Modern Iraq was born from ancient Mesopotamia, nestled in the fertile valleys created by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The country’s glorious history continued with the arrival of Islam, and Baghdad became one of the greatest capitals of the religion. Recent history, unfortunately, has been less kind to the country. Widespread political repression plagued Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and conflicts with Kuwait, Iran and the West tore the country apart for over two decades.
Today, the country dominates news headlines for all the wrong reasons, and the future of Baghdad is uncertain. Iraqis struggle to build a democratic society against religious and political tensions, terrorist attacks still occur with numbing constancy and Baghdad is now one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. However, few countries have a richer history, and the Iraqi people have proven their resilience time and time again. There is much hope for reconstruction, and Baghdad will once again be one of the Middle East’s great travel destinations.
Although the National Museum of Iraq was extensively looted during the 2003 Iraq War, plans are underway to reopen it to the public soon. Thousands of the stolen treasures have been returned to Iraq since 2010, and the building itself has been renovated with help from the governments of both Italy and the United States. The museum’s collection is revered as one of the world’s most important, featuring artifacts that detail Mesopotamia’s 5,000 year history. Galleries are dedicated to the ancient Akkadian, Sumerian, Chaldean, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations, and the oldest pieces date back to 3000 BC.
The skyline of Baghdad is dotted with many richly ornamented minarets and domes, many of which belong to mosques and shrines. The most impressive is the Al Kadhimiya Mosque. Built-in 1515, the mosque remains one of the most important institutions in Islam and is an architectural gem. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the mosque underwent numerous reconstructions and renovations. The magnificent golden dome was re-gilded, the outer walls were restored to their original appearance and the interior was retouched to highlight its glimmering mirror mosaics, colorfully glazed tiles and marble floors. Since the war began, the mosque has been the site of suicide and car bombings, but the structure has remained intact and hopes to one day welcome visitors from around the world.
Other notable religious sights in Baghdad include the Mosque and Mausoleum of Al-Imam Al-Aadham, built in 1066, the finely ornamented Mausoleum of Omar Al-Sahrawardi and the Tomb of Sitt Zumurrud Khatun, topped with a glorious golden conical-shaped dome.
Baghdad is also marked by many monuments to the soldiers that died throughout the country’s many wars. The al-Shaheed Monument is one of the most impressive, dedicated to the Iraqi soldiers killed during the Iran-Iraq War. The design resembles a 40m shell split in half, and inside lies a courtyard, cascading water pool, library, exhibition gallery and small museum.
The Monument to the Unknown Soldier is also worth a visit. Dedicated to the martyrs who gave their lives during the Iran-Iraq War, the monument symbolizes a traditional shield falling from the hands of a dying Iraqi soldier. A museum once stood under the monument, but it is now mostly empty. To explore what remains, ask the Iraqi guards for permission to enter, and bring a flashlight because there are no lights inside the museum.
Baghdad Geographical Location
Baghdad is located on the Tigris River in the central east of Iraq.
The population of Baghdad is 7,220,000 and is the largest city in Iraq.
Arabic is the official language of Iraq and Kurdish is official in Kurdish regions.
Baghdad Predominant Religion
- 97% Muslim
- 3% Christian or Other
Islam is the official religion of Iraq and of its followers approximately 65% is Shia Muslim and the remaining 35% is Sunni Muslim.
The Iraqi Dinar is the official currency of Iraq.
Baghdad experiences a dry hot season between June and September in which the temperatures are uncomfortably hot. Winters are usually mild and pleasant with some chilly days.
Baghdad Main Attractions
- AL Saheed Monument
- Al Jundi AL Majihool Monument
- The Liberation Square
Other Attractions in Baghdad
- AL Zawra Park
- Kahramana and the 40 Thieves Square
- Baghdad Tower
- The Latin Church