History of Iraq

Iraq Flag

Iraq lies in what historians and geographers commonly refer to as the Fertile Crescent. Running through the heart of the country are two great rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) that at one time fed and nourished the beginnings of civilization. Because these two rivers flood periodically, leaving behind fertile soil after the waters recede, farmers were able to produce crops in abundance. This surplus meant that not every person in the society had to devote him or herself to subsistence living, and so industry, government, and religion developed.

The first great nation to rise out of the fertile crescent was Sumeria, this in about 4000 B.C. The Sumerians built irrigation canals, and also developed the first known form of writing, known as cuneiform. But like all empires, the Sumerians would pass from the scene. Subsequently, the region would spawn empires or host them over the centuries. These included the Chaldeans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, the Medes, Greeks (Macedonian and Seleucid), Romans, Parthians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, and the British. The reason so many empires fought over the area was partly the region's agricultural resources. In modern times oil has been a factor because Iraq possesses huge reserves. But the main reason Iraq has been so often fought over is that it lies in a conspicuous place on the world map, in the middle of an invasion route that meets at the crux of three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe.


Iraq Map Iraq Map - Click for larger view

Iraq is dominated by two famous rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. They flow southeast from the highlands in the north across the plains toward the Persian Gulf. The fertile region between these rivers has had many names throughout history, including Al-Jazirah, or "the island," in Arabic and Mesopotamia in Greek.

Many parts of Iraq are harsh places to live. Rocky deserts cover about 40 percent of the land. Another 30 percent is mountainous with bitterly cold winters. Much of the south is marshy and damp. Most Iraqis live along the fertile plains of the Tigris and Euphrates.

People & Culture

Iraq is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the Middle East. Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Mandaeans, and Armenians, among others, speak their own languages and retain their cultural and religious identities.

Iraqis once had some of the best schools and colleges in the Arab world. That changed after the Gulf War in 1991 and the United Nations sanctions that followed. Today only about 40 percent of Iraqis can read or write.

Weather and Climate

Iraq Climate
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The climate of Iraq is mostly desert and as such it has mild winters and hot summers. The country's mountainous regions however have very cold winters and mild summers. Baghdad has a January average low temperature of 39°F (4°C) and a July average high temperature of 111°F (44°C).

Public Holidays

Iraq Public Holidays Year 2015
New Year's Day January 1, 2015 Thursday
Milad Un Nabi (The Prophet's Birthday) January 3, 2015 Saturday
Army Day January 6, 2015 Tuesday
Baghdad Liberation Day April 9, 2015 Thursday
Labour Day May 1, 2015 Friday
Republic Day July 14, 2015 Tuesday
Eid Al Fitr July 18, 2015 Saturday
Ceasefire Day (End of Iran-Iraq War) August 8, 2015 Saturday
Eid Al Adha September 23, 2015 Wednesday
National Day October 3, 2015 Saturday
Al Hijra (Islamic New Year) October 13, 2015 Tuesday
Ashura October 23, 2015 Friday

Travel Advisory

Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation.