#iraq #travel #holidays #baghdad #babylon
The name Iraq might instill ideas about a war-ridden nation seeing massive destruction in every aspect. However, despite all that Iraq has faced in the last few years, it is indeed a country worth your visit. The nation is nestled between the twin river systems (Tigris and Euphrates) and happens to be one of the major hotspots for the growth of civilization. Ancient Iraq was the center of the Mesopotamian Civilisation that introduce hieroglyphs, a format of writing, and had shown innovations in the fields of literature, music, science, theology, medicine, and so on. Many of the places that are mentioned in the Bible also happen to be in Iraq making it historically and theologically significant. There are many Ottoman relics and Persian structures to look at too. So, without much ado, here are some of the most stunning places that you have got to see while you are in Iraq.
Baghdad is the capital city of Iraq and has faced much of the brunt of all the wars and devastations that have been caused to Iraq. Entering the Green Zone in Baghdad could be a difficult ordeal since you would be needing special permissions to do so. However, there are plenty of impressive places to look out for if you ever get the chance to visit Baghdad. It has been an incredible city in the past and has rich culture and tradition to welcome you in on the offer.
Baghdad used to be a richly decorated city with glorious architectural marvels built by some of its many rulers while the other rulers have destroyed a lot of these marvels. One of the most mystical finds in Iraq is hosted in the National Museum of Iraq and is known to the world as Baghdad Batteries. These are earthen urns filled with copper and iron and sealed with asphalt. The true purpose of these batteries is unknown yet but it is speculated that they were used as some kind of electronic device used for electroplating. Since the earthen pots were initially overlooked after the find, their true purpose couldn’t be figured out. You could see 12 of these amazing batteries or whatever they are in the museum.
The nearby Al-Shaheed Monument is also a stunning feature to look forward to. Thou a much modern addition to the architectural features in Iraq, this monument stands testament to the devastations caused in the Iran-Iraq War and was built to commemorate all who died in the said war. Underneath the teal-colored, onion-shaped dome is a library and museum dedicated to the Iraqi soldiers. There are also playgrounds and grounds surrounding the area of the monument. The combined effect has a strange charm to it which makes the oasis-like structure all the more interesting to visitors.
Another interesting display that you should not miss while you are visiting Baghdad is the 605-page Quran written in the blood of the dictator Saddam Hussain. The dictator had supplied 27 liters of his blood over 2 years to a skillful calligrapher to design this version of the bible in order the appease the Lord above and to show himself to be a devout Muslim.
Just when you think that things in Iraq couldn't get any more interesting you will stumble upon the once majestic Babylon. Babylon has been the capital of the many Mesopotamian empires and dynasties including Babylonia. The glorious Babylonia developed and reached its prime under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar II between 605 and 563 BC. Elaborate architectural features including two giant palaces were constructed during this period. The famed and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, Hanging Gardens of Babylon were also constructed during this era. Much of the previous glory of Babylon is believed to be covered under the mounds nowadays. The dictatorship of Saddam Hussain had worsened the situation for the time when he believed himself to be a descendant of the mighty King and tried to design Babylon on his image as the one true leader, however, since his defeat and fall, efforts had been started to restore the relics and monuments that Babylon has to offer. Excavations are being carried out and it is believed that much of the old Babylon could be found underneath the mounds.
The Shekhan District in Iraq is an interesting place to visit while you are in Iraq with two of its most impressive and intriguing attractions being the Lalish Temple and the Aqueduct of Jerwan.
The Aqueduct of Jerwan is an engineering marvel dating back to the 7th century BC. It is believed that the elaborate aqueducts were built by King Sennacherib to water the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This elaborate system was constructed using stone and a type of waterproof cement that wouldn't wear for years to come. It was also built about 30 miles away from the King's palace and the hydraulic system brought waters from the nearby mountains around Dohuk. Nowadays it might look like rubble but upon closer inspection, you would be marveled to behold this wondrous creation. And to think that such an enigmatic system of hydraulics was developed much earlier than the Roman engineering structures (which are still in existence).
The Lalish Temple on the other hand is a shrine to the Yazidi population in the world and one of the most important places of pilgrimage among the Yazidis. The Yazidis are a minority religious group residing in Iraq and their religion is similar to the other Abrahamic religions that arose in the Middle East such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The Yazidi religious style has also incorporated Zoroastrian elements into their way of worship. The Lalish Temple is the most important and sacred site amongst the Yazidi faith holders.
