Discover Iraq: 10 Places You Must Visit in Baghdad
By: Safa M. Qureshi/Arab America Contributing Writer In the eyes of many, the country of Iraq is seen to be nothing more than a place of turmoil, smoky battlefields, and Islamic extremism. Many foreigners have negative views about Iraq. While there are risks in visiting the country, we need to keep in mind that there are risks everywhere. We need to focus on Iraq’s potential. Aside from how the Western media portrays Iraq, the country is home to such a rich history, friendly, proud, and hospitable people. Baghdad, once known as the City of Peace (during the Abbasid era from the 9th Century – 13th century), has over 8 million people residing there (according to the latest survey conducted in 2018). This makes Baghdad the third-largest city in the Arab world (with the first being Cairo).
For security reasons, when your plane is ready for landing in Baghdad, the pilot will use a tactic called a corkscrew landing. This is often used in airports that are considered to be in dangerous areas. The corkscrew landing approach has been the standard procedure to land in Baghdad international Airport since a DHL flight got hit by a shoulder-fired rocket in 2003 and a flight from Dubai also got hit by machine fire back in 2015. So, if you see clapping and hear cheering when the plane has finally landed, this is why.
While Baghdad may not be ranked as one of the top vacation destinations for travelers, Arab America has compiled a list of 10 tourist attractions you should visit in the city of Baghdad.
1. The Iraq Museum
If you are a history nerd, a visit to the National Museum of Iraq would be high on the bucket list. The Iraq Museum has some outstanding artifacts of Mesopotamian history. Despite the 2003 looting, and after a great collaboration of several countries to find these artifacts, the museum reopened in 2015. They have been trying to get back the 600,000 archaeological pieces that were looted by Kurdish and Shia militias allied with the United States. Only around 4,300 artifacts have been recovered as of June 2019.
In the Iraq Museum, there are things ‘that are nowhere else in the world,’ as stated by Christopher Woods (who is the director of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute). The museum’s earliest pieces date to almost 4000 B.C.E (which, to put into perspective, is more than three millenniums before the Old Testament was written). From the words of UNESCO, the Iraq Museum’s huge collection tells the epic story of human civilization. From the earliest settlements to the rise and fall of vast empires, the Iraq Museum symbolizes the richness and diversity of Iraqi culture, art, and design.
2. Al-Mutanabbi Street
Al-Mutanabbi Street is one of the busiest places in downtown Baghdad and it is named after one of the most prominent Iraqi poets, Abu-al-Tayyab Ahmad bin Husain known as (Al-Mutanabbi). The street is famous for all its book shops but is also a place to buy older Iraqi notes, postcards, and books. On Fridays, they bring poets, singers, drummers, and sell books. So be sure to go here on a Friday, as you will enjoy the various cultural activities that will be offered.
3. The Al Faw Palace (or Water Palace)
Al Faw Palace was once one of Saddam Hussein’s 99 palaces. It was designed as a corporate retreat, a place of relaxation for members of Saddam’s political party who were rewarded for their loyalty and hard work by receiving vacation time here. In more recent news, Al Faw Palace was selected as the location for the new American University of Iraq – Baghdad (AUIB). The University opened in September 2018.
4. Al-Shaheed Monument (Martyr Monument)
Al Shaheed monument was built as a memorial for the soldiers who lost their lives during the Iran-Iraq War. Underneath the monument is a small museum about the war, a library, a lecture hall, and an exhibition gallery. The monument was completed in 1983. Al-Shaheed Monument is 40 meters long and painted with an iconic turquoise color.
5. Al-Zawraa Park
This is one of the biggest and well-known parks in Baghdad. Zawraa park use to be occupied by an army camp, but was later transformed into a family-friendly recreation area. Zawraa Park offers a Ferris Wheel, a zoo, playgrounds, shops, and cafés.
6. Baghdad Zoo
Baghdad’s once devastated zoo comes back to life. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the zoo housed 650 animals. During the 2003 Iraq war, only about 35 animals survived. Now the Zoo has been rebuilt and is now home to around 1070 animals.
7. Nasb Al-Hurriyah (Freedom Monument)
The Freedom Monument is a visual narrative that has 14 figures. After the events of the revolution of 1958, the Prime Minister asked an architect to build a monument in memory of the establishment of the Republic of Iraq. This is located in Tahrir Square and is the city’s most well-known and loved monument.
8. The Swords of Qādisīyah
The Swords of Qādisīyah is also known as the Victory Arch, and popularly called the Hands of Victory or the Crossed Swords. The arch commemorates Saddam Hussein’s declaration of victory over Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.
9. Al Yassin Mosque
This is a jewel of Islamic architecture. The mosque, with its golden dome and four golden minarets, is a shining landmark on Baghdad’s skyline. Al Yassin Mosque is a Shi’ite Islamic mosque and shrine located in the Kādhimayn suburb of Baghdad, Iraq. Anyone approaching Baghdad from the north or the west will be impressed by the sight of the four golden minarets.
10. D Lounge Baghdad
Seventeen years after the US invasion, and the war against ISIS, Baghdad is alive and buzzing. Iraqis love the nightlife, especially in the hot summer months. This is a new and popular bar and grill that just opened in Baghdad.
You will be surprised how lively Baghdad is. The streets are full of life, street cafes and restaurants are packed. Surprisingly, there’s no sign of destruction from the 2003 invasion visible. Most write-ups of Iraq won’t make you smile, but I hope this one did.
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