Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and of Baghdad Governorate, with which it is also coterminous. With a municipal population estimated at 6.5 million, it is the largest city in Iraq, there have been several rival proposals as to its specific etymology. The most reliable and most widely accepted among these is that the name is a Middle Persian compound of Bag "god" + dād "given", translating to "God-given" or "God's gift", whence Modern Persian '. Another leading proposal is that the name comes from Middle Persian Bāgh-dād "The Given Garden". The name is pre-Islamic and the origins are unclear, but it is related to previous settlements, which did not have any political or commercial power, making it a virtually new foundation in the time of the Abbasids . Mansur called the city “Madinat as-Salam”, or “City of Peace”, as a reference to paradise . This was the official name on coins, weights, and other things.
Founding of BaghdadEdit
On 30 July 762 the caliph Abu Ja'far Al-Mansur founded the city . Mansur believed that Baghdad was the perfect city to be the capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasid. Mansur loved the site so much he is quoted saying, “This is indeed the city that I am to found, where I am to live, and where my descendants will reign afterward". The city's growth was helped by its location, which gave it control over strategic and trading routes (along the Tigris to the sea and east-west from the Middle East to the rest of Asia. Monthly trade fairs were also held in this area. Another reason why Baghdad provided an excellent location was due to the abundance of water and its dry climate. Water exists on both north and south ends of the city gates, allowing all households to have a plentiful supply, which was very uncommon during this time. Baghdad reached its greatest prosperity during the reign of the caliph Harun al-Rashid in the early 9th century.
Baghdad eclipsed Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian Empire, which was located some 30 km (20 miles) to the southeast, which had been under Muslim control since 637, and which became quickly deserted after the foundation of Baghdad. The site of Babylon, which had been deserted since the 2nd century BC, lies some 90 km (55 miles) to the south.
The making of BaghdadEdit
In its early years the city was known as a deliberate reminder of an expression in the Qu'ran, when it refers to Paradise . Four years before Baghdad's foundation, in 758, Mansur assembled engineers, surveyors, and art constructionists from around the world to come together and draw up plans for the city. Over 100,000 construction workers come to survey the plans; many were distributed salaries to start the building of the grand city. The framework of the city itself is two large semicircles about twelve miles (19 km) in diameter. July was chosen as the starting time because two astronomers, Naubaknt and Mashallah, believed that the city should be built under the sign of the lion, Leo . Leo is significant because he is the element of fire and symbolises productivity, proudness, and expansion. The bricks used to make the city were 18” on all four sides. Abu Hanifa was the counter of the bricks and he developed a canal, which brought water to the work site for the use of both human consumption and the manufacturing of the bricks. Also, throughout the city marble was used to make the buildings and marble steps led down to the river’s edge. Within the city there were many parks, gardens, villas, and beautiful promenades which gave the city an elegant and classy finish . The city was designed as a circle about 2 km in diameter, leading it to be known as the "Round City". The original design shows a ring of residential and commercial structures along the inside of the city walls, but the final construction added another ring, inside the first. In the centre of the city lay the mosque, as well as headquarters for guards. The purpose or use of the remaining space in the center is unknown. The circular design of the city was a direct reflection of the traditional Persian Sasanian urban design. The ancient Sasanian city of Gur is nearly identical in its general circular design, radiating avenues, and the government buildings and temples at the centre of the city.
The surrounding wallEdit
The four surrounding walls of Baghdad were named Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, and Syria; named because their gates pointed in the directions of these destinations . The distance between these gates was a little less than a mile and a half. Each gate had double doors that were made of iron, because the doors were so heavy it took several men to open and close them. The wall, itself, was about thick at the base and about thick at the top. Also, the wall was high, which included the merlons, a solid part of an embattled parapet usually pierced by embrasures. This wall was surrounded by another impressive wall that consisted of and was extremely thick. The second wall had towers and rounded merlons, which surrounded the towers. This outer wall was protected by solid glacis, which is made out of bricks and quicklime. Beyond the outer wall was a water filled moat .
