City Plan of Medieval Baghdad

City Plan of Medieval Baghdad

History of Baghdad

Archaeological evidence shows that the site of Baghdad was occupied by various peoples long before the Arab conquest of Mesopotamia in 637 ce , and several ancient empires had capitals located in the vicinity. (See Babylon Seleucia on the Tigris Ctesiphon.) The true founding of the city, however, dates to 762, when the site, located between present-day Al-Kāẓimiyyah and Al-Karkh and occupied by a Persian village called Baghdad, was selected by al-Manṣūr, the second caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, for his capital. His city, Madīnat al-Salām (“City of Peace”), was built within circular walls and called “the Round City.” More a government complex than a residential city, it was about 3,000 yards (2,700 metres) in diameter and had three concentric walls. Its four equal quarters were used mainly to house the caliph’s retinue. Four main roads led from the caliph’s palace and the grand mosque at the centre to various parts of the empire.

The limited size of this city resulted in rapid expansion outside its walls. Merchants built bazaars and houses around the southern gate and formed Al-Karkh district. From the northeast gate the Khurāsān road was joined by a bridge of boats to the east bank of the Tigris. There, around the palace of al-Manṣūr’s heir apparent, al-Mahdī, grew up the three suburbs of Ruṣāfah, Al-Shammāsiyyah, and Al-Mukharrim, the forerunners of the modern city. By 946 the seat of the caliphate was fully established on the east bank, and Ruṣāfah grew to rival the Round City.

Baghdad reached the zenith of its economic prosperity and intellectual life in the 8th and early 9th centuries under al-Mahdī (who reigned from 775 to 785) and his successor, Hārūn al-Rashīd (786–809). The glory of Baghdad in this period is reflected in stories in The Thousand and One Nights. It was then considered the richest city in the world. Its wharves were lined with ships from China, India, and East Africa. The caliph al-Maʾmūn (813–833) encouraged the translation of ancient Greek works into Arabic, founded hospitals and an observatory, and attracted poets and artisans to his capital.

From the mid-9th century onward the Abbasid Caliphate was gradually weakened by internal strife, by crop failure caused by neglect of the irrigation system, and finally, in the 10th century, by the intrusion of nomadic elements. A civil war between Hārūn al-Rashīd’s two sons resulted in destruction of much of the Round City. Between 836 and 892 the caliphs abandoned Baghdad for Sāmarrāʾ in the north, and the city was taken over by the unruly Turks they had imported as bodyguards. When the caliphs returned to Baghdad, they made their capital on the east bank. Invasions and rule by alien elements (the Buyid dynasty from 945 to 1055 and the Turkish Seljuq dynasty from 1055 to 1152) left parts of the city in ruins.

Character of the city

Despite the sundry vicissitudes visited on the city in its history, Baghdad has maintained a mystique and allure equaled by few of the world’s cities. Many Muslims revere it as the seat of the last legitimate caliphate and others as the cosmopolitan centre of the Arab and Islamic worlds when they were at the height of their grandeur. Still others—including many in the West—know it primarily through print and film as the scene of many tales of The Thousand and One Nights adventures and other accounts found in a rich tradition of Middle Eastern storytelling. In more peaceful times, modern Baghdad has been a prosperous and sophisticated city whose rich cultural life can be measured by its many museums, universities, and institutes and by the myriad scholars and literati who traveled there and made it their home.

Baghdadis have an affinity for gardens and family recreation. Traditionally on weekends the city’s restaurants, cafés, and public parks have been filled with people. Restaurants serve the local delicacy masgūf, Tigris fish roasted over an open fire. Recreational centres include two islands in the Tigris that have swimming pools and cafés, the Lunar Amusement Park, and Al-Zawrāʾ Public Park and Zoo. Beginning in the early 1990s, traditional patterns of recreation for city residents were disrupted by war and economic hardship. Although a prosperous class of government and party officials and wealthy merchants continued to frequent private clubs, most residents spent their free time either at home or visiting close friends or relatives.

When Baghdad was centre of the scientific world

T he Bab al-Sharji district in the centre of Baghdad derives its name, which means east gate, from the medieval fortifications of the city. These walls were probably built around the first half of the 10th century. During the brief British stay at the end of the first world war, its gatehouse was used as a garrison church. Nothing of those medieval walls, or the east gate, remains today I remember Bab al-Sharji as a sprawling, noisy and bustling square, with its food stalls and secondhand record shops scattered around the busy bus depot and taxi ranks. But its name is a reminder of the expansion and transformation of this proud city over the years since its foundation in AD762 as the new seat of power of the mighty Abbasid empire. Indeed, no other city on Earth has had to put up with the levels of death and destruction that Baghdad has endured over the centuries. And yet, as the capital of one of the world's great empires, this was the richest, proudest, most supercilious city on the planet for half a millennium.

Exactly 1,200 years after its foundation, I was born in Karradat Mariam, a Shia district of Baghdad with a large Christian community, a stone's throw away from today's Green Zone and a few miles south of the spot where one of Baghdad's most famous rulers was born in 786. His name was Abū Ja'far al-Ma'mūn. Half Arab, half Persian, this enigmatic caliph was destined to become the greatest patron of science in the cavalcade of Islamic rulers, and the person responsible for initiating the world's most impressive period of scholarship and learning since Ancient Greece.

By the eighth century, with western Europe languishing in its dark ages, the Islamic empire covered an area larger in expanse than either the Roman empire at its height or all the lands conquered and ruled by Alexander the Great. So powerful and influential was this empire that, for a period stretching over 700 years, the international language of science was Arabic.

The teenage prince Ma'mūn would have known Baghdad at the height of its glory: a vast, beautiful city characterised by the domes and archways of its famously intricate Abbasid architecture. It had grown to become the world's largest city just 50 years after the first brick was laid, with some estimates putting its population at more than 1 million.

Ma'mūn was not the only caliph to support scholarship and science, but he was certainly the most cultured, passionate and enthusiastic. As a young man, he memorised the Qur'an, studied the history of early Islam, recited poetry and mastered the newly maturing discipline of Arabic grammar. He also studied arithmetic and its applications in the calculation of taxes. Most importantly, he was a brilliant student of philosophy and theology, or more specifically what is referred to in Arabic as kalam, which is a form of dialectic debate and argument. The early Muslim theologians found that the techniques of kalam enabled them to hold their own in theological discussions with the Christian and Jewish scholars who lived alongside them, and who had had a head start of several centuries to hone their debating skills by studying the writings of philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – historical figures from ancient Greece whose names would certainly have been known to the young Ma'mūn. It is even quite likely that by the early 9th century, some of their work had already been translated into Arabic.

