Clockwise from top: Aerial view of the Green Zone; Al-Mustansiriya University; Al-Kadhimiya Mosque; Swords of Qadisiyah monument; and the National Museum of Iraq
|Founded by||Abu Jafar al-Mansur|
|• Body||Baghdad City Advisory Council|
|• Mayor||Saber Nabet Al-Essawi|
|• Total||204.2 km2 (78.8 sq mi)|
|Elevation||34 m (112 ft)|
|• Estimate (2011)||7,216,040|
|Time zone||Arabia Standard Time (UTC+3)|
|• Summer (DST)||No DST (UTC)|
|Postal code||10001 to 10090|
Baghdad (Arabic: بغداد Baġdād, Iraqi pronunciation: [bɐʁˈd̪ɑːd̪]) is the capital of the Republic of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Province. The population of Baghdad, as of 2011, is approximately 7,216,040, making it the largest city in Iraq, the second largest city in the Arab world (after Cairo, Egypt), and the second largest city in Western Asia (after Tehran, Iran). According to the government, which is preparing for a census, the population of the country has reached 35 million, with 9 million in the capital.
Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions (e.g. House of Wisdom), garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Center of Learning". Throughout the High Middle Ages, Baghdad was considered to be the largest city in the world with an estimated population of 1,200,000 people. According to some archeologists it was the first city to reach a population over one million inhabitants. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires. With the recognition of Iraq as an independent state (formerly the British Mandate of Mesopotamia) in 1938, Baghdad gradually regained some of its former prominence as a significant center of Arab culture.
In contemporary times, the city has often faced severe infrastructural damage, most recently due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent Iraq War that lasted until December 2011. In recent years, the city has been frequently subjected to insurgency attacks. Though the nation continues to work toward rebuilding and reconciliation, as of 2012, Baghdad continues to be listed as one of the least hospitable places in the world to live, and was ranked by Mercer as the worst of 221 major cities as measured by quality-of-life.
The name Baghdad is pre-Islamic and its origins are under some dispute. The site where the city of Baghdad came to stand has been populated for millennia and by the 8th century AD several Aramaic Christian villages had developed there, one of which was called Baghdad, the name which would come to be used for the Abbasid metropolis.
The name has been used as Baghdadu on Assyrian cuneiform and Babylonian records going back to at least 2000 BC. An inscription by Nebuchadnezzar (600 BC) describes how he rebuilt the old Babylonian town of Bagh-dadu. There used to be another Babylonian settlement called Baghdad, in upper Mesopotamia, near the ancient city of Edessa. The name has not been attested outside of Mesopotamia.
Even though the name has been attested in pre-Persian times, a Persian origin has been accepted by most scholars. It has been proposed that the name is a Middle Persian compound of Bag "god" and dād "given", translating to "God-given" or "God's gift", from which comes Modern Persian Baɣdād. This in turn can be traced to Old Persian. Another proposal is the Persian compound bāğ "garden" and dād "fair", translating to "The fair garden". However, a Persian explanation remains somewhat problematic, given that the name was used long before the Persians arrived in Mesopotamia.
When the Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur, founded a completely new city for his capital, he chose the name Madinat al-Salaam or City of Peace. This was the official name on coins, weights, and other official usage, although the common people continued to use the old name. By the 11th century, "Baghdad" became almost the exclusive name for the world-renowned metropolis.
After the fall of the Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty, the victorious Abbasid rulers wanted their own capital. Choosing a site north of the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon (and just north of where ancient Babylon and Seleucia once stood), on 30 July 762, the caliph Al-Mansur commissioned the construction of the city and it was built under the supervision of the Barmakids. Mansur believed that Baghdad was the perfect city to be the capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasids. 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. A reason why Baghdad provided an excellent location was the abundance of water and the 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 eclipsed Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian Empire, which was located some 30 km (19 mi) to the southeast. Today, all that remains of Ctesiphon is the shrine town of Salman Pak, just to the south of Greater Baghdad. Ctesiphon itself had replaced and absorbed Seleucia, the first capital of the Seleucid Empire. Seleucia had earlier replaced the city of Babylon.
In its early years, the city was known as a deliberate reminder of an expression in the Qur'an, when it refers to Paradise. It took four years to build (764-768). 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 came to survey the plans; many were distributed salaries to start the building of the city. July was chosen as the starting time because two Astrologers, Naubakht Ahvazi and Mashallah, believed that the city should be built under the sign of the lion, Leo. Leo is associated with fire and symbolises productivity, pride, and expansion.
The bricks used to make the city were 18 inches (460 mm) on all four sides. Abū Ḥanīfa 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. Marble was also used to make buildings throughout the city, and marble steps led down to the river's edge.
