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Holidays in Iraq

Understanding Iraq

Iraq is the birthplace of many of the Earth's oldest civilizations, including the Babylonians and the Assyrians A part of the Ottoman Empire from 1534, the Treaty of Sèvres brought the area under British control in 1918 Iraq gained independence in 1932 On 14 July 1958, the long-time Hachemite monarchy was overthrown in a coup led by Abdul Kassem that paved way to radical political reforms, including the legalisation of political parties such as the Ba'ath and the Communist Party, both key players in the coup also called the 14 July Revolution Following the Revolution, the Soviet Union gradually became its main arms and commercial supplier

In February 1963, Kassem was overthrown and killed in a second coup that brought the Ba'ath Party into power Internal divisions would follow for the next five years, until another coup on 17 July 1968 led by Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr with Communist support stabilised the party Relations between the Communists and the Ba'athists ranged from mutual cooperation to violent mistrust, culminating in the purge of Communists from the army and the government by 1978, causing a temporary rift with the Soviet Union On 16 July 1979, Bakr resigned and was succeded by right-hand man Saddam Hussein, who carefully purged his enemies and became a dictator almost overnight

The next twenty-five years took a grinding toll on the country A long war with neighboring Iran in the 1980s cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and subsequent Gulf War caused further casualties, followed by civil war inside the country and a decade of international sanctions

Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a US/UK-led coalition of forces, who removed Saddam Hussein from power Although some transfer of power to an Iraqi interim government has occurred, the country remains occupied by 140,000 US and UK soldiers Rebuilding on a massive scale inside larger cites has occurred


Most of Iraq has a hot arid climate Summer temperatures average above 40°C 104°F for most of the country and frequently exceed 48°C118°F Winter temperatures infrequently exceed 21°C 70°F with maximums roughly 15 to 16 °C 59 to 61 °F and night-time lows occasionally below freezing Typically precipitation is low, most places receive less than 250mm 10 in annually, with maximum rainfall during the months of November to April Rainfall during the summer is extremely rare except in the very north of the country

Talking in Iraq

Arabic is the national language of Iraq, but English is so commonly spoken there that most travelers will get by in the various shops, markets and cafes The downside is that speaking English will immediately identify you as an outsider This is dangerous because of the strong underground network of Iraqis who inform attackers of possible target opportunities

Kurdish is spoken in the Kurdistan region, in one of two varieties: Kurmanji and Sorani Kurmanji is spoken in and around Dohuk while Sorani is spoken in and around Arbil Hewlar and Sulaymaniyah These two varieties are mutually unintelligible However, Arabic is also widely spoken, and the number of speakers of English is on the rise

What to see in Iraq

Well, the past 40 years of disastrous government and devastating wars has taken its toll on Iraq's travel industry After the fall of the Saddam Hussein government, which was virulently hostile to the Shia religion, religious pilgrims, mostly from the Middle East, Iran, and Central Asia, have returned in large numbers to the holy sites of southern Iraq, especially to the spiritual home of Shia Islam in Karbala Religious pilgrimage remains quite unsafe, but there is a greater degree of safety in numbers, and in being familiar with the Arab region And of course, pilgrimage is a more urgent reason for travel than sightseeing!

One can only hope that this great and ancient region soon sees increased security and stability, for it makes a fascinating travel destination for anyone interested in history, be it in ancient history 4,000 years old, medieval Islamic and later Ottoman history, or the modern history of the early 21st century The aforementioned conflicts and misgovernment have not been kind to Iraq's ruins, especially in terms of the massive rebuilding done on ancient Babylon by the Hussein government and later negligence by foreign military presence But the pull of such ancient cities as the Babylonian capital Babylon; the ancient city of Ur, of mankind's first great civilizations, Sumeria; major Parthian cities at magnificent Hatra and the capital Ctesiphon; and the Assyrian capital of Ashur, remains great enough to overlook the damage done

The holiest sites of Shia Islam outside of Saudi Arabia are in Iraq's fertile heartland of Lower Mesopotamia The Shia-Sunni split in Islam occurred over a dispute in the mid-seventh century CE as to the true successor of the Prophet Muhammad, with the Shiites supporting Ali ibn Abi Talib, who would become the first Imam, and whose Caliphate capital was located in the medieval city of Kufa Ali's tomb is found in present day Najaf at the Imam Ali Mosque, one of Shia Islam's most holy sites The third Imam, grandson of the Prophet, Husayn ibn Ali, is widely revered as one of Shia Islam's greatest martyrs, and the two grand mosques of Karbala, Al Abbas Mosque and Imam Husayn Shrine which stands on his grave are the sites of the Shiites' most important pilgrimage, to observe the Ashura, the day of mourning for Imam Husayn Samarra is home to another one of the most important Shia mosques, Al-Askari Mosque, which serves as the tomb of Imams 'Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-'Askari Tragically, this mosque is badly damaged, suffering explosions in sectarian violence in 2006, destroying the dome, minarets, and clock tower Lastly, Al-Kadhimiya Mosque in Kadhimiya is revered, as it is the burial place of the seventh and ninth Imams, Musa al-Kadhim and Muhammad at-Taqi Also buried within this mosque are the famous historical scholars, Shaykh Mufid and Shaykh Nasir ad-Din Tusi Iraq is also home to significant holy sites of Sunni Islam, especially Baghdad's Abu Hanifa Mosque, built around the tomb of Abu Hanifah an-Nu'man, the founder of the Ḥanafī school of Islamic religious jurisprudence

