The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          



Historical Glance:

The city of ar-Raqqah is situated on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, at the mouth of the Balikh tributary. When the Muslim conquest took place, the city was inhabited by the Arabs of Mudar tribe who gave it his name because its climate is cool owing to its position between the two rivers. The word Raqqah means in Arabic " large and damp land ".

The site was inhabited in the pre-historic times as well as in the later periods. There is now a number of archaeological earlier with the participation of Mr. Maurice Dunand, and later sites in the area, prominent among them is Tell al-Bay'ah The site is abundant in remains of the third and second millennia B.C.

In the Hellenistic Age, Seleucus I founded a city on this very site to which he gave the name " Nikephorium ". On its ruins another city was built in the Roman era lasting between the first and third century AD. The city was replaced later on by the Byzantine city of Callinicium which was Christened afterwards "Leontopolis" after the name of Emperor Leon II (473 - 474 A.D. ).

Ar-Rafiqah expanded in the days of Harun ar-Rashid and the Byzantines until the Muslim-Arab under the command of Iyad ibn Ghanm occupied it in circa 17 A.H.

At that time the city prospered considerably by virtue of its natural position, fertility and its location on the commercial routes.

According to the historians. ar-Raqqah constituted an agglomeration of many cities: the white Raqqah, the dark Raqqah and the outskirt of Raqqah which was its market. On its opposite bank, Hisham b. Ahd-al-Malik built a palace which he named "Wasit ar-Raqqah" .

Realizing the importance of ar-Raqqah with regard to its strategic and economic position as well as its agreeable climate, the Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja’far al-Mansur ordered, in 155 A.H. = 771 AD., the construction of the city of ar-Rafiqah near        ar-Raqqah to be the seat of the Khurasani troops and a centre of the estival troops which took care of the control of North Syria and the movements of the Byzantine armies.

Al-Mansur surrounded the city with a wall similar to that of Baghdad. but the course of the river in the southern side made the wall in the form of a horseshoe. The longest diameter of the new city was 1500 m. He provided the city with double brick walls: an exterior wall of 4.50 m. thickness and an interior wall of 5.8 m in thinness, separated by a span of 20.80m wide. The exterior wall was surrounded by a moat of l5.90m in width. The foundations of the wall were constructed with calcareous or gypsum stone and were completed with bricks and tiles. The walls had two gates : the eastern gate (Bab Baghdad) and the western gate (probably Bab al-Jinan) according to Yaqut, Bab al-Jinan disappeared a long time ago.

Inside the wall, there are the ruins of a mosque of which nothing remained save a raw of arches and a cylindrical minaret constructed in bricks. As to the palace and residential of the ancient ar-Rafiqah, have not yet been cleared. Some remains in bricks are scattered here and there indicating the development of architecture and decorations.

Ar-Rafiqah expanded in the days of Harun ar-Rashid and his successors. The air photography of the site indicates that the area covered by ar-Rafiqah touched that of ar-Raqqah and its outskirts. It constituted, in fact, a big city whose diameter extended 10 Km. The city developed greatly in the Ayyubid Period.

The city was destroyed on account of the Móngol invasion, 656 A.H. = 1257 A.D.

Archaeological exploration of ar-Raqqah:

The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums conducted a number of excavations at ar-Raqqah between 1949- 1956, earlier with the participation of Mr. Maurice Dunand, and later on under the direction of Mr. Nasib Salibi. These excavations works have brought to light four palaces which we termed A , B , C and D. It has been proved that the Palace B dates back to the reign of al-Mu’tasim Billah, (218 - 227 A.H. = 833 - 842 AD.), on account of an inscription, found in the Palace, bearing a part of the name of al-Mu’tasim.

The excavations have also yielded very important finds, some of which are exhibited in the Hall of ar-Raqqah, together with other objects found accidentally at the same site.

Glassware of ar-Raqqah :


Glass cup with golden luster.

To the left : Bowl in ceramic with golden luster
To the right : Polychrome ceramic soup-tureen.


Polychrome ceramic cavalier with Asiatic features
Found at ar-Raqqah


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