Under Ma'mūn's patronage, and the spirit of openness towards other religions and cultures that he fostered, many scholars from all over the empire gravitated towards Baghdad, drawn by a vibrant sense of optimism and freedom of expression. Every week, guests would be invited to the palace, wined and dined, and then begin to discuss with the caliph all manner of scholarly subjects, from theology to mathematics. He would send emissaries great distances to get hold of ancient scientific texts: one, Salman, visited Constantinople to obtain Greek texts from the Emperor Leo V (Leo the Armenian). Often, defeated foreign rulers would be required to settle the terms of surrender to him with books from their libraries rather than in gold.

Ma'mūn was almost fanatical in his desire to collect all the world's books under one roof, translate them into Arabic and have his scholars study them. The institution he created to realise his dream epitomises more than anything else the blossoming of the scientific golden age. It became known throughout the world as the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikma).

No physical trace remains of this academy today, so we cannot be sure exactly where it was located or what it looked like. Some historians even argue against exaggerated claims about its scope and purpose and the role of Ma'mūn in setting it up. But whatever its function – and many of Baghdad's scholars may not have been based physically within it – there is no doubt that the House of Wisdom has acquired a mythical status symbolising this golden age, on a par with the Library of Alexandria, 1,000 years earlier.

The House of Wisdom grew rapidly with the acquisition of texts from Greece, Persia and India, swelling with the addition of the Arabic translations of these texts, a process that was already becoming an industry in Baghdad. This growth would have gathered pace with the use of paper, the production of which the Arabs had learnt from Chinese prisoners of war, as a new and cheaper writing material replacing papyrus and parchment. The translators would have had scribes recording their work and producing multiple copies of each text. By the middle of the ninth century, Baghdad had become the centre of the civilised world, attracting the very best of Arab and Persian philosophers and scientists for several centuries to come.

The most famous of all the Baghdad translators, Hunayn ibn Ishāq, was born in the ancient Christian city of Hira and never converted to Islam. He would spend many years travelling around the world in his search for Greek manuscripts. It is the medical work of the physician Galen that is his most important legacy, for not only did it open up the Islamic world to this great treasure, in many cases it is only via these Arabic translations that much of Galen's work reaches us today.

The precocious young Hunayn had been introduced to Ma'mūn by the Banū Mūsa brothers, three colourful characters also associated with the House of Wisdom. The eldest, Mohammad, is said to have been the first person to suggest that celestial bodies such as the moon and planets were subject to the same laws of physics as on Earth – which marked a clear break from the received Aristotelian picture of the universe. Indeed his book, Astral Motion and the Force of Attraction, shows clear signs that he had a crude qualitative notion of such a force, albeit a far cry from Newton's universal law of gravity. The brothers are probably best known for their wonderful inventions and engineering projects. Most famous of all was their Book of Ingenious Devices (Kitab al-Hiyal), published in 850. This was a large illustrated work on mechanical devices that included automata, puzzles and magic tricks, as well as what we would today refer to as "executive toys". One of the most impressive is also possibly the earliest example of a programmable machine: a robotic flute player. Another person employed in the House of Wisdom by Ma'mūn is known to this day simply as "The Philosopher of the Arabs". His name was al-Kindi (801-873) (Latinised as Alkindus) and he is regarded as the first of the Abbasid polymaths. Born in Basra, an Arab from the powerful Kinda tribe, Kindi is thought to have moved to Baghdad early in life and received his education there. A great mathematician, he studied cryptanalysis and was the first great theoretician of music in the Islamic empire. But he is mostly famous for being the first to introduce the philosophy of Aristotle to the Arabic-speaking world, making it both accessible and acceptable to a Muslim audience. Central to Kindi's work was the way his writing fused Aristotelian philosophy with Islamic theology, thereby creating an intellectual platform for a debate between philosophers and theologians that would run for hundreds of years.

Another giant of Ma'mūn's Baghdad was mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsa al-Khwārizmi. One of the 20th century's most famous historians of science, George Sarton, wrote a multi-volume reference book called Introduction to the History of Science, in which he divides up world history, going back to the sixth century BC, into half-century chapters, each named after the most important scientist of that age, anywhere in the world. The period between 800 and 850 is referred to as The Time of al-Khwārizmi.

Khwārizmi was born around 780 and died around 850. His name suggests that he was originally from Khorezm, a province of Uzbekistan. He worked in the House of Wisdom as a mathematician, geographer and astronomer. Together with Kindi, he was instrumental in introducing the Arabs to the Hindu decimal numerals that we use today. But his greatest legacy is his extraordinary book on algebra. Indeed, the word "algebra" is derived from the title of this book: Kitab al-Jebr (The Book of Completion) in which he lays out for the first time the rules and steps of solving algebraic equations.

And the reign of Ma'mūn was notable for more than just the scholarly writings of these individual geniuses. Not satisfied with setting up his seat of learning, Ma'mūn ordered the building of the first astronomical observatory in Baghdad around the second decade of the ninth century. This was the only way his astronomers could check the accuracy of the various, often conflicting, Greek, Persian and Indian astronomical texts at their disposal, most notably Ptolemy's Almagest.

The observatory was probably the world's first state-funded large-scale science project. We have only to look at current multinational, multibillion-dollar projects such as the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva to get a sense of what Ma'mūn managed to achieve on a much more modest scale, but with such spectacular results. He also put together an impressive team of mathematicians, astronomers and geographers to collaborate on the drawing of a new map of the world, and then charged them with devising a new way of measuring the circumference of the Earth. In this sense, Ma'mūn's true legacy is that he was the first to fund "big science".

As for the philosopher Kindi, who outlived Ma'mūn, he seems to have fallen victim to a conspiracy led by the Banū Mūsa brothers, who had grown jealous of his extensive personal library and plotted against him until they persuaded the then caliph, al-Mutawakkil (847-861), to expel him from the House of Wisdom. He lived his remaining years a lonely man and after his death his philosophical work fell into obscurity.

