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AL KIFL

Al Kifl is a city located in the south-east of Iraq, on the banks of the Euphrates River, between Najaf and Al Hillah. Al Kifl’s importance is due to be the location of the Bible prophet Ezekiel’s tomb.

This place was once a major tourist attraction with thousands of visitors. Inside the walls, this shrine has a dome with Hebrew inscriptions mixed with floral Islamic designs.

Before the war, Iraq had the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East (the first being Israel and the third being Iran).

Yearly, thousands of Jews used to visit this place during Easter. Nowadays, with the lack of security, this is not possible anymore as most Iraqi Jews left the country.

AL MADA’IN

Al Mada’in is an ancient settlement with noticeable regional importance. Here passed the Sasanian, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Buyid Empires. It is said that it was the Iranians who built the city and was later rebuilt by King Zab, Alexander the Great and King Shapur II.

In recent history, Al Mada’in is the location of the pilgrimage site of Salman al-Muhammadi’s Tomb. Since this is a Shia shrine inside a majority Sunni town, Al Mada’in has a very strong army presence.

Also known as Salman the Persian, he was the companion of Muhammad (the central figure of Islam) and Ali (the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad).

Inside the mosque, one can also visit the tomb of Hudhaifa al-Yamani and the grave of Jabir Abdullah al-Ansari.

A few kms south of Al Mada’in we can visit the archaeological site of Taq Kasra (the only remaining structure of the ancient city of Ctesiphon).

AL QURNAH

Al Qurnah is a small town located in south Iraq. This is the confluence of the Tigris and the Euphrates River. You can easily visit the exact place where the rivers meet.

The ancient Adam’s tree inside the public garden is said to be Bible’s Tree of Knowledge. Some say that Qurnah is the actual location of the Garden of Eden. It seems Abraham himself was there 4,000 years ago acknowledging the importance of this tree.

This city is also known for being the scene of the Battle of Qurna. During the First World War, the British invaded this territory in order to defeat the Ottoman troops.

AL UKHAIDIR

The Fortress of Al-Ukhaidir, also known as the Abbasid Palace of Ukhaider, is located about an hour drive from Karbala.

This rectangular shape fortress, erected in the year 775 BC, was used by the Abbasid caliph As-Saffah with the purpose of defending his territory

AMADIYA

Amadiya is a city built on top of an inhospitable rocky mountain, 1500 meters above sea level.

Once upon a time, the only accessible entrance was via a staircase carved on the rock itself.

The various points of interest to visit are the tombs of the Kings, the panoramic view from the top of the mosque, the Market Street, the fabulous Badinan Gate, Sulav springs and Kani village.

AQRAH

Aqrah was the most spectacular place of my trip to Iraqi Kurdistan. Aqrah name means “sterile”, since the land is not suitable for agriculture purposes. Aqrah consists of houses built on the hillside, a mosque with a prominent minaret, the mountain Zarvia Dji and two waterfalls.

BARZAN

Barzan is a town located in Erbil province along the Great Zab river. Barzan is the birthplace of Sheikh Ahmed Barzani and Mustafa Barzani. They are the famous Kurdish leaders from the family in power in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In Barzan we can visit the Centre for Kurdish Studies, the Kurdish Independence Museum and the martyrs cemetery.

BABYLON

Babylon was an important city in ancient Mesopotamia.

Situated on the banks of the Euphrates River, this archaeological site is one of the highlights when you visit Iraq.

Babylon was one of the largest cities in the world during the sixth century BC. German archaeologist Robert Koldewey unveiled the buried monuments, contributing to one of the greatest archaeology discoveries of all time.

BAGHDAD

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and its cultural-political center. With its 6 million people, Baghdad is considered to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

The current difficult political situation due to many years of war and sectarian problems caused by extremist Islamic militant groups makes this city witness suicide attacks almost daily.

At a touristic level, the city faces serious difficulties due to the extreme police control and military presence.

