-Rafiqa....
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Muslim Architecture under Abbassid Patronage (750-892AD) by Rabah Saoud
The Abbassid period is characterised by large-scale design and city planning. In addition to their famous cities of Baghdad (762) and Samara (836), the Abbassids founded the settlement of Al-Rafiqa, near Al-Raqqa, in northern Syria which was named as the Companion of Raqqa city.
Al-Rafiqa was built in 772 by Caliph Al-Mansur, remodelled on Baghdad in its circular plan and protected by massive wall reaching about 5 kilometres in length and incorporating some 132 round towers. From these fortifications, three gates were opened leading inside the enclosure toward the Friday Mosque which stood at the central place. In relation to Raqqa, there is no confirmation about the date it was built or its founder although Rice (1979) thought it was Abbassid from the circular plan. It is known that Caliph Harun Al-Rashid temporarily made it his capital between 796 and 808 and undertook numerous works including improving the city’s fortifications and the construction of residential quarter to the north (Blair & bloom, 2000).
However, if Raqqa existed before Al-Rafiqa as indicated above, then Rice’s theory would confirm Creswell (1959) suggestion that Al-Mansur was the founder of Raqqa in addition to Baghdad and Al-Rafiqa. It is worth mentioning that the defensive work of Raqqa displayed some of the design and building techniques that were brought to the West by crusaders and consisting of the oblique approach (Rice (1979, p29).
These cities played leading roles in world trade, commerce and learning. The circular city of Baghdad and its buildings formed the scene for many tales of Harun Al-Rashid and the Arabian nights. Unfortunately, no remains of its wonders are left as the city was ravaged and entirely erased by the Monguls and their Christian allies in 13th century (1258).
Samara was founded by the Caliph Al-Mutasim in the first half of the 9th century. This was in the form of a compound consisting of barracks for his Turkish troops, a palace and a mosque. Its layout provides an insight into Muslim concepts of city planning and morphology while the ruins of its mosques serve as specimen for the next major edifices in the chronology of mosques, after the Ummayad. (For details on Abbassid cities see forthcoming articles).