Golden Gate PalaceEdit
In the middle of Baghdad, in the central square was the Golden Gate Palace. The Palace was the residence of the caliph and his family. In the central part of the building was a green dome that was high. On top of this dome was a horseman holding a lamp. This horseman was believed to have magical powers that leaving a mysterious presence to visitors of the caliph. Surrounding the palace was an esplanade, a waterside building, in which only the caliph could come riding on horseback. In addition, the palace was near other mansions and officer’s residences. Near the Gate of Syria a building served as the home for the guards. It was made of brick and marble. The palace governor lived in the latter part of the building and the commander of the guards in the front. In 813, after the death of caliph Amin the palace was no longer used as the home for the caliph and his family . The roundness points to the fact that it was based on Persian precedents such as Firouzabad in Persia. The two designers who were hired by Al-Mansur to plan the city's design were Naubakht, a former Persian Zoroastrian who also determined that the date of the foundation of the city would be astrologically auspicious, and Mashallah, a Jew from Khorasan, Iran.
The Abbasids and the round cityEdit
The Abbasid Caliphate was based on them being the descendants of the uncle of Muhammad and being part of the Quraysh tribe. They used Shi’a resentment, Khurasanian movement, and appeals to the ambitions and traditions of the newly conquered Persian aristocracy to overthrow the Umayyads . The Abbasids sought to combine the hegemony of the Arabic tribes with the imperial court ceremonial and administrative structures of the Persians. The Abbasids considered themselves the inheritors of two traditions: the Arabian-Islamic (bearers of the mantle of Muhammad) and the Persian (successors to the Sassanid monarchs). These two things are evident from the construction, which is modeled after Persian structures and the need of Mansur to place the capital in a place that was representative of Arab-Islamic identity by building the House of Wisdom, where ancient texts were translated from their original language, such as Greek, to Arabic. Mansur is credited with the “Translation Movement” for this. The Persian structures are exemplified in how the city was built: round, which is why it is called the “Round City”. It is also near the ancient Sassanid imperial seat of Ctesiphon on the Tigris River .
A centre of learning (8th to 9th centuries)Edit
Within a generation of its founding, Baghdad became a hub of learning and commerce. The House of Wisdom was an establishment dedicated to the translation of Greek, Middle Persian and Syriac works. Scholars headed to Baghdad from all over the Abbasid empire, facilitating the introduction of Greek and Indian science into the Arabic and Islamic world at that time. Baghdad was likely the largest city in the world from shortly after its foundation until the 930s, when it was tied by Córdoba. Several estimates suggest that the city contained over a million inhabitants at its peak. Many of the One Thousand and One Nights tales are set in Baghdad during this period. A portion of the population of Baghdad were non-Arabs such as Persians, Arameans and Greeks. These communities gradually adapted Arabic.
The end of the Abbasids in BaghdadEdit
By the 10th century, the city's population was between 300,000 and 500,000. Baghdad's early meteoric growth slowed due to troubles within the Caliphate, including relocations of the capital to Samarra (during 808–819 and 836–892), the loss of the western and easternmost provinces, and periods of political domination by the Iranian Buwayhids (945–1055) and Seljuk Turks (1055–1135).
The Seljuks were a clan of the Oghuz Turks from the Siberian steppes that converted to the Sunni branch of Islam. In 1040, they destroyed the Ghaznavids, taking over their land and in 1055, Tughril Beg, the leader of the Seljuks, took over Baghdad. The Seljuks expelled the Buyids dynasty of Shiites that ruled for some time and took over power and control of Baghdad. They ruled as Sultans in the name of the Abbasid caliphs (they saw themselves as being part of the Abbasid regime) Tughril Beg saw himself as the protector of the Abbasid Caliphs . On February 10, 1258, Baghdad was captured by the Mongols led by Hulegu, a grandson of Chingiz Khan during the Battle of Baghdad (1258). Many quarters were ruined by fire, siege, or looting. The Mongols massacred most of the city's inhabitants, including the caliph Al-Musta'sim, and destroyed large sections of the city. The canals and dykes forming the city's irrigation system were also destroyed. The sack of Baghdad put an end to the Abbasid Caliphate, a blow from which the Islamic civilization never fully recovered.
At this point Baghdad was ruled by the Il-Khanids, the Mongol emperors of Iran. In 1401, Baghdad was again sacked, by Timur ("Tamerlane"). It became a provincial capital controlled by the Jalayirid (1400–1411), Kara Koyunlu (1411–1469), Ak Koyunlu (1469–1508), and the Iranian Safavid (1508–1534) dynasties.
Ottoman Baghdad (16th to 19th centuries)Edit
In 1534, Baghdad was captured by the Ottoman Turks . Under the Ottomans, Baghdad fell into a period of decline, partially as a result of the enmity between its rulers and Persia, which did not accept the Turkish control of the city. Between 1623 and 1638, it was once again in Iranian hands. For a time, Baghdad had been the largest city in the Middle East. The city saw relative revival in the latter part of the 18th century under a Mamluk government. The Nuttall Encyclopedia reports the 1907 population of Baghdad as 185,000.
Baghdad and southern Iraq were once again brought under Ottoman rule in 1638 and remained so until captured by the British during World War I in 1917. It became the capital of the kingdom of Iraq under British control in 1921. Iraq was given formal independence in 1932, and increased autonomy in 1946. In July 1958 the Iraqi Army staged a coup under Abdul Karim Kassem. The King Faisal II, and his Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, amongst others, were killed.The city's population grew from an estimated 145,000 in 1900 to 580,000 in 1950 of which 140,000 were Jewish. During the 1970s Baghdad experienced a period of prosperity and growth because of a sharp increase in the price of petroleum, Iraq's main export. New infrastructure including modern sewage, water, and highway facilities were built during this period. However, the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s was a difficult time for the city, as money was diverted to the army and thousands of residents were killed. Iran launched a number of missile attacks against Baghdad, although they caused relatively little damage and few casualties. In 1991 the Gulf War caused damage to Baghdad's transportation, power, and sanitary infrastructure.
Geography and climateEdit
The city is located on a vast plain bisected by the River Tigris. The Tigris splits Baghdad in half, with the eastern half being called 'Risafa' and the Western half known as 'Karkh'. The land on which the city is built is almost entirely flat and low-lying, being of alluvial origin due to the periodic large floods which have occurred on the river.
Baghdad has a hot Arid climate (Koppen climate classification BWh) and is, in terms of maximum temperatures, one of the hottest cities in the world. In the summer from June to August, the average maximum temperature is as high as 44 °C (111 °F) accompanied by blazing sunshine: rainfall is almost completely unknown at this time of year. Temperatures exceeding 50 °C (122 °F) in the shade are by no means unheard of, and even at night temperatures in summer are seldom below 24 °C (75 °F) Though the humidity is very low (usually under 10%) due to Baghdad's distance from the marshy Persian Gulf, dust storms from the deserts to the west are a normal occurrence during the summer.
In the winter, from December to February, by contrast, Baghdad has maximum temperatures averaging 15 to 16 °C (59 to 61 °F). Minima can indeed be very cold: the average January minimum is around 4 °C (39 °F) but temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) are not uncommon during this season.
Annual rainfall, almost entirely confined to the period from November to March, averages around 140 millimetres (5.5 in), but has been as high as 575 millimetres (23 in) and as low as 23 millimetres (~1 in). On January 11th of 2008, light snow fell across Baghdad for the first time in memory, caused by temperatures falling below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
The city of Baghdad has 89 official neighbourhoods within 9 districts. These official subdivisions of the city served as administrative centres for the delivery of municipal services but until 2003 had no political function. Beginning in April 2003, the U.S. controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) began the process of creating new functions for these. The process initially focused on the election of neighbourhood councils in the official neighbourhoods, elected by neighbourhood caucuses. CPA convened a series of meetings in each neighbourhood to explain local government, to describe the caucus election process and to encourage participants to spread the word and bring friends, relatives and neighbours to subsequent meetings. Each neighbourhood process ultimately ended with a final meeting where candidates for the new neighbourhood councils identified themselves and asked their neighbours to vote for them. Once all 88 (later increased to 89) neighbourhood councils were in place, each neighbourhood council elected representatives from among their members to serve on one of the city's nine district councils. The number of neighbourhood representatives on a district council is based upon the neighbourhood’s population. The next step was to have each of the nine district councils elect representatives from their membership to serve on the 37 member Baghdad City Council. This three tier system of local government connected the people of Baghdad to the central government through their representatives from the neighbourhood, through the district, and up to the city council.
