A mosque in Baghdad, circa 1973.
The location of Baghdad within Iraq.
|- City||204.2 km²|
|- City (2006)||c. 7 million|
|- Density||c. 30,000/km²|
|Time zone||GMT +3 (UTC)|
|- Summer (DST)||+4 (UTC)|
Baghdad (بغداد translit: Baghdād) is the capital of Iraq and of Baghdad Governorate. It is the second-largest city in Southwest Asia after Tehran and the second-largest city in the Arab world after Cairo, and the largest city in Iraq, with a population estimated at around 7 million. Situated on the Tigris River at , the city was once the center of Dar al-Islam, Muslim civilization. It has been occupied by U.S. troops since 2003.
Although there is no dispute over its Iranian origin, 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 compound of Kurdish or Old-Persian baga (=god, God) + dāta (=given), yielding the Middle Persian word "Bagdāt/Bagdād" (=God-given); hence, Modern Persian and Arabic Baghdad. Another leading proposal is that the name comes from Persian Baagh-daad or Bag-Da-Du [trans. “Garden of God”]. A minority, however, believes the name to be from an Aramaic phrase for "sheep enclosure."
The river Tigris splits Baghdad in half, with the Eastern half being called 'Risafa' and the Western half known as 'Karkh'.
The city of Baghdad is often said to have been founded on the west bank of the Tigris on 30 July 762 by the Abbasid dynasty, led by caliph al-Mansur; however, the city of Baghdad is mentioned in pre-Islamic texts, including the Talmud. Thus Baghdad was probably built on the site of this earlier city, which was located 50 miles north of Babylon. This city replaced Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian Empire (which is located 20 miles southeast of Baghdad), and Damascus, as the capital of an Umayyad Muslim empire stretching from North Africa to Iran.
The city was designed as a circle about 2 kilometers 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 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 ancient Sasanian city of Gur/Firouzabad is nearly identical in its general circular design, radiating avenues, and the government buildings and temples at the epicenter of the city.
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.
A center of learning
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. The Barmakids were influential in bringing scholars from the nearby Academy of Gundishapur, facilitating the introduction of Greek and Indian science into the Arabic world. Some suggest that the city contained over a million inhabitants, though others say the actual figure may have been much lower. A portion of the population of Baghdad originated in Iran, especially from Khorasan. Many of Shahrazad's tales in One Thousand and One Nights are set in Baghdad during this period.
During the 9th 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). Nevertheless, the city remained one of the cultural and commercial hubs of the Islamic world until February 10, 1258, when it was sacked by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan. The Mongols massacred 800,000 of the city's inhabitants, including the Abbasid 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), Qara Quyunlu (1411–1469), Aq Quyunlu (1469–1508), and Safavid (1508–1534) dynasties. In 1534, Baghdad was conquered 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. For a time, Baghdad had been the largest city in the Middle East before being overtaken by Constantinople in the 16th century. The Nuttall Encyclopedia reports the 1907 population of Baghdad as 185,000.
Baghdad remained under Ottoman rule until the establishment of the kingdom of I-CAK under British control in 1921. British control was established by a systematic suppression of Iraqi Arab and Kurdish national aspirations. The British dealt with insurrection with gas attacks by the army in the south and a bombing campaign by the fledgling RAF across Iraq, including against the city of Baghdad. Britain initiated the world's first civilian targeted bombing campaign, which included terror bombing, night bombing, heavy bombers, and delayed action bombs, all officially to "police" the Iraqi people. Iraq was given formal independence in 1932, increased autonomy in 1946, but true independence was not attained until 1958 when the Iraqi people deposed the grandson of the British-installed monarch, Faisal II. 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 flowed into 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.
The Persian Gulf War of 1991 caused severe damage to Baghdad, particularly its transportation, power, and sanitary infrastructure.
Baghdad was bombed very heavily in March and April 2003 in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and fell under US control by April 7-April 9. Additional damage was caused by the severe looting during the days following the end of the war. With the deposition of Saddam Hussein's regime, the city was occupied by U.S. troops. The Coalition Provisional Authority established a three-square-mile (8-km²) "Green Zone" within the heart of the city from which it governed Iraq during the period before the new Iraqi government was established. The Coalition Provisional Authority ceded power to the interim government at the end of June 2004 and dissolved itself.
On September 23, 2003, a Gallup poll indicated that about two-thirds of Baghdad residents said that the removal of the Iraqi leader was worth the hardships they encountered, and that they expected a better life in five years' time. As time passed, however, support for the occupation declined dramatically. In April 2004, USA Today reported that a follow-up Gallup poll in Baghdad indicated that "only 13 percent of the people now say the invasion of Iraq was morally justifiable. In the 2003 poll, more than twice that number saw it as the right thing to do."
Most residents of Baghdad became impatient with the occupation because essential services such as electricity were still unreliable more than a year after the invasion. In the hot summer of 2004, electricity was only available intermittently in most areas of the city. An additional pressing concern was the lack of security. The curfew imposed immediately after the invasion had been lifted in the winter of 2003, but the city that had once had a vibrant night life was still considered too dangerous after dark for many citizens. Those dangers included kidnapping and the risk of being caught in fighting between security forces and insurgents.
