Baghdad, a city of uber rich history, mix of races and religions that extends for centuries, has been often referred as a Cradle of Civilization, New Babylon or even Gate of Gods.
It is indeed the original trading hub of the Islamic Empire and the birthplace of cosmopolitanism, where cultures collided peacefully and created one of the first learning center for the rest of the world, in a form of Mesopotamian arts, science and literature.
Today, over short walk you can experience here The Tales of the “One thousand and one nights” with Shehrazad statue sitting on the riverside of Tigris and watching the old streets and markets, pass by worship places from the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, Abu Hanafieh al-Nu’man to the Church of the Virgin Mary and all the way into busy streets of bustling modern metropoly, that has already forgotten the recent years trouble and craving to enter new golden era.
Few countries in the world are as rich in archaeology as Iraq. Iraq Museum, with its 28 galleries, making it the largest museum in the Middle East, and its great well organized and carefully labeled collection of archaeological finds is a reflection of this richness. It is one of the most important museums in the World, situated in Karkh district.
Exhibits cover a time-span from the early Stone Age in Mesopotamia 100,000 years ago to well into the Islamic period 8th century AD. One of its most fascinating exhibits is a 10,000 year old pebble with 12 deep scratches on its surface, which is thought to be one of the first calendars. Also, a Sumerian seal dating from about 5,000 years ago, shows the first pictorial representation of two people shaking hands, Sumerian gold, Assyrian winged bulls, exquisite marble statues from Hatra, Islamic inscriptions, intricately carved doors, brilliantly illuminated manuscripts.
t is a record of the many peoples and cultures which flourished in Mesopotamia from time immemorial up to the centuries of the Arab empire, the Museum offers a vivid display of pre-historic remains, of astonishing collection of antiquities, and of the civilizations and arts of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Seleucids, Parthians, Sassanians, and Abbasids. The display halls are chronologically arranged in this order.
Some of the objects on display here are reproductions, with their originals removed by conquering nations to be displayed in foreign museums. The Louvre in Paris, London’s British Museum, Berlin Museum, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum in the US all contain antiquities from ancient Mesopotamia. Some pieces have been returned, but the effective closure of the country seems to preclude any further returns for the foreseeable future.
For the benefit of scholars, the Museum has a rich multilingual library, which adds to the prestige of the Iraq Museum as one of the best in the world of Mesopotamian studies.
Borsippa or Birs Nimrud, a Sumerian name, which means the horn or the sword of the sea. This city is 15 km to the south of Babylon. In ancient times, it had its own religious significance as the place for the worship of Nabu, son of the great Babylonian god Marduk.
The most famous site in Borsippa is its tower or ziggurat, which is attached to a staircase of seven layers. The ruins of the tower are 47 m high. If you climb it, you will wonder what those dark-green lumps of molten bricks are. Some scholars think that the tower was once hit by a comet which melted its bricks, others believe that it was damaged by a great fire.
From the top, looking at the green country around you, you will see the traces of excavations that dates back to 1902, as well as the temple of Nabu, Esida “the firm house”, and a prayer mosque.
At the next side of the tower, there is a hill on which it is believed that the shrine of Prophet Abraham “Ibrahim Al-Khalil” (pbuh) is situated.
Babylon, the legendary city, is indeed, the most famous ancient city in the whole World. It was the capital of ten Mesopotamian dynasties starting with the dynasty of King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC); the 6th king of the 1st dynasty; reaching prominence as the capital city of the great kingdom of Babylonia. The last dynasty at which Babylon achieved its zenith, is well known particularly of its 2nd king, Nebuchadnezzar II (605-563 BC), to whom most of Babylon’s existing buildings belongs.
Nowadays, its ruins covers about 302 km lying on the east bank of Euphrates 90 km south of Baghdad nd about 10 km north of Hilla. The most important of the standing monuments of Babylon today are the Summer and Winter Palaces of King Nebuchadnezzar II, the Ziggurat attached to it, the Street of Processions, the Lion of Babylon, and the famous Ishtar Gate.