His ideas were revived in the 10th century by Turkish philosopher al-Farābi, who continued Kindi's mission of the Islamicisation of Greek philosophy and would himself pass the baton to two men who achieved great prominence in Europe and would deeply influence many Renaissance thinkers. They were Ibn Sīna (980-1037) and Ibn Rushd (1126-98), both of whom are more familiar in the west by their Latinised names: Avicenna and Averroës. The former is best known as a physician and is by far the most famous scholar in Islam. His Canon of Medicine was required reading in Renaissance Europe right up to the 17th century – a remarkable shelf-life. Meanwhile Ibn Rushd, who was born in Cordobá, is thought of as the last of the great Muslim philosophers.

There are many other great men whose contributions are forgotten in the west, such as Iraqi genius Ibn al-Haytham, the greatest physicist in the 2,000-year span between Archimedes and Newton, al-Bīrūni, the Persian polymath regarded as the Da Vinci of Islam, al-Tūsi, a mathematician and astronomer who would influence Copernicus, and Ibn Khaldūn, the acknowledged father of social science and economic theory. All these men are no less worthy of mention in the history of science than Aristotle, Galileo, Newton or Einstein.

Of course, we will never really know what life was like within the House of Wisdom. But it is well established and uncontroversial that the much earlier academy in Alexandria was likewise more than just a library, for it not only brought together under one roof much of the world's accumulated knowledge, but acted as a magnet for many of the world's greatest thinkers and scholars. The patronage of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, which provided travel, lodging and stipends to those men, is not so different from the government research grants that university academics worldwide receive today to carry out their research.

If this backward projection of our idea of a research institution works for the Library of Alexandria, then it is just as valid in the case of Baghdad's House of Wisdom. It became the seed from which sprouted all the subsequent achievements of this golden age of science, from Uzbekistan in the east to Spain in the west.

I recall, as a boy growing up in Iraq, only hearing about the likes of al-Kindi and al-Khwārizmi during history lessons, rather than science lessons. Not only are their stories so rich to western ears, I hope that in reminding those in the Muslim world today of their rich scientific heritage, and how our current understanding of the natural world has been due in no small part to the contributions of these great scholars, that it might instil in many a sense of pride that can propel the importance of rational scientific enquiry back to where it belongs: at the very heart of what defines civilised and enlightened society.

Housing, Urban Structure, and Green Spaces

Based on the database, the seminar demonstrated that the planners’ decisions concerning the allocation and typology of housing in the master plan were among the most consequential for the development of Baghdad. By the time the members of the Miastoprojekt team arrived to Iraq, sarifas (slum dwellings) amounted to almost half of all buildings in Baghdad (Jędraszko 1962), and solving the housing crisis was among Qasim’s priorities. The comparison of the residential areas surveyed for the purposes of the JCCF plan in 1985 with the housing layouts in the eight districts foreseen in the 1973 plan [Figure 3] shows that the latter guided the allocation of housing until the mid-1980s, in particular in the west and in the north-east of the city. The seminar also studied the share of multi-story housing in this growth in view of the decision of the master plan (1967) that required such housing to become twenty percent of the housing stock in 1990.

[Fig. 3: Comparison of housing allocation as foreseen by the 1973 plan with the location of housing according to a land use survey in 1985. Analytical diagram based on redrawn archival documents from a private archive, Kraków, Poland and a private archive, Baghdad, Iraq. Produced at the Mapping Baghdad seminar, Manchester School of Architecture (2016).]

More generally, Figure 3 shows that the urbanization of Baghdad within the municipal boundary followed the basic structure proposed by Miastoprojekt’s master plan: a multifunctional “Tigris belt” flanked by two belts of residential districts. The districts were subdivided into smaller entities and designed as self-sufficient, including social facilities and a limited light industry to provide employment. This design approach followed Miastoprojekt’s experience of planning Nowa Huta, the “first socialist city in Poland,” which combined an axial plan specific for socialist-realist urban composition with the tradition of modern urban planning since the nineteenth century. In continuation of this experience, Miastoprojekt’s main tool for the management of welfare distribution in Baghdad were urban norms that allowed to calculate the program of education, health, cultural, and religious facilities according to the number of inhabitants in the catchment areas. These norms, spelled out in the master plans’ documentation, were influential and continued to be referenced by planners in the years to come for instance, as in the Al Salam neighborhood (south-western Baghdad), designed by the Indian practice Vikas Kosh in 1981 and completed in 1985 (Chauhan 1991). Figure 4 shows that this layout complies with the master plan’s recommendations of up to 300m access to primary school and other facilities, and up to 800m access to public transport. By contrast, the parking provisions recommended by the master plan were exceeded in this design.

[Fig. 4: The application of urban norms from the 1973 master plan in the Al Salam neighbourhood, Baghdad, designed by Vikas Kosh (1981-85). Analytical diagram based on drawings published by Chauhan (1991). Produced at the Mapping Baghdad seminar, Manchester School of Architecture (2016).]

The Al Salam plan also complied with the provision of green spaces as specified by the master plan (between three and seven sq.m. per person depending on location). Access to green spaces was a key concern of the plans, and Figure 5 makes use of GIS in order to calculate and represent the distances of the (geometric) center of each neighborhood to the nearest green space. These spaces were conceived as a part of a system of transversal belts airing the city and, together with the green belt around Baghdad, they added to a comprehensive plan of its environmental protection. As Figure 3 shows, in 1985 some of the green belts were interrupted by urban fabric that violated the plan, thus undermining its overall environmental and redistributive performance. However, this assessment needs to be qualified by accounting for areas with private gardens, which, as scholars have pointed out (Pieri 2015b), play an important role in the ecology of the city.

[Fig. 5: Distance between neighbourhood centres and the system of green spaces in the 1973 master plan. Analytical diagram based on redrawn archival documents from a private archive, Kraków, Poland. Produced at the Mapping Baghdad seminar, Manchester School of Architecture (2016).]


Despite the growth of modern manufacturing, however, a large portion of Baghdad’s labour force still works in traditional economic activities, such as retail trade, production of handmade consumer goods, auto and mechanical repairs, and personal services.

