Don't Miss Places In Iraq
Iraq is an Arab state located at the top of the Persian Gulf. In the west and southwest are wide expanses of desert. The only people who live there are Bedouins, moving with their camels between oases fringed with date palms. In the northeast rugged mountains form the border with Iran and Turkey. This region also provides scrubby pasture for goats and sheep. The foothills of these mountains are home to many Kurds, semi-nomadic people who make up about 20 percent of Iraq’s population. At the heart of the country lies the capital city of Baghdad, which is one of the largest cities in the Middle East.
The southern part of Baghdad is a green and fertile plain that opens up between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is part of an area that was once called the Mesopotamia, meaning “the land between the rivers”. The world’s ancient civilization, ancient Sumer, was also developed here in 3500 B.C.
Today, most of Iraq’s population lives on the plain, which has become the center of the country’s agriculture and industry. Iraq’s economy is built on oil reserves, which are especially vast in the south. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. This led to the Persian Gulf War, which Iraq lost. The United Nations banned Iraq from selling oil until it had paid Kuwait for the devastation caused by the war. This was a severe blow to the Iraqi economy, already badly damaged by eight years of war with Iran in the 1980s.
These are the top attractions and the not to be missed places in Iraq.
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The Iraq Museum (Baghdad)
The Iraq Museum has its own splendor and beauty despite the many wars it has endured through the years. You can recognize the importance of this museum as a national landmark for it includes the history of the country and the Iraqi communities even in bits and pieces. The museum contains a few traces of the treasures of the oldest civilization in the universe- Mesopotamia. Although most of the displays are taken out (some used pictures) the museum still represents all the historical periods of the civilization of Mesopotamia and all the cultures that prevailed on this land (Sumer, Babylon, and Lagash). Taking photographs or videos in the museum is strictly prohibited.
Tragically, during a visit, the main expositions are not available. Therefore, a visit will come down to a rather short tour of the premises, and much less is understood. It’s a pity that the museum has been subject to many attacks from the rebels and most of the displays were looted. However, what you can only see there now are exhibits that are enough to see firsthand the majesty and splendor of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. Most of the archaeological artifacts were stolen; even the archived files and documents that could have help reconstruct the rich history of the nation’s culture.
The Ramadan Mosque stands in an area of Baghdad City that was swiftly rebuilt soon after its destruction during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Although reconstruction is a major industry in Iraq, many homes are still without adequate war supply or drainage system. It is one of the biggest mosques in the Middle East. However, access is now only limited to its faithful followers, but pictures can be taken along the courtyard and its glorious façade.
Abu Hanifa Mosque
The Abu Hanifa Mosque is an astonishing Imam Mosque and a noteworthy attraction with a school in the city of Baghdad. The range around the mosque (called Adhamiya) was named after him and belongs to the zone found in the north of Baghdad. The mosque was established since 375 AH (1065 AD), beside the tomb of Abu Hanifa.
Constructed within its proximity is the University of Adhamiya, one of the three most seasoned colleges in the Middle East. Unless you are Muslim and need to offer prayers in the mosque, you can use 20 minutes to ponder around and view the mosque and other architectural structures in Baghdad particularly at the watch tower.
The Baghdadi Museum is a very cool museum and in many things reminds everyone of the horrible past of Iraq. You will see distinctive sculptures and some antiques that are still displayed there after the passage of war. This is not the first museum of its kind that is open to the public but it is the brightest in the series of exhibit halls that you will see here in Baghdad.
This museum offers a huge number or various kinds of exhibits from real life and the current situation lately (Post Saddam Hussein era). It is colorful, exciting, and at the same time informative. Take for example, the colorful company of mechanical pieces which rightly occupies most part of the museum! The only caveat - the museum is too large (and luxury) for a fleeting visit, plan to spend on getting to know this exposition for at least a couple of hours. There are portions that evoke strong emotions and some parts that leave a good impression. However, it is still worth a visit.
The Ctesiphon Palace dates back from the A.D. 500s. The arch is the remains of an enormous hall with a vaulted ceiling (a ceiling held up by curved ribs). Ctesiphon was the capital city of the Parthian Empire. It was also occupied by the Greeks and Romans, but was abandoned when the Arabs came and founded nearby Baghdad in A.D. 765.
The Al-Shadeed Monument, otherwise known as the Martyr's Monument (Split Egg) is a dedication to the Iraqi warriors who perished during the Iran/Iraq war. It is a radiant blue shade with a long stroll up to it so you can admire its excellence from far away and afterward recognize the subtle element as you get closer. It is a 40 metro high shell shaped structure and was finished in 1983, and can be found on the east side of the Tigris River.
Sadly, there are parts that are prohibited to see. Guests are not permitted to visit the gallery, library, and display that are featured underneath the museum. The police control it and even local people are not permitted in exploring this art gallery portion of the memorial.
Sami Abdulrahman Park (Erbil)
The Sami Abdulrahman Park is a beautifully designed and well-kept park in city of Erbil. It is the best option and ideal place to rest after long walks through the capital city. You will be surprised on how big this park is. There are so many things to do you can spend time on different ways, even with a simple boating adventure on the lake. You will be particularly impressed with the huge playground equipment that is designed for kids to enjoy. It is the heart of nature in a park with proximity to the city center.
You must absolutely see it and find peace of mind because of its nature and calm setting. There is a library, shops, cafes, and restaurants and a soothing place to explore in Erbil. It is an ideal park for families with children and people usually visit in the late afternoon when it is much colder and spend long walks towards the fountain and manmade lake in the area that is lined with date trees. Date palms are widely grown around here because dates are not just used in sweet in dishes, Iraqi cuisine combines dates or some other fruits with meat.
