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.