In terms of modern attractions, most are the big modernist sculptures and palaces of the Saddam Hussein government, located primarily in Baghdad or on top of some of the world's most important heritage sites Given the warfare, external and internal, and government atrocities committed against its own people over the past 40 years, one can only expect that the future will see widespread construction of memorials to those who suffered But such developments may have to wait until the nation's turbulent present settles down In the meantime, it is possible albeit often dangerous to visit the cities and sites of battles that have become household names throughout the world in the most recent conflict

Buying stuff in Iraq

Iraqi dinar is the official currency, however you will also be able to spend Euros € and US Dollars $ almost everywhere Be aware that most people do not like to make change for large bills Also note that any defects in the bills creases, ink stamps from banks, tears, etc will raise suspicion that you are a counterfeiter Don't bring old bills with you, either Carry mostly small bills in the form of Iraqi dinars for daily spending cash Since the introduction of the new Iraqi dinar, its widespread acceptance and confidence has reduced the prominence of the USD, and many shopkeepers are now refusing to accept them However, most people will still pay large hotel bills or rent payments using USD or EUR due to the sheer volume of notes required to pay with dinars The conversion rate fluctuates from day to day and from town to town, but is around 1175 dinar to US$1 Inflation used to be relative high 65% a year since 2003 but in recent years it is much lower than before 11% in 2008, which makes the Iraqi dinar becomes an attractive target for investors, unlike the Vietnamese dong

Learn the security features of the new dinar and dollar notes; the former Iraqi government was known to be making passable $20, $10, and $5 US notes, and these counterfeiters are apparently still in business

Food and eating in Iraq

  • monir mardini 26023 3134432776 hummus

Drinking in Iraq

Alcohol is legal in Iraq and Street vendors can usually get alcohol if you really need it, but again this is just asking to be identified as an outsider Furthermore, while Alcohol is legal many insurgent groups in Iraq have targeted Alcohol vendors and users

Accommodation in Iraq

Sleep in the hot summer months can be difficult Sleeping outside and near flowing water is the most comfortable setting one can find outside of air conditioning

In Iraqi Kurdistan, there are plenty of hotels and although they are hard to find in any travel guide, anyone on the street will direct you to a nearby place There's no shortage in Zakho, Dohuk or Arbil Rates run about 15 USD to 25 USD per night for a single room with bathroom

Working in Iraq

Work in Iraq pays very well Typical foreign contractors can make up to $100k per year for security and admin work

Cities in Iraq

baghdad  balad  bayji  dahuk  hit  irbil  kifri  kirkuk  mandali  panjwin  rawah  sinjar  tall kayf  tikrit  

What do you think about Iraq?

How expensive is Iraq?
Meal in inexpensive restaurant6.58 USD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)28.2 USD
McDonalds meal9.51 USD
Local beer (0.5 draft)2.2 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 4.74 USD
Cappuccino1.26 USD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)0.46 USD
Water (0.33 bottle)0.25 USD
Milk (1l)1.38 USD
Fresh bread (500g)0.9 USD
White Rice (1kg)1.68 USD
Eggs (12) 2.06 USD
Local Cheese (1kg) 5.59 USD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 5.26 USD
Apples (1kg) 1.67 USD
Oranges (1kg) 1.53 USD
Tomato (1kg) 0.82 USD
Potato (1kg) 0.76 USD
Lettuce (1 head) 0.94 USD
Water (1.5l)0.73 USD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 10.12 USD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.89 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.91 USD
Cigarettes2.57 USD
One way local bus ticket0.48 USD
Monthly pass for bus45 USD
Taxi start2.86 USD
Taxi 1km1.89 USD
Taxi 1hour waiting9.9 USD
Gasoline (1 liter) 0.51 USD
Utilities for a "normal" apartment100.94 USD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 22.02 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 517.79 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 424.25 USD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 849.4 USD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 709.65 USD, your travel companion

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