Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and of Baghdad Governorate. With a metropolitan area estimated at a population of 7,000,000, it is also the largest city in the country.
Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions (e.g. House of Wisdom), garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Center of Learning". Throughout the High Middle Ages, Baghdad was considered to be the largest city in the world with an estimated population of 1,200,000 people. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires. With the recognition of Iraq as an independent state (formerly the British Mandate of Mesopotamia) in 1938, Baghdad gradually regained some of its former prominence as a significant center of Arab culture.
As Shahin neared Ctesiphon in his quest for the Banner of Kaviyan, he came to a small village called Baghdad. Due to its poverty and insignificance, it had not been sacked by the Arabs as had mighty Ctesiphon.
The people of alternate late 21st Century MuslimMadrid knew of Baghdad as a distant big city, sharing their religion and language, though few people from Madrid had ever been there. When an agent of the renegade Crosstimers from the home timeline started extensive slave-trading activities, he called himself Marwan al-Baghdadi (i.e. "Marwan of Baghdad"), and this supposed pedigree was regarded as plausible.
The devoutly Muslim and cosmopolitan population of Baghdad was one of the most restive cities within the Race's control. Uprisings in Baghdad were often bloody for both sides, and a tour in Baghdad become something of a badge of honor for Race males.
Uprisings in Baghdad were often coordinated with those in Basra, the headquarters of Ruhollah Khomeini, one of the key masterminds of anti-Race actions.