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Cities of Iraq
GENERAL: In Iraq, all roads lead to the capital Baghdad. A city built in 762
A.D. by Abbasid caliph Abu Jafar Al mansour. There is so much to see in
Baghdad in addition to natural, historical, and religious sites. Divided by
the Tigris into two halves, Rusafa and Karkh, which are connected by several
modern bridges. In Rusafa, Rasheed street is Baghdad’s most distinguished
and most popular street, stretching from North gate (Bab al Mua’dham) to the
South gate( Bab al Sharji). It is still very much the center of trade in
Baghdad. In Karkh you will find the British style International Railway
Baghdad is a combination of all that is best in the old and new. Multi-story
buildings often tower over ancient arcaded bazaars overflowing with
fantastic things. Motley of colors, races, costumes, and ways of life gives
the city an air of vitality and excitement. European dress rubs shoulder
with Arab costumes, blue jeans with ornate Kurdish clothes.
Bazaars & places of interest: You want a souvenir of your visit to Iraq?
Baghdad’s famous souqs and bazaars have a variety of lovely oriental
objects. You will find them mostly just off Rasheed street.
Coppersmith market: One of the most interesting places is the Coppersmith Souq, where copper is still beaten in the old traditional way into pots and
pitchers of all shapes and sizes. The noise is great and so is the sight.
Shops spill over with copperware for household or decorative uses, to suit
all tastes. Primitive, austere, elaborate, highly ornate, take your pick.
River Street & Al-bazazeen, Shorjah & other markets: Further on from
coppersmith souq, you will come to one specialized souq after another in a
labyrinth of arcades. Don’t miss the Clothiers souq for a delightful sight
of yards and yards of colorful material unfurled in beautiful arrangements,
or the Rugs souq where hand woven rugs in striking local motifs and colors
are on magnificent display. Nearby, on the other side of Rasheed Street, is
the so-called “Shorjah”, one of the most important trade centers of the
city. Chock-full of household wares, the place is aromatic with the smell of
coffee, tea, spices and soap, and bustles with movement and noise.
Arab market: is considered as an adjacent to Shorjah. Off Rasheed Street
again, along the river, is Mustansir street, a woman’s paradise for clothes,
shoes, handbags, and cosmetics. At one end of it you will find the
traditional gold and silversmiths known for centuries for their lovely
Souq Al-ghazil: is a Friday pet-market. The name was given after the
famous mosque and its minaret. In this market you can buy all kinds of birds
Saddam art center: The building is a piece of art by itself. It is
situated in the Karkh side of Baghdad. The doorways of the center are
guarded by two winged bulls. It exhibits a selection of work of famous
Iraqi, Arabs, and foreigner’s artists.
AL- Mazgouf fish at Abu nuwas street: A beautiful river drive, stretching
a long way by the Tigris between Jumhouriya Bridge and the 14th July
Suspended Bridge. The street was called after the famous Abbasid poet who
was a daring bon vivant and a boon companion of the caliph Haroun Al Rasheed,
when Baghdad was at the peak of its glory. Further down, by the river-boats
mooring place, there is a monument of Shahrazad relating her Arabian Nights
tales to King Shahrayar (made in 1975 by Mohammad Ghani a famous Iraqi
sculpture). This street has ever remained reminiscent of our delightful
poet: thousands of people every night crowd the cafés, bars and “casinos”that
dot the river bank all the way down. Perhaps one of its loveliest sights is
the series of little circular fires along the river on which ‘MAZGOUF FISH”
is grilled in an ancient way peculiar to Baghdad. A number of fishes are
taken alive out of water, killed, gutted and transfixed on wooden pegs in a
circle around a tamarisk wood fire. They are finally spiced and served with
pickles and vegetables, a fabulous Baghdadi dish.
The National Theatre: The 1000 seat National Theatre in Fatih square is
one of the most modern and best equipped theatre in the Arab world. It has a
15 meter diameter revolving stage, and has two halls fitted for cinematic
projection. Plays, concerts, musical evenings and film shows are regularly
presented in it.