The village of Lalish has been existing for millennia and the temple is believed to have been used both by the Sumerians and the Mesopotamians as the ancient civilizations flourished. The shrine has a conical architectural style and it is believed that it houses the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, the religious head. Presently, the village is uninhabited by anyone except the Emir who looks after the temple premises. However, there are a large number of open houses in the village where dreary pilgrims could rest.
Rabban Hormizd Monastery
The Rabban Hormizd Monastery dates back 1,400 years and is an important site of worship among the Chaldean Catholics. It was carved from rocks and has an amphitheater-like appeal. It was built by Rabban Mar Hormizd in 640. During the 16th century, Yahanna Sulaqa was the abbot of Hormizd Monastery and the first Patriarch of the church. It was during this time that the gap between the Holy See of Rome and the Church of the East developed and in 1552 the monastery became the seat of the Chaldean Christian Church. Between the 15th and the 19th century, the church was the residence of many patriarchs belonging to the Chaldean Christian sect. The 1st century saw constant attacks into the church which nearly left it abandoned. In the early 19th century, the church's library was ransacked, looted, and destroyed leading to the destruction of many Syriac documents. A new sanctuary was built in the later 19th century with aims to improve the security of the area though the old church was also preserved.
Great Mosque of Samarra
The prominent minaret of the once Great Mosque of Samarra is the only standing relic of the immensity of this place which was once the largest mosque in the world. At its peak, the mosque covered an area of 42 acres surrounding the 180 feet tower called the malwiya (snail shell minaret). Al Mutawakkil of the Abbasid caliphate sanctioned the construction of the mosque in the 9th century after which the ruler rode a white donkey to the top of the mosque. However, by the 11th century, the mosque crumbled in the hands of destruction and disuse. The memory of the mosque is still preserved in the towering minaret. A part of this last standing structure was also destroyed in 2005 during the US occupancy by the insurgents.
Erbil is situated in the Kurdistan part of Iraq and is a manmade wonder that has been developed for over 7,000 years. In this region, settlements have been built on top of one another over the years and the Erbil Citadel stands tall at the top looking over the passage of time.
The citadel is an ovoid mound fortified on all sides. The height of the citadel compared to the surrounding region is due to the settlements being built one on top of the other and having reached a staggering height of 100 feet over the millennia. Though the first recorded document to have mentioned the citadel dates to 2,300 BC, its ancient history goes back to 5,000 BC and even farther. 2007 has seen an upsurge in archaeological activities in the area with the UNESCO proclaiming it to be a World Heritage Site in 2014.
Sulaymaniyah is situated towards the northern side of Iraq and is one of the safest cities to visit amidst all the war and political tension in the area. Since it is situated amongst the mountains the climate is generally pleasant and cool. There are many fine restaurants and eateries to try here to get you a sense of the delectable Iraqi and Middle Eastern cuisine. Spiced koftas and biriyanis are some of the most promising dishes that you have got to try as you travel through Sulaymaniyah. The city is also a fantastic base if you are thinking of exploring through the oases and valleys in the region, especially the valleys of Goyija and Azmer.
Ur has been referred to in the Bible and has a history that is rich, interesting, and intriguing to the point of being unimaginable. It has been a rich city in the past and a lot of the relics and ruins from ancient times are still visible here. It has been known for all-destroying floods, powerful Babylonian kings, and so on. It is situated towards the southern desert region of Iraq and is home to the Ziggurat. This is a towering structure with very high walls and a steep staircase to traverse to the top and looks much like a pyramid. It is a temple built for the worship of the moon god among the Akkadians. It could be regarded as one of the most mysterious places ever that you could visit in Iraq.
Ctesiphon, like most other Iraqi cities, boasts of a rich, vibrant, and brutal history. Initially, it used to be a small settlement along the banks of the Tigris River occupied by the Persians in the 4th century BC. However, after the Parthian invasion in the region, Ctesiphon rose to glory in the 1st century AD when it was made the capital of the Parthians and also went on to include Seleucia. By the 7th century, Ctesiphon developed into one of the biggest cities in the entire region. And you can actually see this growth from the many relics that this pace has to offer. One of the most impressive facets that you just cannot miss if you are visiting Ctesiphon is the Taq Kasra. It is a Sassanid dome, one of the largest such domes in the world. It also happens to be a very important archaeological site in the entire region.
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