Nicephorium (classical name), Rakka, Ar Raqqah, Ar-Raqqah, Rafiqa (Variant)
Al-Raqqa (Alternate transliteration)
Al-Raqqah (Alternate transliteration)
Raqqa (Alternate transliteration)
Raqqah is one of the rare remaining urban settlements of the Abbasid dynasty in Syria. It was founded by Abu Ja'far al-Mansur in 771 on the left bank of the Euphrates, near the Old Raqqah. The plan of the city bears a slight resemblance to Baghdad, but is in the shape of a horseshoe with a straight spine on the western side. Raqqah is famous for its palaces built by Harun al-Rashid and al-Mu'tasim and other Abbasid caliphs. These palaces have long since been erased, with only scattered fragments of plaster ornaments, painted wooden pieces, and glass tiles. These artifacts currently occupy the Raqqah Hall in the National Museum in Damascus. The two major surviving monuments of the city are the Baghdad Gate and the Great Mosque of Raqqah.
Rihawi, Abdul Qader. Arabic Islamic Architecture: Its Characteristics and Traces in Syria. Damascus: Publications of the Ministry of Culture and National Leadership, 1979.
The palaces of al-Raqqa were built by the successive Muslim caliphs of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. The location served both dynasties as a summer oasis capital (known at the time as al-Rusafa) for its position as a desert city on the Euphrates between Damascus and Baghdad. There are clear written accounts of the two Umayyad palaces built by the Caliph Hisham bin Abd al-Malek to the south of al-Raqqa, but the physical remains are still in the process of excavation. Remains indicate a square plan with a 6400 square meter area. The building followed a typical Umayyad palace structure with circular defense towers at the corners of thick outer wall surrounding a large central courtyard.
The ninth century Qasr al-Banat (Palace of the Maidens) was a recreational summer residence founded by the Abbasid Caliph Haroun al-Rashid. Remains of the palace trace an architectural plan of the building arranged around a large central courtyard with a fountain. A large iwan occupies each side of the courtyard, making Qasr al-Banat an exceptional example of the Iranian four-iwan plan in Syria. The palace was made of brick with iwans elaborately embellished with intricate patterns.
Two more Abbasid palaces have been uncovered in recent excavations just outside al-Raqqa's old city walls; one which was founded by Haroun al-Rashid and the other by the Caliph al-Ma'mun.
Burns, Ross. 1992. Monuments of Syria. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd., 199-201.
Rihawi, Abdul Qader. 1979. Arabic Islamic Architecture in Syria. Damascus: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, 80-81.