Baghdad international fair: This huge international fair used to be held
every year from 1st – 14th October, when a large number of industrial,
agricultural, and commercial companies and firms from all over the world
meet in one large event. It also provides excellent opportunities to all
foreigners participants to familiarize themselves with Iraqi industrial,
agricultural, and commercial markets.
The Iraq Museum: Museum square, Karkh. Few countries in the
world are as rich in archaeology as Iraq. The Iraq Museum, with its great
well-organized and carefully labeled collection of archaeological finds is a
reflection of this richness. A record of the many peoples and cultures which
flourished in Mesopotamia from time immemorial up to the centuries of the
Arab empire, the museum offers a vivid display of pre-historic remains, of
the civilizations and arts of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians,
Assyrians, Chaldeans, Seleucids, Parthian, Sasanians, and Abbassians. The
display halls are chronologically arranged in this order. For the benefit of
scholars, the museum has a rich multilingual library, which adds to the
prestige of the Iraq Museum as one of the best in the world of Mesopotamian
Museum of national costumes and folklore: Located in Rasheed
Street, on the eastern bank of the Tigris. Apart from the
character of the exhibits, the Museum’s building is in an original Baghdad
style of the architecture worth noting.
The Baghdad museum: Located in Mamoun Street, near Shuhada
Bridge. Traditional professions and popular customs of Baghdad represented
in colorful life-size sculptures. Many of the professions and customs are
fast disappearing but they are still very interesting to see, even as
images.You will for instance see the old water-barer, the weaver, the
Zakariya fast ritual, the bridegroom’s ceremony, etc. A multilingual
library on relevant subjects is also part of the museum. Paintings,
photographs, maps and other illustrative material depict aspects of the
city’s history, together with the portraits of famous men who once ruled the
city. It is administered by the capital’s mayoralty.
The war museum: Located at Adhamiya, River-drive, Kasra. It
exhibits many examples of old
weaponry and diversity of arms and military
equipment used by the Iraqi Army since its foundation, showing the stages of
National museum of modern art: Located in Kifah Street, near
(Tayaran) Saba’wi Square. It is a complex of four
galleries, the largest of
which is devoted to Iraqi modern art, with a permanent collection of
paintings, sculptures and ceramics which is constantly being expanded. The
visitor can follow up history of the Iraqi modern art movement from its
earliest beginnings to the present. The other three galleries hold a large
number of collective and one-man shows all the year round.
Museum of Iraqi pioneers: It lies next door to the Museum of
national costumes and folklore. Originally a house built in the old Baghdadi
style in 1909, it holds the numerous works of over 20 artists whose
paintings and drawings before 1949 laid the foundation of the modern Iraqi
Museum of natural history: This Museum has grown into a
Research Institute because its rich collection and library with more than
26000 books constitute an extraordinary basis of fundamental research.
Situated to the east of Baghdad, it is one of the governorates of central Iraq,
and is famed for its palm groves and fruit orchards, especially its citrus
trees. Arab historians in the old days mentioned it innumerable trees and
plentiful waters. The center of the Governorate is Baquba, some 66 kms, away
from Baghdad. This area is one of the most important in Iraq because of its
ancient culture. Many archaeological tells have been identified, indicating early
settlements that date back to the Al Ubaid period, about six thousand years ago,
the old Babylonian age, and the dawn dynasties. Our archaeological information
here was derived from the excavations conducted before World War 1. Further
information has come to us from the more recent extensive excavations conducted
at the start of the implementation of Himreen irrigation dam. The earlier digs
revealed temples and places in ancient cities such as Tell Asmar (ancient
Ishnunna), capital of the Ishnunna Kingdom, which flourished in the old
Babylonian era. Also discovered here was the Khafaji site (ancient Tutoup),
distinguished by its elliptical temple, about 15 kms, away from the old Diyala
bridge. Thousands of clay tablets and cylinder seals were found here, all
belonging to the Babylonian period and the age of the dawn of the dynasties.
