In c. 758–762 the Islamic Abbasids built Baghdad, the capital city of their empire. Located next to trading routes and the River Tigris, the city took four years to build, with construction beginning under the astrological sign of the lion, Leo, signifying fire and strength. The original city plans show one circular wall of about 12 miles (19 km) in diameter; however, during construction, a further inner circular wall was added. Many of the buildings were marble and the city included parks, gardens, houses, shops and government offices, which radiated from the palace (the Golden Gate Palace) and mosque at its centre. The city was entered through the Kufa and Syrian Gates, which were close to a canal that was linked to the Tigris. The design represents Baghdad as a navel, acting as a metaphor for the Abbasid perception of their empire as ‘the navel of the universe’.
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