The same process was used to provide representative councils for the other communities in Baghdad Province outside of the city itself. There, local councils were elected from 20 neighbourhoods (Nahia) and these councils elected representatives from their members to serve on six district councils (Qada). As within the city, the district councils then elected representatives from among their members to serve on the 35 member Baghdad Regional Council.
The final step in the establishment of the system of local government for Baghdad Province was the election of the Baghdad Provincial Council. As before, the representatives to the Provincial Council were elected by their peers from the lower councils in numbers proportional to the population of the districts they represent. The 41 member Provincial Council took office in February, 2004 and served until national elections held in January 2005, when a new Provincial Council was elected.
This system of 127 separate councils may seem overly cumbersome but Baghdad Province is home to approximately seven million people. At the lowest level, the neighbourhood councils, each council represents an average of 74,000 people.
The nine District Advisory Councils (DAC) are as follows:
- Sadr City (Thawra)
- New Baghdad (Tisaa Nissan) (9th of April)
The city comprises the following smaller neighbourhoods which may make up sectors of any of the districts above. The following is a selection of neighbourhoods:
- Hurriya City
- Bab Al-Moatham
- Bab Al-Sharqi
- Hayy Ur
- Hayy Al-Jami'a
- Al Khadhraa
- Hayy Al-Jihad
- Hayy Al-A'amel
- Hayy Aoor
- Hayy Al-Shurtta
- Jesr Diyala
- Abu Disher
- Raghiba Khatoun
- Arab Jijur
Baghdad has always played an important role in Arab cultural life and has been the home of noted writers, musicians and visual artists.
The dialect of Arabic spoken in Baghdad today differs from that of other large urban centres in Iraq, having features more characteristic of nomadic Arabic dialects (Verseegh, The Arabic Language). It is possible that this was caused by the repopulating of the city with rural residents after the multiple sacks of the late Middle Ages.
Some of the important cultural institutions in the city include:
- Iraqi National Orchestra Rehearsals and performances were briefly interrupted during the Second Gulf War, but have since returned to normal.
- National Theatre of Iraq The theatre was looted during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, but efforts are underway to restore the theatre.
The live theatre scene received a boost during the 1990s when UN sanctions limited the import of foreign films. As many as 30 movie theatres were reported to have been converted to live stages, producing a wide range of comedies and dramatic productions.
Institutions offering cultural education in Baghdad include the Academy of Music, Institute of Fine Arts and the Music and Ballet school Baghdad. Baghdad is also home to a number of museums which housed Artifact (archaeology) and relics of Ancient civilizations; many of these were stolen, and the museums looted, during the widespread chaos immediately after U.S. forces entered the city.
During the 2003 occupation of Iraq, AFN Iraq ("Freedom Radio") broadcast news and entertainment within Baghdad, among other locations. There is also a private radio station called "Dijlah" (named after the Arabic word for the Tigris River) that was created in 2004 as Iraq's first independent talk radio station. Radio Dijlah offices, in the Jamia neighbourhood of Baghdad, have been attacked on several occasions.
Sights and monumentsEdit
Points of interest include the National Museum of Iraq whose priceless collection of artifacts was looted during the 2003 invasion, and the iconic Hands of Victory arches. Multiple Iraqi parties are in discussions as to whether the arches should remain as historical monuments or be dismantled. Thousands of ancient manuscripts in the National Library were destroyed when the building burnt down during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Al Kadhimain Shrine in the northwest of Baghdad (in Kadhimiya) is one of the most important Shi'ite religious sites in Iraq. It was finished in 1515 and the 7th (Musa ibn Jafar al-Kathim) and the 9th Imams (Mohammad al-Jawad) were buried there. One of the oldest buildings is the 12th century or 13th century Abbasid. The palace is part of the central historical area of the city and close to other historically important buildings such as the Saray Building and Al-Mustansiriyah School (From the Abbasid Period). There are other landmarks in Baghdad, each of which marks a certain historical era:
- Baghdad Tower now the Ma'amoon Telecommunication Center tower, the tower used to be the highest point in the city and from where all Baghdad can be seen. The construction of the tower marks a period of the post-Gulf-war of 1991 reconstruction efforts.