If you’re courageous enough to visit Baghdad, you can go to the Museum of Baghdad, the Al-Faw Palace (Water Palace), the famous Firdos Square and the Swords of Qadisiyah aka the Victory Arch.

BASRA

Basra is one of the largest cities in Iraq, and where its most important port is located.

Set on the banks of the River Chatt al-Arab in the south of Iraq, Basra is about five hours drive from the capital, Baghdad.

It is one of the most relevant cities in relation to oil production, contributing to much of the country’s economy.

BORSIPPA

Borsippa was a prominent city in Sumer (the first civilization in the world) which was erected on the banks of the Euphrates River.

It is believed that the ziggurat was erected in honor to the local god called Nabu – the son of Marduk of Babylon. The city is of extreme cultural importance in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia.

CTESIPHON

Ctesiphon began to gain local relevance around the second century BC. It was one of the great cities of Mesopotamia and the capital of the Arsacid and Sassanid Empire for almost 1,000 years.

DOHUK

Dohuk is located in northern Iraq along the Tigris River. Most of its population are Kurds and Assyrian Christians. The landscape surrounding the city is quite mountainous and beautiful.

ERBIL

Erbil is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan Region, which is located 4 hours drive north of Baghdad. Erbil it is one of the oldest cities in the world. Its first settlement dates back 7,000 years.

Erbil Citadel is on the list of UNESCO as a World Heritage site, because it is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the history of mankind.

EUPHRATES RIVER

The Euphrates River is the longest and the most famous river in the Middle East historically speaking. The Euphrates, along with the Tigris, form the largest river basin in southwest Asia.

The Euphrates crosses cities such as Ar-Raqqah, Ramadi, Fallujah, Kufa and Nasiriyah. The old city of Babylon was built upon the left and right banks of the Euphrates.

KARBALA

Karbala is a well known city where the famous Battle of Karbala took place in 680 AD. It is one of the holiest cities for Shiite people after Mecca, Medina and Najaf. The reason of this importance is the fact that Imam Husayn Shrine and his half-brother al-Abbas ibn Ali are located in the city center.

KHANZAD

Khanzad Castle is located on the way to Shaqlawa, north of Erbil Province. The recently restored ancient castle dates back a few centuries ago to the Kurdish emirate in the Soran period.

KUFA

This city reveals great importance to Shiite Muslims, since along with Samarra, Karbala, Kadhimiya and Najaf, they all had the presence of the great masters of Shia Islam. It was in Kufa that the Arab vertical Kufic writing was created and developed. Dating back to the seventh century, the Great Mosque of Kufa is considered one of the oldest in Iraq.

MAR ODISO MONASTERY

Mar Odisu is a holy place for Assyrian Christians (Chaldeans), where people do their religious rituals with special sacred spring water. Located in Iraqi Kurdistan, this Christian religious complex is located between Amadiya and Barzan.

MESOPOTAMIAN MARSHES

The Mesopotamian Marshes are considered to be Western Eurasia’s largest wetlands ecosystems. This unusual place in the desert had plenty of water, so it used to be very productive and prosperous.

NAJAF

Najaf is considered to be one of the holiest Muslim cities in the world. It also holds the Shiite political center of the country.

SULAV

Sulav is a small village in Iraqi Kurdistan. Quite hilly, the surrounding mountain landscapes are breathtaking.

Locals gather here in the afternoon to enjoy the river cafés and to smoke hookah (argilah) with flavored tobacco. Sulav is located near Amadiya.

ZIGGURAT OF UR

The Neo-Sumerian ziggurat in the old city of Ur near Nasiriyah is an amazing historical site.

This place was an important commercial hub back in 3800 BC. Located in a strategic region between the Tigris and the Euphrates River, Ur was the perfect connection to the Persian Gulf.

Abraham, the first of the three patriarchs of Judaism, was born in Ur. His house is located north of the ziggurat and can be visited.

ZAB RIVER

The Great Zab river runs in eastern Turkey and northwestern Iraq. It rises near Van lake and flows into the Tigris River south of Mosul.

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