Most Reconstruction of Iraq efforts have been devoted to the restoration and repair of badly damaged infrastructure. More visible efforts at reconstruction through private development, such as architect and urban designer Hisham N. Ashkouri's Baghdad Renaissance Plan and Sindbad Hotel Complex and Conference Center garnered early interest, but remain undeveloped due to the instability of the region.
The City of Baghdad has 89 official neighborhoods within 9 districts. These official subdivisions of the city served as administrative centers 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 neighborhood councils in the official neighborhoods, elected by neighborhood caucuses. CPA convened a series of meetings in each neighborhood to explain local government, to describe the caucus election process and to encourage participants to spread the word and bring friends, relatives and neighbors to subsequent meetings. Each neighborhood process ultimately ended with a final meeting where candidates for the new neighborhood councils identified themselves and asked their neighbors to vote for them. Once all 88 (later increased to 89) neighborhood councils were in place, each neighborhood council elected representatives from among their members to serve on one of the city's nine district councils. The number of neighborhood representatives on a district council is based upon the neighborhood’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 neighborhood, 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 neighborhoods (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 neighborhood councils, each council represents an average of 74,000 people.
Baghdad has always played an important role in Arab cultural life and has been the home of noted writers, musicians and visual artists.
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 is also home to a number of museums which housed artifacts 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.
Sights and monuments
Points of interest include the National Museum of Iraq, whose priceless collection of artifacts was looted during the 2003 invasion, the iconic Hands of Victory arches, and the Baghdad zoo. Thousands of ancient manuscripts in the National Library were destroyed when the building burnt down during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Al Kadhimain Mosque in the northwest of Baghdad (in Kadhimiya) is one of the most important Shi'ite religious buildings in Iraq. It was finished in 1515 and the 7th (Musa ibn Jafar al-Kathim) and the 9th Imams (Mohammad al-Jawad) were buried here. One of the oldest buildings is the 12th century or 13th century Abbasid Palace.
Baghdad is home to the most successful football teams in Iraq, the biggest being Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Airforce club), Al Zawra, Al Shurta (Police) and Al Talaba (Students). The largest stadium in Baghdad is Al Shaab Stadium which was opened in 1966. Another, 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 Islamists to stop this tradition due to the associated gambling.
Baghdad's major neighborhoods
- Adhamiyah: Sunni majority, Shiite presence.
- al-Kadhimya: Shiite majority.
- Karrada: Shiite majority, Christian presence.
- Al-Mansour: Mixed area.
- Dora: Mixed area.
- Baghdad Al-Jadida (New Baghdad): Shiite majority, Christian presence.
- Sadr City: Almost exclusively Shiite.
- Hurriya City: Shiite majority, Sunni presence.
- Reconstruction of Iraq
- List of places in Iraq
- Firdus Square
- Baghdad City Hall
- Baghdad Arabic
- ^ a b Estimates of total population differ substantially. The Encyclopædia Britannica gives a 2001 population of 4,958,000, the 2006 Lancet Report states a population of 6,554,126 in 2004, and GlobalSecurity.org estimates a flat 5 million.
- "Baghdad." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 November, 2006.
- PDF. By Gilbert Burnham, Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy, and Les Roberts. The Lancet, October 11, 2006
- Baghdad from GlobalSecurity.org
- ^ a b "Cities and urban areas in Iraq with population over 100,000", Mongabay.com
- ^ http://islamicceramics.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/Abbasid/baghdad.htm
- ^ See:
- Hattstein, Markus, Peter Delius (2000). Islam Art and Architecture, 96. ISBN 3-8290-2558-0.
- Encyclopedia Iranica, Columbia University, p.413.
- ^ Hill, Donald R. (1994). Islamic Science and Engineering, 10. ISBN 0-7486-0457-X.
- ^ http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa011201a.htm
- ^ http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-04-28-poll-cover_x.htm
- ^ http://www.arcadd.com/baghdad-cbd.htm
- ^ http://csmonitor.com/2003/0716/p01s04b-woiq.htm
- ^ http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0102-04.htm
baghdad is were my dad is! bush!!, please send them back home!!! Baghdad Scuba Review
- By Desert Ways to Baghdad, by Louisa Jebb (Mrs. Roland Wilkins), 1908 (1909 ed) (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF 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 & layered PDF format)
- Map of Baghdad
- Interactive map
- Iraq - Urban Society
- Envisioning Reconstruction In Iraq
- Description of the original layout of Baghdad
- Ethnic and sectarian map of Baghdad - Healingiraq
- Baghdad Renaissance Plan
- UAE Investors Keen On Taking Part In Baghdad Renaissance Project
- Man With A Plan: Hisham Ashkouri
- Renaissance Plan In The News
- ARCADD, Inc.
- Song - Birds Over Baghdad
- Baghdad News Media
- Baghdad Treasure
- Baghdad Burning Riverbend
- Electronic Iraq