Geographically and culturally important, the area kept its prominent position
throughout the various Islamic eras.
Throughout the administrative centers of Diyala governorate you will find many
privately owned hotels and casinos, together with tourist complexes, social
clubs, excursion gardens, children’s playgrounds sports fields, modern markets,
bookshops, public halls, cinemas and post offices.
Situated near Baghdad Governorate, it is in central Iraq. It used to be called
“Dulaim Liwa”, after the famed Dulaim tribes which mostly lived in it, and later
it was called “Ramadi Liwa” after its main town, which is today the center of
the governorate. Ramadi itself is a comparatively recent city, built by the
Ottoman Wali of Baghdad Madhat Pasha (1869 – 1872). It is 105 kms north west of
Baghdad. The present name of the governorate belongs to the old historic town of
Anbar, 5 kms north of Faluja. Its unique ruins are still visible here and there,
some of them surrounded by an old mud-brick wall.
Anbar flourished in pre-Islamic times. The historian Amianus
referred to it in A.D. 363 as the second most important city in Iraq after
Ctesiphon. It acquired special significance in Islamic times when the Arab
Leader Sa’ad Bin Abi Waqqas built in it the third large mosque and later when
Abul Abbas Al saffah, founder of the Abbasid dynasty, made it his capital in
A.D. 752. Abu Ja’far Al mansour lived in it for some time before moving his
capital to Hashimiya, near Kufa, and thence to Baghdad after he had built it.
Other major towns in Anbar governorate are Faluja, Heet, Haditha and Ana.
Any one visits this governorate must pay a visit to Habaniya lake and tourist
Mosul, the City of two springs (Autumn and Spring are very much alike in
this city). It is also called Al Hadba, Al Faiha, and Al khadra.
Mosul is north largest city and major center of trade, industry and
communications. It has second largest university in Iraq. 400 km from
Baghdad, it is linked with the capital by an excellent high way, railways
with a regular daily trips, and daily regular flights.
The city has been continuously inhabited since Assyrian times. Long before
Islam, a number of Arab tribes had settled in it. It is rich in historical
places, castles, mosques, churches, monasteries and schools.
At a distance of 73 kms from Mosul lies Duhok at an opening in the mountain
also called Duhok. It is known nationwide for its vast vineyards and
excellent grapes, figs and pomegranates. The area is rich in scenic beauty,
where nature is lavish with water and vegetation. There are several sites
and summer resorts in it.
Before getting to it the visitor will see an old tell with the ruins of a
castle, an indication of an ancient settlement, which probably, dates back
to Assyrian times.
It is famous with its walnut trees particularly in Biyara and Twaila. These
two villages are also famed, apart from natural beauty, for their vineyards.
The oldest cultural settlement in this area goes back to Paleolithic times.
When written history begins we find that the Assyrians called Sulaymania and
Shahrazour plain by the name of “Samwa”. In Derbandhawa, Kara Dagh
Mountains, the Akkadian king Naram sin (2291-2255) immortalized his victory
over the enemy in a famous stela of great artistry.
It is the most important place in the world for the study of the culture of
Neanderthal man, 3500 – 70,000 years ago. Cunei-form inscriptions suggest
that Arbil was a very well known towards the end of the 3rd millennium B.C.
Syrian inscriptions of the second millennium refer to it as Urbilum or
Arbilum. In Assyrian and Babylonian texts it is called Arba ilu (the four
gods). The city is almost half way between Mosul and Kirkuk: 86 km away from
the former, 93 from the latter.
About 74 years after the foundation of Baghdad, the Abbasid caleph Al
mu’tasim moved his capital north to the newly built city of Samarra, in A.D.
