15 Best Things to Do in Iraq


Iraq is a coun­try in the Mid­dle East, locat­ed in the north of the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la. The coun­try washed by the Per­sian Gulf is famous for its pic­turesque val­leys, hot deserts and archi­tec­tur­al mon­u­ments.


Things to do in Iraq

The Repub­lic of Iraq is locat­ed in the val­ley of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. This area is con­sid­ered the birth­place of the ancient Sumer­ian civ­i­liza­tion, which left behind a rich cul­tur­al her­itage. In dif­fer­ent cen­turies, the land belonged to the Assyr­i­ans, Per­sians, Hel­lenes, Parthi­ans, Romans. After them, the Arabs, Mon­gols and Turks pen­e­trat­ed here, includ­ing the ter­ri­to­ry in the Ottoman Empire.

The cur­rent tense sit­u­a­tion has a neg­a­tive impact on the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion and the tourism indus­try. Iraq could become the cen­ter of active cul­tur­al tourism in the Mid­dle East, because it has some­thing to show the world.

The coun­try boasts six UNESCO World Her­itage Sites. Among them are the ruins of the Assyr­i­an city of Ashur, the Ottoman citadel of Erbil, the Parthi­an set­tle­ment of Har­ty, the leg­endary Baby­lon. Among the hot deserts and green riv­er val­leys, unique his­tor­i­cal mas­ter­pieces have been pre­served: the fortress of Al-Uhaidar, Wasit, the Sumer­ian city of Ur, Nim­rud.

The cap­i­tal of the repub­lic, Bagh­dad, was found­ed on the banks of the Tigris in the 8th cen­tu­ry. From its incep­tion to the present day, it has remained the cul­tur­al and intel­lec­tu­al cen­ter of the Mus­lim world. Its streets are dec­o­rat­ed with squares, beau­ti­ful arch­es, gran­ite mon­u­ments and mosques. Alas, some objects were dam­aged dur­ing the hos­til­i­ties and need to be restored.

In Najaf, there is the mau­soleum-mosque of Imam Ali, which attracts Shi­ite and Sun­ni pil­grims from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Peo­ple go to pay their respects to the great prophet, see the hand­writ­ten texts of the Koran, jew­el­ry and car­pets stored in the mosque, as well as vis­it Sufi monas­ter­ies and the Shi­ite ceme­tery.

ancient cities



The cap­i­tal of the Assyr­i­an Empire, which flour­ished in the north of Ara­bia in 2025–1750 BC. In ancient times, it was destroyed by the Per­sians and aban­doned by the locals. The pic­turesque ruins were dis­cov­ered on the banks of the Tigris by British archae­ol­o­gists in 1821. Dur­ing exca­va­tions, they uncov­ered defen­sive walls, bas­tions, mon­u­men­tal gates, frag­ments of palaces and tem­ples.

A library with cuneiform tablets, stone stat­ues of deities, and wall fres­coes are con­sid­ered valu­able finds. In 2015, the city was occu­pied, and the attrac­tion suf­fered seri­ous dam­age. Two years lat­er, the mil­i­tants were elim­i­nat­ed and restora­tion work began.



To the north­west of Bagh­dad lie the ruins of Hatra, the cap­i­tal of the Arab king­dom. Schol­ars believe that the Assyr­i­ans erect­ed Hatra and made it the reli­gious and com­mer­cial cen­ter of Ara­bia. It flour­ished under the Parthi­ans, but was even­tu­al­ly destroyed by the Per­sian Empire.

Well-pre­served frag­ments of the city were found in the 19th cen­tu­ry. Explor­ing them, sci­en­tists have made major archae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies. The list of attrac­tions includ­ed: the Mesopotami­an tem­ple of the sun god, bronze coins of 117–138, pan­theons of Arab, Ara­ma­ic and Canaan­ite gods, mon­u­men­tal arch­es, columns and stat­ues.



Samar­ra stands on the east­ern bank of the Tigris, 125 km from Bagh­dad. In the Mid­dle Ages, it was the cap­i­tal of the Abbasid Caliphate and still retains a unique lay­out and archi­tec­ture.