The basic framework of the city consists of two large semicircles about 19 km (12 mi) in diameter. The city was designed as a circle about 2 km (1.2 mi) in diameter, leading it to be known as the "Round City". The original design shows as single ring of residential and commercial structures along the inside of the city walls, but the final construction added another ring inside the first. Within the city there were many parks, gardens, villas, and promenades. In the center 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 Sasanian city of Gur in Fars, built 500 years before Baghdad, is nearly identical in its general circular design, radiating avenues, and the government buildings and temples at the centre of the city. This style of urban planning contrasted with Ancient Greek and Roman urban planning, in which cities are designed as squares or rectangles with streets intersecting each other at right angles.
The four surrounding walls of Baghdad were named Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, and Damascus; named because their gates pointed in the directions of these destinations. The distance between these gates was a little less than 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Each gate had double doors that were made of iron; the doors were so heavy it took several men to open and close them. The wall itself was about 44 m thick at the base and about 12 m thick at the top. Also, the wall was 30 m high, which included merlons, a solid part of an embattled parapet usually pierced by embrasures. This wall was surrounded by another wall with a thickness of 50 m. 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.
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 39 m high. 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 Al-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 Arabic script. The two designers who were hired by Al-Mansur to plan the city's design were Naubakht, a 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 Abbasid Caliphate was based on their being the descendants of the uncle of Muhammad and being part of the Quraysh tribe. They used Shi'a resentment, Khorasanian 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 Arab tribes with the imperial, court, ceremonial, and administrative structures of the Persians. The Abbasids considered themselves the inherittures 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. Further, Baghdad is also near the ancient Sassanid imperial seat of Ctesiphon on the Tigris River.
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 Caliphate, facilitating the introduction of Persian, 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.
By the 10th century, the city's population was between 1.2 million and 2 million. Baghdad's early meteoric growth eventually 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 Central Asia 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 Buyid 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.
In 1058, Baghdad was captured by the Fatimids under the Turkish general Abu'l-Ḥārith Arslān al-Basasiri, an adherent of the Ismailis along with the 'Uqaylid Quraysh. Not long before the arrival of the Saljuqs in Baghdad, al-Basasiri petitioned to the Fatimid Imam-Caliph al-Mustansir to support him in conquering Baghdad on the Ismaili Imam's behalf. It has recently come to light that the famed Fatimid da'i, al-Mu'ayyad al-Shirazi, had a direct role in supporting al-Basasiri and helped the general to succeed in taking Mawṣil, Wāsit and Kufa. Soon after, by December 1058, a Shi'i adhān (call to prayer) was implemented in Baghdad and a khutbah (sermon) was delivered in the name of the Fatimid Imam-Caliph. Despite his Shi'i inclinations, Al-Basasiri received support from Sunnis and Shi'is alike, for whom opposition to the Saljuq power was a common factor.
On 10 February 1258, Baghdad was captured by the Mongols led by Hulegu, a grandson of Chingiz Khan (Genghis Khan), during the siege of Baghdad. 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 rulers of Iran. In 1401, Baghdad was again sacked, by the Central Asian Turkic conqueror Timur ("Tamerlane"). When his forces took Baghdad, he spared almost no one, and ordered that each of his soldiers bring back two severed human heads. It became a provincial capital controlled by the Mongol Jalayirid (1400–1411), Turkic Kara Koyunlu (1411–1469), Turkic Ak Koyunlu (1469–1508), and the Iranian Safavid (1508–1534) dynasties.
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 Iranian Safavids, which did not accept the Sunni control of the city. Between 1623 and 1638, it returned to Iranian rule before falling back into Ottoman 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. Direct Ottoman rule was reimposed by Ali Rıza Pasha in 1831. From 1851 to 1852 and from 1861 to 1867, Baghdad was governed, under the Ottoman Empire by Mehmed Namık Pasha. The Nuttall Encyclopedia reports the 1907 population of Baghdad as 185,000. Baghdad was also home to a substantial Jewish community, which comprised over a quarter of the city's population.
Baghdad and southern Iraq remained under Ottoman rule until 1917, when captured by the British during World War I. From 1920, Baghdad became the capital of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia and, after 1932, Baghdad was the capital of the Kingdom of Iraq. Iraq was given formal independence in 1932 and increased autonomy in 1946. The city's population grew from an estimated 145,000 in 1900 to 580,000 in 1950.
On 1 April 1941, members of the "Golden Square" and Rashid Ali staged a coup in Baghdad. Rashid Ali installed a pro-German and pro-Italian government to replace the pro-British government of Regent Abdul Ilah. On 31 May, after the resulting Anglo-Iraqi War and after Rashid Ali and his government had fled, the Mayor of Baghdad surrendered to British and Commonwealth forces.
On 14 July 1958, members of the Iraqi Army, under Abd al-Karim Qasim, staged a coup to topple the Kingdom of Iraq. King Faisal II, former Prime Minister Nuri as-Said, former Regent Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, members of the royal family, and others were brutally killed during the coup. Many of the victim's bodies were then dragged through the streets of Baghdad.
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 sewerage, water, and highway facilities were built during this period. The masterplans of the city (1967, 1973) were delivered by the Polish planning office Miastoprojekt-Kraków, mediated by Polservice. However, the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s was a difficult time for the city, as money was diverted by Saddam Hussein to the army and thousands of residents were killed. Iran launched a number of missile attacks against Baghdad in retaliation for Saddam Hussein's continuous bombardments of Tehran's residential districts.
