Baghdad, today’s capital of Iraq, was founded by the Abbasids in 762 c.e. Built on the ruins of an ancient Mesopotamian city dating back to around 2000 b.c.e., Baghdad was a thriving trade center strategically located at the crossroads of the Eastern and Western cultures of Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Baghdad rapidly flourished under Abbasid rule. To meet an increasing demand for spices and other luxury merchandise, traders ventured to places as distant as China. Between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, Baghdad grew into the hub of a medieval Islamic world renowned for a remarkably diverse culinary repertoire. It drew directly on the Arabs’ native heritage and on Iraq’s indigenous foodways, and indirectly on Persian practice, which had refined these traditions throughout several centuries of dominance. Active international trade introduced foreign elements, and slave girls proficient in the art of cooking were in high demand.