The city attracts pil­grims who want to bow to the graves of Shi­ite imams, go to the Al-Askari mosque, dec­o­rat­ed with a gold­en dome, and climb the spi­ral minaret of the Grand Mosque. Exca­va­tions car­ried out in the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter of Samar­ra have revealed to the world tem­ples, tow­ers and palaces of the Assyr­i­an era.



Baby­lon, the cap­i­tal of the king­dom of the same name in ancient Mesopotamia, stretch­es along the bed of the Euphrates. Exca­va­tions in this area start­ed in 1899 under the guid­ance of Ger­man archae­ol­o­gists. They unearthed a gigan­tic com­plex of streets with mud-brick and baked-brick hous­es. Relief draw­ings depict­ing deities, myth­i­cal ani­mals, bat­tle scenes are well pre­served on some build­ings.

The Hel­lenic the­ater, the tem­ple of the foun­da­tion of heav­en and earth, which is con­sid­ered the pro­to­type of the bib­li­cal Tow­er of Babel, sculp­tures of lions, and cuneiform tablets, are of great his­tor­i­cal val­ue. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many mon­u­ments were dam­aged dur­ing the war — brick side­walks, walls and stat­ues were destroyed by explo­sions.



On the south bank of the Euphrates inland is eas­i­ly the Sumer­ian city-state of Ur, found­ed in 3800 BC. It is men­tioned sev­er­al times in the Book of Gen­e­sis and is believed to be the birth­place of the patri­arch Abra­ham.

Euro­pean archae­ol­o­gists have been exca­vat­ing here for many years. Dur­ing the work, city streets and a zig­gu­rat in the form of a mas­sive stepped pyra­mid were cleared of sand and restored. Also found here were roy­al tombs, tem­ples, altars, cuneiform texts on clay bricks, ceram­ics, and wall mosaics.



In the east of the coun­try, the city of Wasit was built in 702. The Islam­ic set­tle­ment was aban­doned in the 16th cen­tu­ry after the Tigris Riv­er changed its course. The study of the ruins was car­ried out at the begin­ning of the last cen­tu­ry.

Sci­en­tists have found in the sands the gov­ern­ment palace, the Grand Mosque, the minaret, the front gate, dec­o­rat­ed with arch­es and ori­en­tal orna­ments. In the 1930s, a res­i­den­tial area was cleared and the build­ings were con­served. Wasit is includ­ed in the UNESCO Ten­ta­tive List of Cul­tur­al Her­itage.



The Kur­dish city of Ama­dia, locat­ed on a flat rock top, was found­ed in the era of ancient Assyr­ia. It is believed that here was the house of the Magi who made a pil­grim­age to Beth­le­hem to see the new­born Christ.

Today’s Ama­dia is a pop­u­lar sum­mer resort and his­tor­i­cal land­mark. The main areas are dec­o­rat­ed with the Great Mosque of the XII cen­tu­ry, the church of Maryam Alazra, the ruins of Assyr­i­an build­ings, the ancient citadel.

Historical monuments

Erbil Citadel

citadel erbilia

The first men­tion of a defen­sive fortress that pro­tect­ed the city of Erbil appeared in the lit­er­a­ture of the ancient Sume­ri­ans. Over the years, the citadel was part of the Assyr­i­an Empire, the king­dom of the Hel­lenes, the Arab state and the Mon­gol king­dom. The Ottomans, who came to Iraq in the Mid­dle Ages, rebuilt it and improved the defens­es.

Today, the fortress remains high walls sur­round­ing the top of the mound, and impreg­nable out­er gates. Inside are the Mul­la Afan­di Mosque, mil­i­tary gar­risons, tra­di­tion­al Arab hous­es. In one of the build­ings there is a Kur­dish tex­tile muse­um show­ing car­pets and nation­al clothes.

Fort Al-Ukhaidir

krepost uhadir

In the vicin­i­ty of Kar­bala there is a pow­er­ful rec­tan­gu­lar fortress dat­ing back to 775 AD. It was erect­ed at the direc­tion of the Abbasid caliph in order to pro­tect the local pop­u­la­tion from the bar­bar­ians. Each side of the fort is for­ti­fied with round cor­ner tow­ers.

The com­plex con­tain­ing the Al-Ukhaidir Palace, res­i­den­tial build­ings, mosques, bar­racks, car­a­vanserais is an impor­tant object of the ancient trade routes of Ara­bia. Today it is a famous land­mark and a prime exam­ple of Abbasid archi­tec­ture in Iraq.