In 1991 and 2003, the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq caused significant damage to Baghdad's transportation, power, and sanitary infrastructure as the US-led coalition forces launched massive aerial assaults in the city in the two wars.
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 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 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. South African Lawrence Anthony and some of the zoo keepers cared for the animals and fed the carnivores with donkeys they had bought locally. Eventually, L. Paul Bremer, Director of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from May 11, 2003 to June 28, 2004 ordered protection of the zoo and U.S. engineers helped to reopen the facility.
The Al-Kādhimiya Mosque is a shrine that is located in the Kādhimayn suburb of Baghdad, Iraq. It contains the tombs of the seventh Twelver Shīa Imām Musa al-Kadhim and the ninth Twelver Shīa Imām Muhammad at-Taqī al-Jawād. Many Shias travel to the mosque from far away places to commemorate.
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 subtropical arid climate (Köppen 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 has in fact been recorded on fewer than half a dozen occasions at this time of year and has never exceeded 1 millimetre (0.04 in). 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). Because 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.
Winters boast mild days and variable nights. From December to February, Baghdad has maximum temperatures averaging 15.5 to 18.5 °C (59.9 to 65.3 °F), though highs above 70 °F (21 °C) are not unheard of. Morning temperatures can be chilly: the average January low is 3.8 °C (38.8 °F) but lows below freezing only occur a couple of times per year.
Annual rainfall, almost entirely confined to the period from November to March, averages around 150 mm (5.91 in), but has been as high as 338 mm (13.31 in) and as low as 37 mm (1.46 in). On January 11, 2008, light snow fell across Baghdad for the first time in memory.
|Climate data for Baghdad|
|Record high °C (°F)||24.8
|Average high °C (°F)||15.5
|Average low °C (°F)||3.8
|Record low °C (°F)||−11.0
|Rainfall mm (inches)||27.2
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.001 mm)||8||7||8||6||4||0||0||0||0||4||6||7||50|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||192.2||203.3||244.9||255.0||300.7||348.0||347.2||353.4||315.0||272.8||213.0||195.3||3,240.8|
|Source #1: World Meteorological Organization (UN)|
|Source #2: Climate & Temperature|
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.
The 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 first 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; however, Baghdad Province is home to approximately seven million people. At the lowest level, the neighbourhood councils, each council represents an average of 75,000 people.
The nine District Advisory Councils (DAC) are as follows:
The nine districts are subdivided into 89 smaller neighborhoods which may make up sectors of any of the districts above. The following is a selection (rather than a complete list) of these neighborhoods:
|This section requires expansion. (December 2009)|
Most Iraqi reconstruction efforts have been devoted to the restoration and repair of badly damaged urban infrastructure. More visible efforts at reconstruction through private development, like architect and urban designer Hisham N. Ashkouri's Baghdad Renaissance Plan and the Sindbad Hotel Complex and Conference Center have also been made. 
The Baghdad Eye, a 198 m (650 ft) tall Ferris wheel, was proposed for Baghdad in August 2008. At that time, three possible locations had been identified, but no estimates of cost or completion date were given. In October 2008, it was reported that Al-Zawraa Park was expected to be the site, and a 55 m (180 ft) wheel was installed there in March 2011.
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 include 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 resumed service. It connects the center to the southern neighborhood of Dora. In May 2010, a new residential and commercial project nicknamed Baghdad Gate was announced. This project not only addresses the urgent need for new residential units in Baghdad but also acts as a real symbol of progress in the war torn city, as Baghdad has not seen projects of this scale for decades.
The Mustansiriya Madrasah was established in 1227 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustansir. The name was changed to Al-Mustansiriya University in 1963. The University of Baghdad is the largest university in Iraq and the second largest in the Arab world.
Baghdad has always played a significant role in the broader Arab cultural sphere, contributing several significant writers, musicians and visual artists. Famous Arab poets and singers such as Nizar Qabbani, Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, Salah Al-Hamdani, Ilham al-Madfai and others have performed for the city.
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:
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 Music and Ballet School of Baghdad and the Institute of Fine Arts Baghdad. Baghdad is also home to a number of museums which housed artifacts and relics of ancient civilization; many of these were stolen, and the museums looted, during the widespread chaos immediately after United States 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 neighborhood of Baghdad, have been attacked on several occasions.
Baghdad is home to some of the most successful football (soccer) teams in Iraq, the biggest being current Iraqi League champions Al-Shorta (Police), Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Airforce club), Al-Zawra'a, and Talaba (Students). The largest stadium in Baghdad is Al-Shaab Stadium, which was opened in 1966. Another, but much larger stadium, is still in the opening stages of construction.
The city has also had a strong tradition of horse racing ever since World War I, known to Baghdadis simply as 'Races'. There are reports of pressures by the Islamists to stop this tradition due to the associated gambling.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Baghdad.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Baghdad.|
|Look up Baghdad in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bagdad (city).|