The main offices of the Central Bank of Iraq (founded in 1947), which has the sole right to issue currency, and the commercial Rafidain Bank (1941) are in Baghdad. Under the Baʿathist regime no foreign banks were allowed. The main offices of the government companies for commerce, trade, and industry are located in Baghdad, as are the branches of foreign companies operating in Iraq. The Baghdad Stock Exchange was opened in 1992.


The name Baghdad is pre-Islamic, and its origin is disputed. [9] The site where the city of Baghdad developed has been populated for millennia. By the 8th century AD, several villages had developed there, including a Persian [10] [11] hamlet called Baghdad, the name which would come to be used for the Abbasid metropolis. [12]

Arab authors, realizing the pre-Islamic origins of Baghdad's name, generally looked for its roots in Middle Persian. [9] They suggested various meanings, the most common of which was "bestowed by God". [9] Modern scholars generally tend to favor this etymology, [9] which views the word as a compound of bagh ( ) "god" and dād ( ) "given". [13] [14] In Old Persian the first element can be traced to boghu and is related to Slavic bog "god", [9] [15] A similar term in Middle Persian is the name Mithradāt (Mihrdād in New Persian), known in English by its Hellenistic form Mithridates, meaning "Given by Mithra" (dāt is the more archaic form of dād, related to Latin dat and English donor [9] ). There are a number of other locations in the wider region whose names are compounds of the word bagh, including Baghlan and Bagram in Afghanistan, Baghshan in Iran, [16] and Baghdati in Georgia, which likely share the same etymological origins. [17] [18]

A few authors have suggested older origins for the name, in particular the name Bagdadu or Hudadu that existed in Old Babylonian (spelled with a sign that can represent both bag and hu), and the Babylonian Talmudic name of a place called "Baghdatha". [9] [19] [20] Some scholars suggested Aramaic derivations. [9]

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. [21] [22] [ unreliable source? ] By the 11th century, "Baghdad" became almost the exclusive name for the world-renowned metropolis.

Foundation Edit

After the fall of the Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty, the victorious Abbasid rulers wanted their own capital from which they could rule. They chose a site north of the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon, and on 30 July 762 [23] the caliph Al-Mansur commissioned the construction of the city. It was built under the supervision of the Barmakids. [24] Mansur believed that Baghdad was the perfect city to be the capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasids. The Muslim historian al-Tabari reported an ancient prediction by Christian monks that a lord named Miklas would one day build a spectacular city around the area of Baghdad. When Mansur heard the story, he became very joyful, for legend has it, he was called Miklas as a child. [25] 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". [26]

The city's growth was helped by its excellent location, based on at least two factors: it had control over strategic and trading routes along the Tigris, and it had an abundance of water in a dry climate. Water exists on both the north and south ends of the city, allowing all households to have a plentiful supply, which was very uncommon during this time. The city of Baghdad soon became so large that it had to be divided into three judicial districts: Madinat al-Mansur (the Round City), al-Sharqiyya (Karkh) and Askar al-Mahdi (on the West Bank). [27]

Baghdad eclipsed Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sassanians, 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, which had earlier replaced the city of Babylon.

According to the traveler Ibn Battuta, Baghdad was one of the largest cities, not including the damage it has received. The residents are mostly Hanbal. Baghdad is also home to the grave of Abu Hanifa where there is a cell and a mosque above it. The Sultan of Baghdad, Abu Said Bahadur Khan, was a Tatar king who embraced Islam. [28]

In its early years, the city was known as a deliberate reminder of an expression in the Qur'an, when it refers to Paradise. [29] 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. [30] 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. [31] Leo is associated with fire and symbolizes productivity, pride, and expansion.

The bricks used to make the city were 18 inches (460 mm) on all four sides. Abu Hanifah was the counter of the bricks and he developed a canal, which brought water to the work site for both human consumption and the manufacture 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 a single ring of residential and commercial structures along the inside of the city walls, but the final construction added another ring inside the first. [32] Within the city there were many parks, gardens, villas, and promenades. [33] There was a large sanitation department, many fountains and public baths, and unlike contemporary European cities at the time, streets were frequently washed free of debris and trash. [34] In fact, by the time of Harun al-Rashid, Baghdad had a few thousand hammams. These baths increased public hygiene and served as a way for the religious to perform ablutions as prescribed by Islam. Moreover, entry fees were usually so low that almost everyone could afford them. [35] 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 center 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.

Baghdad was a busy city during the day and had many attractions at night. There were cabarets and taverns, halls for backgammon and chess, live plays, concerts, and acrobats. On street corners, storytellers engaged crowds with tales such as those later told in Arabian Nights. [35]

The four surrounding walls of Baghdad were named Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, and Syria named because their gates pointed in the directions of these destinations. The distance between these gates was a little less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi). 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 a solid glacis, which is made out of bricks and quicklime. Beyond the outer wall was a water-filled moat. [ citation needed ]

The Golden Gate Palace, the residence of the caliph and his family, was in the middle of Baghdad, in the central square. In the central part of the building, there 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. [36] The roundness points to the fact that it was based on Arabic script. [37] [38] 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. [39]

Center of learning (8th–9th centuries) Edit

Within a generation of its founding, Baghdad became a hub of learning and commerce. The city flourished into an unrivaled intellectual center of science, medicine, philosophy, and education, especially with the Abbasid Translation Movement began under the second caliph Al-Mansur and thrived under the seventh caliph Al-Ma'mun. [40] Baytul-Hikmah or the "House of Wisdom" was among the most well known academies, [41] and had the largest selection of books in the world by the middle of the 9th century. [ citation needed ] Notable scholars based in Baghdad during this time include translator Hunayn ibn Ishaq, mathematician al-Khwarizmi, and philosopher Al-Kindi. [41] Although Arabic was used as the international language of science, the scholarship involved not only Arabs, but also Persians, Syriacs, [42] Nestorians, Jews, Arab Christians, [43] [44] and people from other ethnic and religious groups native to the region. [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] These are considered among the fundamental elements that contributed to the flourishing of scholarship in the Medieval Islamic world. [50] [51] [52] Baghdad was also a significant center of Islamic religious learning, with Al-Jahiz contributing to the formation of Mu'tazili theology, as well as Al-Tabari culminating in the scholarship on the Quranic exegesis. [40] Baghdad was likely the largest city in the world from shortly after its foundation until the 930s, when it tied with Córdoba. [53] Several estimates suggest that the city contained over a million inhabitants at its peak. [54] Many of the One Thousand and One Nights tales, widely known as the Arabian Nights, are set in Baghdad during this period. It would surpass even Constantinople in prosperity and size. [55]