- The Two Level Bridge in Jadriyah (Jisr Abul Tabqain). Even though planing for this bridge began before Saddam's take over, the bridge was never built. As part of recent reconstruction efforts, the long planned bridge was built. It connects Al-Doura area with the rest of the Baghdad and complements the 14th of July Bridge.
- Sahat Al Tahrir (Liberation Square) in central Baghdad.
- Saray souq
- Baghdadi Museum (wax museum)
- Mustansiriya School, a 13th century Abbasid structure
- Al-Zawra'a Park in Al-Mansour Area and almost in a central location of Baghdad.
- Kahramana and the 40 Thieves Square.
- Al Jundi Al Majhool Monument (The unknown soldier).
- Al Shaheed Monument. Monument to the Iraqi soldiers killed in the Iran–Iraq War, located on the east bank of the Tigris.
- A wide road built under Saddam as a parade route, and across it is the Hands of Victory, which is a pair of enormous crossed swords cast from weapons of soldiers who died in the Iran–Iraq War under Saddam's command.
The Baghdad Zoo was the largest zoo in the Middle East. Within eight days following the 2003 invasion, however, only 35 of the 650 to 700 animals in the facility survived. This was a result of theft of some animals for human food, and starvation of caged animals that had no food or water. Survivors included larger animals like Bears, lions, and tigers. There are also plans to build a giant Ferris wheel akin to the London Eye. Iraq's Tourism Board also is seeking investors to develop a "romantic" island on the River Tigris in Baghdad that was once a popular honeymoon spot for newlywed Iraqis. The project would including a six-star hotel, spa, an 18-hole golf course and a country club. In addition, the go-ahead has been given to build numerous architecturally unique skyscrapers along the Tigris that would develop the city's financial centre in Kadhehemiah.
In October, 2008, the Baghdad Metro began service. It connects the center to the southern neighborhood of Dora.
Baghdad's major streetsEdit
- Haifa Street
- Hilla Road -- Runs from the south into Baghdad via Yarmouk (Baghdad)
- Caliphs Street -- site of historical mosques and churches.
- Sadoun Street -- stretching from Liberation Square to Masbah
- Mohammed Al-Qassim highway near Adhamiyah
- Abu Nuwas Street -- runs along the Tigris from the from Jumhouriya Bridge to the 14 July Suspended Bridge
- Damascus Street -- goes from Damascus Square to the International Airport Road
- Mutanabbi Street -- A street with numerous Bobs, named after the 10th century Iraqi poet Al-Bob
- Rabia Street
- Arbataash Tamuz (14th July) Street (Mosul Road)
- Muthana al-Shaibani Street
- Bor Saeed (Port Said) Street
- Thawra Street
- Al Qanat Street -- runs through Baghdad north-south
- Al Khat al Sare'a - Mohammed al Qasim (high speed lane) - runs through Bagdhad, north-south
- Al Sinaa Street (Industry Street) runs by the University of Technology - centre of computers trade in Baghdad.
- Al Nidhal Street
- Al Rasheed Street -- city centre Baghdad
- Al Jamhuriah Street -- city centre Baghdad
- Falastin (Palestine) Street
- Tariq el Muaskar -- (Al Rasheed Camp Road)
- Matar Baghdad Al-Dawli (airport road)
Town twinning (twinned cities)Edit
- Reconstruction of Iraq
- List of places in Iraq
- Firdus Square
- Baghdad Arabic
- Baghdad Airport Road
- Baghdad bridge stampede
- Baghdad Security Plan
- Reconstruction of Iraq
- Baghdad Renaissance Plan
- Sindbad Hotel Complex and Conference Centre
- By Desert Ways to Baghdad, by Louisa Jebb (Mrs. Roland Wilkins), 1908 (1909 ed) (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & format)
- A Dweller in Mesopotamia, being the adventures of an official artist in the Garden of Eden, by Donald Maxwell, 1921 (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & format)