Al-Mustansereyya School overlooking the Tigris from Rusafa side, near Shuhada Bridge, with courses in Arabic, Theology, Astronomy, Mathematics, Pharmacology and Medicine with application hospital, was the most prominent and highly-esteemed university in the Islamic world of Abbasids.
It took six years to build (completed in 1233 AD) in the reign of the 37th Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustanser Billah (1226 – 1242 AD), after whom it was called. Nearly three quarters of a million dinars in gold was spent on its construction and had an endowment valued at about one million dinars in gold from which the School obtained an annual revenue of 70,000 dinars to spend on staff and students.
It has a quasi-rectangular plan measuring 104.8 meters in length and 44.2 in width in the north, 48.8 in the south, making up an area of 4836 square meters. The built-up part totals 3121 square meters, the rest being a courtyard of 1710 square meters lined on all sides by ewans large ornamented galleries completely open to the courtyard.
There are rooms on two stories which were for students lodging, study and lecture halls, a library (which once held 80,000 books), a kitchen, a bathroom and, notably, a pharmacy attached to a hospital. It has its own garden, together with a house once specially used for the study of the Holy Qur’an and another for the study of Holy Tradition.
Al-Mustansereyya was famous for its clock which told the hours astronomically. Apart from telling the hours, it specified the position of the sun and the moon at every hour, besides other mechanical curiosities.
This school is also well known of its fine ornamentation, which is mainly composed of geometrical and floral arabesque curved on the bricks covering its interior and exterior facades.
The Marshes (Al-Ahwar )
he Marshes (Al-Ahwar in Arabic) is a unique region to Iraq where nature seems to preserve its virgin aspect. It covers a large area surrounding Shatt El-Arab waterway and the union of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers just below Qurna, stretching from Kut in the north to Basra in the south. This vast expanse of marshland dotted with shallow lagoons occupies a total area of about 10,000 km2 and is the home of endless variety of birds, fish, plants, reeds, and bulrushes.
Old Arabic books suggest that the Marshes were the aftermath of a devastating flood which took place around 620 AD, but archaeological indications suggest that they were formed long before Sumerian times, when the Arabian Gulf waters began to recede southwards, leaving behind all those marshes alongside the Tigris and Euphrates.
Marsh Arabs (the Madan) who inhabit the area live in huts (known as Sarifa’s) built from reeds with elaborate latticework entrances and attractive designs that goes back to ancient times. It looks like hundreds of islands clustered together into small townships. Most prominent among them is Chebayish on the left bank of Euphrates.
|Each “island” is in fact a man-made mixture of earth and papyrus pressed hard (to form a base of a hut) and called Chebasheh. The watery “streets” are plied by boats of different kinds and sizes, the most popular being the mash-houf, which is made from reeds and bitumen.The main mode of transport through the reedy waterways is a long, slim canoe, known as a Mashuf. It is thought that this way of life has continued unchanged for about 6000 years.A delightful scene there is a Marsh Wedding, when the bride is carried in a lovely “regatta” made up of her own mash-houf and those of her party, all loud with men’s lilting songs and women’s joyous cries.For taking trips in the Marshes, the best months are March and April. The weather then is pleasant, and the whole place is chock-full of plants and flowers. Reeds may rise 6 m high and papyrus, 3 m. In the winter season, water birds of all kinds migrate to the Marshes, which then become a hunter’s paradise. Fish, however, are always plentiful and the local inhabitants catch them with nets or spear them with a five-pronged ‘fala’, peculiar to the area.|
While the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, are gone, a much more recent ruin has become an attraction in Iraq. A palace that Saddam Hussein built near the ancient site of Babylon has been opened to the public
The palace overlooking the Tigris River has never had so many visitors. Saddam had a garish mansion in nearly every city
This palace was located on the hill just outside of Babylon, overlooking the famous historical city
Nowadays ordinary tours trip can be planned to visit the palace.