Among the notable features of Baghdad during this period were its exceptional libraries. Many of the Abbasid caliphs were patrons of learning and enjoyed collecting both ancient and contemporary literature. Although some of the princes of the previous Umayyad dynasty had begun to gather and translate Greek scientific literature, the Abbasids were the first to foster Greek learning on a large scale. Many of these libraries were private collections intended only for the use of the owners and their immediate friends, but the libraries of the caliphs and other officials soon took on a public or a semi-public character. [56] Four great libraries were established in Baghdad during this period. The earliest was that of the famous Al-Ma'mun, who was caliph from 813 to 833. Another was established by Sabur ibn Ardashir in 991 or 993 for the literary men and scholars who frequented his academy. [56] Unfortunately, this second library was plundered and burned by the Seljuks only seventy years after it was established. This was a good example of the sort of library built up out of the needs and interests of a literary society. [56] The last two were examples of madrasa or theological college libraries. The Nezamiyeh was founded by the Persian Nizam al-Mulk, who was vizier of two early Seljuk sultans. [56] It continued to operate even after the coming of the Mongols in 1258. The Mustansiriyah madrasa, which owned an exceedingly rich library, was founded by Al-Mustansir, the second last Abbasid caliph, who died in 1242. [56] This would prove to be the last great library built by the caliphs of Baghdad.

Stagnation and invasions (10th–16th centuries) Edit

By the 10th century, the city's population was between 1.2 million [57] and 2 million. [58] 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 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 had 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. [59]

Sieges and wars in which Baghdad was involved are listed below:

    , Fourth Fitna (Caliphal Civil War)
  • Siege of Baghdad (865), Abbasid civil war (865–866) , Buyid–Hamdanid War , Abbasid–Seljuq Wars , Mongol conquest of Baghdad
  • Siege of Baghdad (1393), by Tamerlane
  • Siege of Baghdad (1401), by Tamerlane , Ottoman–Safavid Wars , Ottoman–Safavid Wars
  • Siege of Baghdad (1625), Ottoman–Safavid Wars , Ottoman–Safavid Wars

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. [60] 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, [61] 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. [61] 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. [62]

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. [63] 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. During this time, in Baghdad, Christians and Shia were tolerated, while Sunnis were treated as enemies. [64] The sack of Baghdad put an end to the Abbasid Caliphate. [65] It has been argued that this marked an end to the Islamic Golden Age and served a blow from which Islamic civilization never fully recovered. [66]

At this point, Baghdad was ruled by the Ilkhanate, a breakaway state of the Mongol Empire, ruling from Iran. In August 1393, Baghdad was occupied by the Central Asian Turkic conqueror Timur ("Tamerlane"), [67] by marching there in only eight days from Shiraz. Sultan Ahmad Jalayir fled to Syria, where the Mamluk Sultan Barquq protected him and killed Timur's envoys. Timur left the Sarbadar prince Khwaja Mas'ud to govern Baghdad, but he was driven out when Ahmad Jalayir returned.

In 1401, Baghdad was again sacked, by Timur. [68] When his forces took Baghdad, he spared almost no one, and ordered that each of his soldiers bring back two severed human heads. [69] Baghdad 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.

Ottoman era (16th–19th centuries) Edit

In 1534, Baghdad was captured by the Ottoman Turks. Under the Ottomans, Baghdad continued 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. Baghdad has suffered severely from visitations of the plague and cholera, [70] and sometimes two-thirds of its population has been wiped out. [71]

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. [72] The Nuttall Encyclopedia reports the 1907 population of Baghdad as 185,000.

Modern era Edit

Baghdad and southern Iraq remained under Ottoman rule until 1917, when they were captured by the British during World War I. In 1920, Baghdad became the capital of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia, with several architectural and planning projects commissioned to reinforce this administration. [73] After receiving independence in 1932, the city became capital of the Kingdom of Iraq.

During this period, the substantial Jewish community (probably exceeding 100,000 people) comprised between a quarter [74] and a third of the city's population. [75] 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 June 1–2, during the ensuing power vacuum, Jewish residents were attacked following rumors they had aided the British. In what became known as the Farhud, over 180 Jews were killed, 1,000 injured and hundreds of Jewish properties were ransacked. [76] [77] Between 300 and 400 non-Jewish rioters were killed in the attempt to quell the violence. [78]

The city's population grew from an estimated 145,000 in 1900 to 580,000 in 1950. 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. [ citation needed ]

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. [79] 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. Also in 2003, a minor riot in the city (which took place on 21 July) caused some disturbance in the population. The historic "Assyrian Quarter" of the city, Dora, which boasted a population of 150,000 Assyrians in 2003, made up over 3% of the capital's Assyrian population then. The community has been subject to kidnappings, death threats, vandalism, and house burnings by al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups. As of the end of 2014, only 1,500 Assyrians remained in Dora. [80] The Iraq War took place from 2003 to 2011, but an Islamist insurgency lasted until 2013. It was followed by another war from 2013 to 2017 and a low-level insurgency from 2017, which included suicide bombings in January 2018 and January 2021. [81] Priceless collection of artifacts in the National Museum of Iraq was looted by the Iraqi citizens during the 2003 US-led invasion. Thousands of ancient manuscripts in the National Library were destroyed.

Reconstruction efforts Edit

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. [82] A plan was proposed by a Government agency to rebuild a tourist island in 2008. [83] Investors were sought to develop a "romantic island" on the River Tigris that was once a popular honeymoon spot for newlyweds. 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 center in Kadhehemiah. [84] In late 2009, a construction plan was proposed to rebuild the heart of Baghdad, but the plan was never realized because corruption was involved in it. [85]

The Baghdad Eye ferris wheel, proposed in August 2008, [84] [86] [87] [88] [89] was installed at the Al-Zawraa Park in March 2011. [90] In May 2010, a new large scale residential and commercial project called Baghdad Gate was announced. [91] [92]

In August 2010, Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, was appointed to design a new headquarters for the Central Bank in Baghdad. Initial talks about the project were held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 14 August 2010, in the presence of the Central Bank Governor Sinan Al Shabibi. On 2 February 2012, Zaha Hadid joined Sinan Al Shabibi at a ceremony in London to sign the agreement between the Central Bank of Iraq and Zaha Hadid Architects for the design stages of the new CBI Headquarters building. The construction was postponed in 2015 due to economical problems, but started again in 2019.