It is advisable to be accompanied by local guides when making a tour around the Erbil-Kurdistan territory. This is done to facilitate the passage in all the checkpoints you will encounter along the way. The vast majority of tourists and locals visit Erbil-Kurdistan on official business and it’s a helpful spot to be. The tourist sites are quite few and basically restricted to the noteworthy fortification in the downtown area and the adjacent secured bazaar. You can without much of a stretch use one day going to these two spots and appreciate getting lost and having a traditional meal of Klaicha (small pastries stuffed with dates and dusted with sugar, a popular food in Iraq) in the bazaar. It’s an extraordinary region to stroll about and attempt to visit with local people. The Kurdish dialect is basically the main way of communication but you will also discover English speakers.
Whatever is left of the city is spread out and heaps of development is being done all over; it will be a pleasant spot one it’s all completed! The traffic is tolerable and taxis are all over the place and do not charge more than what their meters register. You can go or tour around any place in a road taxi, however they frequently don't talk English, and that is why traveling with a local is advisable. There are two huge current shopping centers; however foreign products are exceptionally lavish, and the styles are not at the forefront. There are a couple of parks that are pleasant to visit in late spring. In the Christian Quarter of Ainkawa, there are heaps of rustic Arabic restaurants - all great and reasonably priced. You will pay a ton all the more in any inn restaurant or even in the few USA establishments that are spread around the city. In Ainkawa, there are numerous wine shops that sell spirits in a much cheaper price than restaurants. With the so called construction boom, don't expect much yet in Erbil because everything is still under reconstruction with the exception of the Citadel. The people here are neighborly, so get out, walk along the lanes and grin. Although there are still proof of evacuees around here, some families can still be seen living outdoors in tents around the city’s enclosures and it is still miserable to see and strike a chord in everyone’s heart about the horrible and lasting effects of war.
Citadel of Arbil
The largest and perhaps the only drawback of the Citadel of Arbil- inside it is quite difficult to navigate and even more difficult to photograph. The reason is the constant presence of war (national army soldiers) prohibiting movement on the inner buildings and severely limits the possibilities of photography. The rest of the Citadel is beautiful. This enhances the feeling of the ancient presence in the territory of houses, preserved since the construction of the fortress. The view of the city is quite good and there are lots of interesting places to see in a city that is as considered one of the oldest cities on earth. If you walk further and go near the fountains, you can see a huge market. You can still meet traditional locals and market craftsmen who still work with wood and iron even with their outdated technology. These skilled craftsmen work on brass trays, beating out their shape and design with hammers. Fine metalwork has been a tradition in Iraq for thousands of years. Pitchers, pots and trays are among the country’s specialties.
The Citadel of Arbil is very charming but it is still in the process of enhancement. You can walk the main street (it is denied access to the side, due to work and unsafe buildings) and to visit the museum of fabrics that is located on the same street. The latter is interesting, clean and has a nice cafe (and toilet). To see something of the rest of the citadel, you must apply to the keepers (in particular to the booth in front of the museum and insist. If you are persistent enough, you can manage to visit at least up to the palaces that are currently being restored. The one with the balconies overlooking the walls is the most beautiful (the museum is out to the right, you can go up the street and visit the first building opened on the right). The Citadel is both ancient (supposedly 6000 years) and on the other hand impressively large. Currently, there are many works are in progress making the large areas not easily accessible. Don’t forget to visit the very charming textile museum (Kurdish Textile and Cultural Museum) with many carpets and representations from the Kurdish life.
The Shanadar Park is one of the beautiful parks and nicest places to relax in Erbil. Although it is not nearly as large as the Sami Abdul Rahman Park, still it is beautiful and good. The park is very neat and very well thought out and offers a beautiful view of the city from the observation deck.
In principle, it is an ordinary park, but the desert view is already an attraction. You can take a walk, get some fresh air and during certain times you can take a ride on the funicular (cable car)runs. This park is a must see while you’re in Erbil City in Iraq.
The Great Mosque Of Samarra
The Great Mosque of Samarra is characterized by its spiral ramp which was built around A.D. 850. It is one of the world’s largest mosques. Discussing Samarra, may take an entire life time, that’s because of its extraordinary contribution which was focused on a particular territory of Iraq and its valuable impact on the nation’s history (during the 4000 B.C.) during the archeological period that was fondly remembered as the Samarra stage.
Ziggurat of UR
The city of Nasiriyah is a fun and exciting experience and within the site you will find the Ziggurat of UR which is still in excellent condition. This site consists of the first man-made arch and the mausoleum with the royal tombs. It was established since the 4000 B.C. Aside from being the living witness of the events in the Old Testament, along with Babylon and Uruk, this place is perhaps one of the three most significant monuments of the ancient history of mankind in southern Iraq. The Ziggurat is still intact in its square lines and still essential. Try your best to climb all the way to the top and see the amazing view down below. It ‘s a monument that evokes strong feelings, strange suggestions, and sensation. Like being in almost another world, with other people and a political tension that is never dormant. A short distance away is the house of Abraham which is also a must see.
Iraq is a lovely country that is full of things to discover, the climate suggests visits (post war) in spring or autumn. The people are hospitable and the wonderful thing is the coexistence between Muslims and Catholics, each with their beliefs and habits, but living together. Thanks to a development effort made in post Saddam rule, there are now new malls that are really impressive but the center remained like how it is so many years ago.
After the era of Saddam Hussein, life has been difficult for most other Iraqis because war has destroyed homes and jobs. Also, sanctions (international trade restrictions) have cause shortages of food and medicine. Even travel and tourism to Iraq is still restricted up to this time of writing. However, efforts for rehabilitation and reconstruction are showing great signs of hope for the country that first gained prominence as the cradle of ancient civilization.