The Assyr­i­an Nim­rud hid in the Nin­eveh Plains in north­ern Iraq. Archae­ol­o­gists have found these ruins based on the route of Nim­rod, which is described in the Old Tes­ta­ment. The entrance to the main palace is guard­ed by winged lions with human heads weigh­ing 9 tons each and a stat­ue of King Ashur­nasir­pal II.

The cen­tral streets are lined with slabs and sur­round­ed by tem­ples. Exca­va­tions have revealed inter­est­ing exhibits: relief ste­lae with images of gods, ivory fig­urines, stone sculp­tures. A famous land­mark is a col­lec­tion of gold jew­el­ry, pre­cious stones, bronze bowls and plates.

Interesting places

Great Holidays Square

ploshad prasdnikov

The Great Hol­i­days Pub­lic Square was built in 1986 in the heart of Bagh­dad. The Iraqis believe that it was here that the bat­tle between Mus­lims and Per­sians took place in 636, which marked the begin­ning of Islam­ic dom­i­na­tion in the north of the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la.

The square square is intend­ed for hold­ing mil­i­tary parades and hol­i­days. It is dec­o­rat­ed with a mon­u­ment to the Unknown Sol­dier, a memo­r­i­al of the Mar­tyrs ded­i­cat­ed to the sol­diers who died in the Iran-Iraq war and the Vic­to­ry Arch in the form of crossed swords.



In the Bagh­dad dis­trict of Rusafa, Kush­la Square flaunts, framed by his­tor­i­cal build­ings, shops, restau­rants. Walk­ing along it, you can see the palaces of the Abbasid era, Ottoman mosques, madrasahs.

Alleys were laid on the square, flowerbeds were laid out, palm trees were plant­ed, gaze­bos for relax­ation were installed. The cen­tral ensem­ble is a square clock tow­er, donat­ed to Iraq by the Eng­lish King George V.

Cultural attractions

Al-Kadhimiya Mosque

mechet kadhimia

In the vicin­i­ty of Bagh­dad, there is the Islam­ic mosque Al-Kad­himiya, found­ed a thou­sand years ago and rebuilt by Shah Ismail I in the 16th cen­tu­ry. It keeps the graves of Shia imams, as well as sheikhs Nadir ad-Din an-Shusi and Mufid.

The com­plex includes a square mosque and four thin grace­ful minarets. The ceil­ing and walls of the prayer hall are cov­ered with mar­ble and dec­o­rat­ed with carved orna­ments. Gold­en domes rise above the tomb of Muham­mad ibn Ismail and Musa al-Kad­him.

National Museum of Iraq

nac musei

The Iraq Muse­um appeared in Bagh­dad in 1926 at the ini­tia­tive of British sci­en­tists. It hous­es arti­facts from the Mesopotami­an, Baby­lon­ian, Assyr­i­an and Per­sian civ­i­liza­tions. The col­lec­tion includes gold jew­el­ry, ivory fig­urines, sculp­tures made of pre­cious stones, carved stone fig­urines, cuneiform tablets.

Dur­ing the Gulf War, loot­ers ran­sacked the Nation­al Muse­um, trans­port­ing valu­able exhibits abroad. Despite attempts to find the lost items, the loca­tion of many of them is still unknown. In 2015, the muse­um was ren­o­vat­ed and restored to its work.

Abu Hanifa Mosque

mechet hanifra

The Sun­ni mosque in Bagh­dad was erect­ed around the tomb of Abu Han­i­fa al-Numan, an Islam­ic reli­gious fig­ure. The first men­tion of the shrine dates back to 985–986 AD. For cen­turies, it has remained a cen­ter of pil­grim­age and teach­ing of the Koran.

The total area of ​​the mosque is 10,000 m², the capac­i­ty is 5,000 peo­ple. The main hall is sup­port­ed by eight mar­ble columns crowned with a wide dome. The walls are dec­o­rat­ed with mar­ble and geo­met­ric pat­terns.

The mosque has two minarets and a clock tow­er cov­ered with alu­minum sheets. A spe­cial room is equipped under the dome, in which there is the grave of Abu Hanif, cov­ered with a gild­ed met­al grill.


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