Baghdad has a hot desert climate (Köppen BWh), featuring extremely hot, prolonged, dry summers and mild to cool, slightly wet, short winters. In the summer, from June through August, the average maximum temperature is as high as 44 °C (111 °F) and accompanied by sunshine. Rainfall has been recorded on fewer than half a dozen occasions at this time of year and has never exceeded 1 millimeter (0.04 in). [93] Even at night, temperatures in summer are seldom below 24 °C (75 °F). Baghdad's record highest temperature of 51.8 °C (125.2 °F) was reached on 28 July 2020. [94] [95] The humidity is typically under 50% in summer due to Baghdad's distance from the marshy southern Iraq and the coasts of Persian Gulf, and dust storms from the deserts to the west are a normal occurrence during the summer.

Winter temperatures are typical of hot desert climates. From December through February, Baghdad has maximum temperatures averaging 16 to 19 °C (61 to 66 °F), though highs above 21 °C (70 °F) are not unheard of. Lows below freezing occur a couple of times per year on average. [96]

Annual rainfall, almost entirely confined to the period from November through March, averages approximately 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). [97] On 11 January 2008, light snow fell across Baghdad for the first time in 100 years. [98] Snowfall was again reported on 11 February 2020, with accumulations across the city. [99]

Climate data for Baghdad
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 15.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 9.7
Average low °C (°F) 3.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 26
Average rainy days 5 5 6 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 5 6 34
Average relative humidity (%) 71 61 53 43 30 21 22 22 26 34 54 71 42
Mean monthly sunshine hours 192.2 203.4 244.9 255.0 300.7 348.0 347.2 353.4 315.0 272.8 213.0 195.3 3,240.9
Average ultraviolet index 3 4 6 8 10 11 11 10 9 6 4 3 7
Source 1: World Meteorological Organization (UN) [100]
Source 2: Climate & Temperature [101] [102]

The city is located on a vast plain bisected by the Tigris river. 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.

Administratively, Baghdad Governorate is divided into districts which are further divided into sub-districts. Municipally, the governorate is divided into 9 municipalities, which have responsibility for local issues. Regional services, however, are coordinated and carried out by a mayor who oversees the municipalities. There is no single city council that singularly governs Baghdad at a municipal level. The governorate council is responsible for the governorate-wide policy. 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. The 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 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 neighborhood councils, each council represents an average of 75,000 people. The nine District Advisory Councils (DAC) are as follows: [103]

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:

Baghdad's population was estimated at 7.22 million in 2015. The city historically had a predominantly Sunni population, but by the early 21st century around 52% of the city's population were Iraqi Shi'ites. At the beginning of the 21st century, some 1.5 million people migrated to Baghdad. Sunni Muslims make up 45% of Iraq's population and they are still a majority in west and north Iraq. As early as 2003, about 20 percent of the population of the city was the result of mixed marriages between Shi'ites and Sunnis. [112] Following the sectarian violence in Iraq between the Sunni and Shia militia groups during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The Iraqi Civil War following ISIS' invasion in 2014 caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi internally displaced people to flee to the city. The city has Shia, Sunni, Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriacs, Armenians and mixed neighborhoods. The city was also home to a large Jewish community and regularly visited by Sikh pilgrims.

Baghdad is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabakis, Armenians and Mandaeans. The majority of the citizens are Muslims with minorities of Christians, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. There are many religious centers distributed around the city including mosques, churches and Mashkhannas cultic huts.

Masjid Al-Kadhimain is a shrine that is located in the Kādhimayn suburb of Baghdad. It contains the tombs of the seventh and ninth Twelver Shi'ite Imams, Musa al-Kadhim and Muhammad at-Taqi respectively, upon whom the title of Kādhimayn ("Two who swallow their anger") was bestowed. [113] [114] [115] Many Shi'ites travel to the mosque from far away places to commemorate.

Armenian Evangelical Church of Baghdad

Baghdad accounts for 22.2% of Iraq's population and 40% of the country's gross domestic product (PPP).

Tourism Edit

Baghdad was once one of the main destinations in the country and the region with a wealth of cultural attractions. Tourism has diminished since the Iraq-Iran war and later during the US-invasion, but in recent years Baghdad has become a main tourist destination although it is still facing challenges.

There are numeros historic, scientific and artistic museums in Baghdad which include, Iraq Museum, Baghdadi Museum, Natural History Museum and several others.

Baghdad is known for its famous Mutanabbi street which is well established for bookselling and has often been referred to as the heart and soul of the Baghdad literacy and intellectual community. The annual International Book Fair in Baghdad is a well known to the international publishing world as a promising publishing event in the region after years of instability.

In October 2008, the Baghdad Metro resumed service. It connects the center to the southern neighborhood of Dora.

Iraqi Airways, the national airline of Iraq, has its headquarters on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad. [116]

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. Prior to the Gulf War, multiple international schools operated in Baghdad, including:

  • École française de Bagdad [117]
  • Deutsche Schule Bagdad [118]
  • Baghdad Japanese School (バグダッド日本人学校), a nihonjin gakko[119]

Universities Edit

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 centers in Iraq, having features more characteristic of nomadic Arabic dialects (Versteegh, The Arabic Language). It is possible that this was caused by the repopulating of the city with rural residents after the multiple sackings of the late Middle Ages. For poetry written about Baghdad, see Reuven Snir (ed.), Baghdad: The City in Verse (Harvard, 2013). [120] Baghdad joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature in December 2015. [121]

Some of the important cultural institutions in the city include the National Theater, which was looted during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but efforts are underway to restore the theater. [122] The live theater industry received a boost during the 1990s, when UN sanctions limited the import of foreign films. As many as 30 movie theaters were reported to have been converted to live stages, producing a wide range of comedies and dramatic productions. [123] Institutions offering cultural education in Baghdad include The Music and Ballet School of Baghdad and the Institute of Fine Arts Baghdad. The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra is a government funded symphony orchestra in Baghdad. The INSO plays primarily classical European music, as well as original compositions based on Iraqi and Arab instruments and music. 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. [124]