836. Its heyday however was under Caliph Al mutawakkil (A.D. 847 – 861) The
remains of the ancient Samarra are visible along the eastern bank of the
Tigris, stretching south of the modern city for nearly 35 kms: the great
mosque, the spiral minaret, Balkwara palace, ma’shouq palace etc.
This governorate played a major role in man’s early history, from early
Paleolithic times (100,000 years ago) in Parda Balka, down to the Neolithic
age (8,000 years ago).
The earliest farming village in the world, where man learned to plant seeds
for the first time, is Jarmo, near Chamchamal in this part of Iraq. Another
spot of ancient historical interest in Nuzi Yorgan Tappeh, 25 kms. To the
south east of Kirkuk, the center of the governorate, where excavators
discovered dwellings, a temple, a palace, cuneiform inscriptions of a legal
and economic nature, all of which go back to the middle of the second
millennium B.C. This period was noted for its particularly fine pottery,
which has been called after the village. Even more ancient traces here go
back to the Sumerians and Akkadians, who called the town Ga-Sur. It was here
that the most ancient map in the world was found – it belonged to the
Akkadian Era, 4,300 years ago.
In Kirkuk you will see the castle, one of its oldest extant monuments, as
well as the eternal fire at Baba Gurgur.
Hilla is the center of the governorate of Babel. A modern city in an
ancient and historical environment. It is called “Alfaiha’” for her
Green orchard and palm groves.
Hilla is 100 kilometers to the south-west of Baghdad; it is linked with
the capital by an excellent high way and railways with regular daily
trips from Baghdad and Basrah.
In Hilla on the river front, there is a casino in the middle of a cast
garden 15,000 square meters in area.
It lies 102 kms, away from Baghdad, 78 kms away from Najaf and 45 kms,
away from Hilla. The city has 250 room Hawra hotel, as well as the 250
room Kerbala tourist hotel.
“Najaf”, the holy city of imam Ali Bin Abi Talib, the center of the
governorate, lies 60 kms south of Hilla. One of Islam’s most important
seats of religious instruction, Najaf has many schools where Arabic
grammar, theology, history and literature are taught. Thousands of
pilgrims visit the city annually. A tourist 250 room hotel has been put
up in Najaf.
Samawa the centre of the governorate is famous for its Lake Sawa.
Nasiriya the centre of the governorate lies 208 Kms from Basrah and 375
Kms from Bagdad. It is famous for its magnificent marsh lands and
specially “Hor Al-hammar”, which suffered extensive drainage schemes by
the late reign. Nasirya which is about 15 kms from Ur has a big rest
house for tourists.
As you tour the south, perhaps before going into the fantastic marshes,
it would be a good thing to go to Kut the centre of wasit governorate
which was named after ancient city “Wasit “ which lies amidst its ruins.
Kut, which lies 172 kms to the south of Baghdad on the Tigris, is also
famous for its dam which was built in the last century to control
irrigation and water of Gharaf and Tigris rivers.
The centre of the governorate is the beautiful city of “Amara” which
lies on the Tigris some 366 kms from Baghdad, and 182 kms north of
Basra. It is famous with its marshes, like all other southern
governorates. Hunting, water fowling is a very much practiced sport
during Autumn and winter. Meesan has vegetable oil, detergents, paper
and sugar factories.
Diwaniya the center of the governorate lies 181 kms from Baghdad on the
Euphrates. It had its name after the Battle of Qadisiya where Saad Bin
Abi Waqqas had beaten the Persian army in a decisive battle. Diwaniya is
famous for its orchards and palm groves.
Basra, the pearl of the Gulf and the bride of Shatt al Arab, a modern
city, yet her name goes deep in history. Her criss-crossed streets,
water ways and canals make her the “Venice of the East”. The beautiful
gardens, and its old Islamic architecture give the impression that it is
an old city with a modern spirit. The city is made up of three main
residential areas: Basra proper, Margil and Ashar, the last particularly
interesting for the curiosities that fill its Bazaars.