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.
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.
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.
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.
Great Holidays Square
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.
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
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
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.