  • The National Museum of Iraq whose 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. is located near the old quarter of Baghdad at Al Rasheed Street. It is the historic center of Baghdadi book-selling, a street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. It was named after the 10th-century classical Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi. [125] This street is well established for bookselling and has often been referred to as the heart and soul of the Baghdad literacy and intellectual community. used to be the largest zoological park 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. Conservationist Lawrence Anthony and some of the zoo keepers cared for the animals and fed the carnivores with donkeys they had bought locally. [126][127] Eventually Paul Bremer, Director of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the invasion, ordered protection for the zoo and enlisted U.S. engineers to help reopen the facility. [126] is the main square where public celebrations are held and is also the home to three important monuments commemorating Iraqi's fallen soldiers and victories in war namely Al-Shaheed Monument, the Victory Arch and the Unknown Soldier's Monument. [128] , also known as the Martyr's Memorial, is a monument dedicated to the Iraqi soldiers who died in the Iran–Iraq War. However, now it is generally considered by Iraqis to be for all of the martyrs of Iraq, especially those allied with Iran and Syria fighting ISIS, not just of the Iran–Iraq War. The monument was opened in 1983, and was designed by the Iraqi architect Saman Kamal and the Iraqi sculptor and artist Ismail Fatah Al Turk. During the 1970s and 1980s, Saddam Hussein's government spent a lot of money on new monuments, which included the al-Shaheed Monument. [129] or Qishla is a public square and the historical complex located in Rusafa neighborhood at the riverbank of Tigris. Qushla and its surroundings is where the historical features and cultural capitals of Baghdad are concentrated, from the Mutanabbi Street, Abbasid-era palace and bridges, Ottoman-era mosques to the Mustansariyah Madrasa. The square developed during the Ottoman era as a military barracks. Today, it is a place where the citizens of Baghdad find leisure such as reading poetry in gazebos. [130] It is characterized by the iconic clock tower which was donated by George V. The entire area is submitted to the UNESCOWorld Heritage SiteTentative list. [131] is a predominantly Sunni area with a Masjid that is associated with the Sunni Imam Abu Hanifah. The name of Al-Aʿẓamiyyah is derived from Abu Hanifah's title, al-Imām al-Aʿẓam (the Great Imam). [132][133] is a public open space in Baghdad and the location of two of the best-known hotels, the Palestine Hotel and the Sheraton Ishtar, which are both also the tallest buildings in Baghdad. [134] The square was the site of the statue of Saddam Hussein that was pulled down by U.S. coalition forces in a widely televized event during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Baghdad is home to some of the most successful football (soccer) teams in Iraq, the biggest being 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. In recent years, the capital has seen the building of several football stadiums which are meant be opened in near future. 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. [ citation needed ]

Facts about Ancient Baghdad 3: the site

The site of Baghdad is very perfect. Do you know that the capital of Persian Empire, Ctesiphon was situated around 19 miles or 30 km or the southeast of Baghdad? After the establishment of Baghdad, this city was deserted. It has been under the Muslim control since 637.

Facts about Ancient Baghdad 4: the site of Babylon

Another famous site is the city of Babylon. It is located 56 miles or 90 km from Baghdad. The site was deserted in the second century. It was famous with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Get facts about ancient Babylon here.

Architectural Guidance

The time span between fall of the Roman empire till the start of renaissance is termed as DARK AGES as no great construction or development was carried out during this period.
Economy was rooted in agriculture and the feudal system was the new order.
Merchants & craftsmen formed guilds to strengthen their social & economic position.
Wars among the rival feudal lords were frequent.

1.Early medieval town was dominated by church or monastry & castle of lords.
2.For protective measures, towns were sited in irregular terrain, occupying hill tops or islands. Towns assumed informal & irregular character.
3.Church plaza became a market place.
4.Roads generally radiated from church plaza& market plaza to gates with secondary lateral roadways connecting them.
5.Castle was surrounded by wall & moat as a protective elements.
Irregular pattern in planning was devised to confuse enemies as enemies unfamiliar with town.
Open spaces, streets, plazas developed as an integral part of site.
Streets were used for pedestrian while wheels were restricted to main roads.

The city of middle ages grew within the confines of the
While the population was small, there was space in the
town, but when it increased the buildings were packed
more closely and the open spaces filled.

Result was intolerable congestion, lack of hygiene and



It contains market square,
castle & church of St.Nazzair.
Irregular pattern for streets is seen.


A Cathedral
B Moat

It shows the radial & lateral pattern of irregular road ways with the church plaza as the principal focal point of the town.


It was the picturesque town.
It was church larger than the palace that dominated the medieval town of
St. Michel .
The town was enclosed within a protective wall . The artisan were sensitive
to the form & material of the building erected. Under their guidance
and care was exercised in the placement of, and relation between , structure of
the town which gave the picturesque town.


During the 13th & 14th centauries colonial cities were founded by young empires to protect their trade and provide military security.
They were platted for allocation of sites to shelters and the regular plan is a distinct contrast to the informal.

The Medieval dwelling –

The medieval dwelling was conceived as an individual
The average dwelling was two stories in height. The work- room and storage
Were on the first or basement. Sometimes kitchen was also located here. Living , dining
& sleeping took place on the second floor.
Masonry was the usual construction , although wood frame filled with
Wattle & clay & roofed with thatch for comparison, a small manor house is shown.

It contains a ‘ hall’ & cooking were perforated on this floor. A dormitory or solar was located in the tower above the chapel.
A drain pipe was imbedded in the wall for disposal of waste. The window had no glass and were protected with shutters.
Manor houses were extended in size and formed the nucleus of villages in many cases.

Iraq’s Golden Age: The Rise and Fall of the House of Wisdom

Lost to us since the 13th century, the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, Iraq, was once a center of learning in the medieval world. Built primarily as a library, the House became the home of ancient and modern wisdom during the Islamic Golden Age, preserving important works of scholarship from across Europe and the Middle East. Read on to explore the wonders of this lost icon of intellectual thought.

