In his Rihla Ibn Batutta says "...then we travelled to Baghdad, the abode of Peace and Capital of Islam..". A very different picture from the current day Iraq!. Probably not the best place to take a holiday right now!.
Iraq has land borders with Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The area has been inhabited for over thousands of years and known as the "Cradle of Civilization". It is a country with rich culture and huge historical importance in the Muslim world.
Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, has been one of the most important cities as a centre of learning and culture in the Muslim world for a few centuries. It was the seat of the Abbasid Caliphate until the destruction of the city by the Mongols. The Grand Library of Baghdad, also called the House of Wisdom, was completely destroyed during the Mongol invasion. Baghdad still has one of finest Museums showcasing the ancient civilization of the region.The Baghdad Zoo has also been recently reconstructed.
Iraq is also home to a number of sites significant for Shia Muslims with Karbala being the most important. It is the location of Al Abbas Masjid and the Husayn (radiallahu-anhu) tomb.
The city of Najaf according to some has the tomb of the Ali ibn Abi Talib (radiallahu-anhu). The tomb is located in the Imam Ali Masjid. Kufa and Najf were the first citiesreached by Ibn Battuta entering into Iraq.
Samarra is the location of the Al-Askari Masjid. It has tombs of Imam Ali al-Hadi (R.A) and Imam Hassan al-Askari (R.A). The Al-Kadhimiya Masjid in Kadhimiya houses the tombs of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (R.A) and Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (R.A). The masjid also houses the graves of Shaykh Mufid and Shaykh Nasir ad-Din Tusi.
Located about 170Km south of Baghdad is the ancient city of Kufa. Located on the banks of the Euphrates River, Ibn Battuta reached the city of Kufa while travelling along the Euphrates.
Basra is another city that has lot of importance in the Islamic history. Built in 636 CE, Basra is located on the banks of Shatt al-Arab. The old masjid in the city is the first masjid in Islam to be built outside the Arabian Peninsula.
Iraq has some noteworthy archaeological sites including Ashur, the former capital of the Assyrian Empire and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hatra is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Babylon is one of the most impressive remains in the country. Nineveh is a 3,000 year old city, the remains of which lie across the Tigris. Ctesiphon and Ur are also ancient cities.
The long established markets in the towns and cities of Iraq are known for their silverware and copperware. Some of the local delicacies of the country include kebabs, shawarma, kibbeh, masgouf, maqluba, dolma and mahshi.