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Most Interesting Facts about Iraq

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Located in the western part of Asia and bordered by Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Jordan, lies a landlocked gem, Iraq. The country has to its name a glorious past; however, the recent political turmoil has brought its tourism to a juddering halt. Today, after much unrest, Iraq is gradually finding its way into the tourist map. Like every nation, the Republic of Iraq has a unique history engulfed in mystery and secrets.

1. In 1991 the phrase “Allahu Akbar” was added in green Arabic script to the flag of Iraq.

2. In the memory of Iraqi soldiers who died during the Iraq-Iran war, a monument—al-Shaheed Monument—was built in Baghdad. Shaped like an egg split open with an “eternal flame” in the middle, it houses the names, weapons, and clothing of some of the soldiers.

al-Shaheed Monument
Source: ArchDaily

3. The oldest-known system of writing was developed around 3200 B.C, in Iraq and is known as cuneiform. What makes it unique is that instead of the alphabet, it used around 600 signs with each sign denoting a particular syllable or word.

4. General Saddam Hussein became Iraqi dictator in 1979 and was hanged on December 30, 2006, for crimes against humanity. Under his rule, Iraq invaded its neighbouring country to start the Iran-Iraq War. It ended on a stalemate in 1988, but it resulted in the deaths of as much as 1.5 million people.

5. Baghdad had a number of underground tunnels that would stretch for kilometers. It had the capability to house thousands of Iraqi people, hospitals and even military command posts. These underground bunkers built for Saddam Hussein were said to be virtually indestructible, being able to resist a direct hit by a 2,000-kilo TNT bomb. Moreover, it was equipped with amenities such as a swimming pool, a recreation room, a gourmet kitchen and nursery for Saddam Hussein’s grandchildren. The company that built bunkers for Saddam Hussein also built air-raid shelters for Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

underground tunnels in iraq
Source: MessageToEagle.com

6. During the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, a million people died and the war bankrupted Iraq. Desperate for money, Hussein attacked Kuwait in 1990 to seize its oil field. A U.S.-led coalition drove Hussein out of Kuwait, but left him in power in Iraq.

7. Before the first Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was an ally of the United States. The United States helped Hussein obtain information about Iran during the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s to keep Iran from winning the war. The United States also gave weapons to Saddam Hussein during this time.

8. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the United States encouraged the Iraqis to revolt against Hussein, but the U.S. did not aid the people. Consequently, Saddam crushed the rebellion and tens of thousands of people were killed. Nearly 2 million Iraqis fled for their lives. Mass graves have been uncovered in Shia Arab in the south and in the Kurdish north.

9. According to the UNHCR’s 2010 report, Iraqis were the second largest refugee group in the world, with 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The largest group was from Afghanistan, with 2.9 million refugees.

10. The Iraq War cost $800 billion, more than 4,500 U.S. troops were killed, and more than 30,000 were wounded. In all, 1.5 million Americans served for the war. Between 2003 and 2010, approximately 150,000 Iraqis died, with four out of five of the dead being civilian.

11. Iraq once had one of the highest quality schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write.

12. Iraqis do not find it rude if someone eats food without utensils. In fact, they consider it to be a sign that the food made by the host/hostess is delicious. Also, eating with left hand is considered offensive.

13. The Iraqi desert is home to many types of scorpions. Some can grow up to 8″ long.

14. Saddam Hussein introduced a new law that allowed a man who killed a woman in defence of the honour of the family to be exempt from punishment. Consequently, Iraq has seen a resurgence of honour crimes since 2003.

15. According to reports from the UN, Al-Qaida in Iraq operates a youth wing for children under the age of 14 called “Birds of Paradise” (or “Paradise Boys” or “Youth of Heaven”) to carry out suicide attacks against military, government, and civilian targets. Children are also used to spy, scout, transport military supplies and equipment, complete video attacks, and plant explosive devices.

16. The venomous saw-scale viper is found in Iraq. It is considered to be one of the most dangerous snakes the world has, strikes without any provocation, chases its victims and its bite can result in death.

saw-scale viper
Source: Wikipedia

How to reach?

Baghdad International Airport (BGW) previously Saddam International Airport and Najaf International Airport (NJF) are the major airports in Iraq catering to international flights. There are no direct international flights on the route between India and Iraq. However, several connecting flights can be opted for, to reach your destination.

Visa:

Iraq Visa Requirements for Indians

Author’s Recommendations:

Babylon: This historical town of Iraq used to be the capital of the Mesopotamian dynasties. Situated on the banks of the Euphrates River, this archaeological site is one of the highlights of Iraq. As you explore the place, you can marvel at artifacts such as gracefully crumbling lion statues and imagine how the Hanging Gardens of Babylon would once have looked.

Ur of the Chaldees: The Ur of the Chaldees is near the city of Babylon and remains important as the debated birthplace of Abraham, according to Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, causing the site to be revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The tombs of the Sumerian kings still remain well-preserved after their discovery in 1929. Ur is the home of the Ziggurat, a tall structure with high walls and steep staircases that would have been used in the days of old to worship the Akkadian moon gods.

Hatra: Located in the dusty deserts of western Iraq, Hatra is an UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its towering columns and ornate temples. When you visit the remains of ancient Hatra, you will see the mixture of Eastern architecture with Greek and Roman influence.

Hatra
Source: Pinterest

Ctesiphon: The city of Ctesiphon was constructed circa second century B.C. by the Parthians. It was one of the great cities of Mesopotamia and the capital of the Arsacid and Sassanid Empire for almost 1,000 years. Also known as the Taq Kasra, this is a Sassanid dome that is one of the largest of its kind in the world and one of the most important archeological sites in the region.

Ctesiphon
Source: Britannica
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