Known as Bayt al-Hikma in Arabic, the House of Wisdom was founded in 8th century Baghdad by Caliph Harun al-Rashid of the Abbasid dynasty. The Abbasids had come to power in Iraq with a victorious revolution in AD 750 against the Umayyad Caliphs. Under the authority of Caliph al-Mansur, the new capital moved from Damascus to Baghdad in Mesopotamia, at a time when Muslim conquests and imperial growth were beginning to foster a dynamic cultural climate. Different intellectual traditions became united under Muslim rule, including Greek learning from Europe and Alexandria, as well as that of the Persians, Indians and Sumerians in the east.

Into this melting-pot of old and new came technological developments, such as the production of paper from China. Previously, books and maps had been written on parchment, produced by a lengthy and expensive process from the skin of animals, which was still the dominant practice in Europe. Now, thanks to advances in paper production and book-binding, knowledge and ideas could be exchanged with rapidity, enabling a climate of active academic enterprise to thrive.

Caliph al-Mansur’s new city of Baghdad was built with one enterprising goal in mind: to stand unrivaled, the greatest city of the medieval world. The city grew rapidly after its inception: its military strength, economic power, booming trade, cultural and intellectual dominance and dizzying wealth establishing it as the center of an empire stretching from across the East and into North Africa. It is one of the tragedies of ancient history that nothing stands today from Baghdad’s early Abbasid period. However, 9th century geographer and historian Al Y’qubi described the early Baghdadas a city ‘with no equal on earth, either in the Orient or the Occident,’ being ‘the most expensive city in area, in importance, in prosperity,’ and that ‘no one is better educated than their scholars.’

The House of Wisdom came into being as a library, translation institute and academy of scholars from across the empire. Beginning as a project to protect knowledge, including philosophy, astronomy, science, mathematics and literature, it quickly became, and is still considered today, a symbol of the merging and expansion of intellectual traditions from across different cultures and nations. The library grew to become the flower of the Islamic Golden Age, a period between the 7th and 13th centuries of great intellectual growth and discovery in the Islamic world.

The death in AD 809 of al-Rashid resulted in a civil war among the Abbasids, after which his son al-Mamun managed to take power after a long struggle with his half-brother. Intent on securing his rule, al-Mamun moved his official residence to Baghdad, bringing his authority and royal patronage to the House of Wisdom.

The House of Wisdom’s main project was collecting and translating numerous works from the Greek literary canon, which established an enormous influence on Arab thought. Works including those by Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Hippocrates and Euclid were requested from libraries in the West, such as the library at Constantinople, and brought back to Baghdad to translate. Under Caliph al-Mamun (813-833), who was an enthusiastic promoter of the House, it was greatly extended to include separate galleries for each branch of science.

The pursuit of knowledge became a dominant feature of Abbasid society, attracting scholars and scientists from all over Europe and the Middle East to take part in this cultural birthing, including Persians and Christians. Scholarly work, particularly translation, became a hugely lucrative career, and some scholars such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq were said to earn the weight in gold of each manuscript they completed. Renowned 9th century Arab mathematician Al Khwarizmi studied in the House of Wisdom. It is his famous Book of Restoring and Balancing, from the Arabic Kitab al-Jabr wa’l-muqabala, which today gives us our term ‘algebra.’

Caliph al-Mamun was also himself adept in the branches of knowledge taught at the House of Wisdom, including medicine, philosophy and astrology, and often visited the scholars there to discuss their research. At this time astrology was held in the highest esteem as a science in Arab society. The stars and planets were perceived to influence events on earth and astrology was thus carried out with the greatest attention to detail.

Al-Mamun had an astronomical observatory built with the intention of addressing the claims of one of the most dominant voices in the ancient world, Ptolemy. A Greek scholar of the 2nd century AD at the great library of Alexandria, which was one of the exemplars for the House of Wisdom, Ptolemy’s famous work of astronomy, the Megale Syntaxis, or ‘the great composition,’ exercised extraordinary influence over medieval Arab scholars, many years before he became known in the West. Better-known after its translation as the Almagest, the text initiated a flurry of research and commentary at the House of Wisdom which would last for centuries.

It was in 1258 that the accomplishments of the House of Wisdom and the Islamic Golden Age were brought to a cruel halt. During the Mongol invasion of Baghdad under Hulegn, grandson of Genghis Khan, the mosques, libraries, homes and hospitals of the great city were all destroyed. The family of the last Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta’sim, as well as thousands of the city’s inhabitants, were slaughtered, and the extensive collection of books and manuscripts at the House of Wisdom were thrown into the Tigris. It is said that for days afterwards the river ran black with the ink of books and red with the blood of scholars. It was a tragic ending for one of the most advanced, diverse and progressive cities of the age, and an ending from which it would take Baghdad centuries to recover.

Medieval Town Planning

Although medieval Denmark as a whole was a predominantly rural society, its monasticism was for the greater part an urban phenomenon: 80 (or 60 per cent) out of the 134 Danish monasteries were situated in towns and cities. Especially in the period 1050-1250, urban monasteries were founded in already well-established cities, while those following from around 1250 to 1500 more often were placed in newly established towns, apparently partly to help securing the young and growing towns their urban status. A third sub-group within urban monasteries in medieval Scandinavia, distinct from all others, was the houses belonging to the Brigittine Order. The convent foundations in Vadstena (1384), Maribo (1416), Nådendal/Naantali (1441-43) and Mariager (1440-46) all took place in originally rural sites, but after Queen Margrethe I in 1400 ordered the foundation of an actual town with urban privileges outside the Abbey of Vadstena, the establishing of similar urban settlements seem to have become an integrated part of the subsequent monastic foundations in Maribo, Nådendal and Mariager right from the beginning (only for Munkeliv in Bergen, where the Brigittines took over a former Benedictine house, there was obviously no need to found a new town). The reason for this apparently systematic foundation of towns adjacent to new Brigittine monasteries has, to my knowledge, never received any scholarly attention. Based on a case study of the foundation in Maribo, with comparative use of evidence from the other Scandinavian houses, this article presents the suggestion that the towns first and foremost were meant to facilitate the extensive pilgrimage, which the Brigittine churches could be expected to attract - a traffic that not least Queen Margrethe and her successor Erik ‘the Pomeranian’ were inclined to endorse, as they eagerly aimed to promote St. Brigitte as the great pilgrim saint for the United Kingdoms of Scandinavia.

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