capital city of Iraq

Baghdad (Arabic: بَغْدَاد, Baghdād) is the capital of Iraq and the second-largest city in the Arab world after Cairo. It is located on the Tigris river. In 762 AD, Baghdad was chosen as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, and became its most notable major development project. Within a short time, the city evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual centre of the Muslim world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, including the House of Wisdom, as well as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment, garnered it a worldwide reputation as the "Centre of Learning".

Aerial view of the U.S.-occupied Green Zone, 2005
Panoramic view of the River Tigris flowing through Baghdad, 2016
Abbasid-era minaret of Al-Khulafa Mosque, c. 1913
Aerial view of Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, 1920s

Quotes edit

  • I have seen the greatest of cities that are known for their perfection and refinement, in the lands of Syria and the Greeks and other countries, but I have never seen a city like Baghdad whose roofs are so high, a city which is so round or more noble, the gates of which are wider and the walls better. It is as if the city were cast into a mould and poured out.
  • Baghdad is the metropolis of the world ... Outside it there is only desert.
  • This old city still serves as the Abbasid capital ... but most of its substance is gone. Only the name remains. ... The city is but a trace of a vanished encampment, a shadow of a passing ghost.
  • Two people, one city, different times; connected by a memoir. Can love exist in a city destined for decades of misery?
    • Ahmad Ardalan, The Gardener of Baghdad (2014)
  • What is a television apparatus to man, who has only to shut his eyes to see the most inaccessible regions of the seen and the never seen, who has only to imagine in order to pierce through walls and cause all the planetary Baghdads of his dreams to rise from the dust.
  • That it should be Baghdad, thought Victoria, was just her luck! Nevertheless, difficult though it might be, she intended to get to Baghdad somehow or other. Victoria walked purposefully along Tottenham Court Road evolving ways and means. Baghdad. What went on in Baghdad? According to Edward: ‘Culture.’ Could she, in some way, play up culture? Unesco? Unesco was always sending people here, there and everywhere, sometimes to the most delectable places. But these were usually, Victoria reflected, superior young women with university degrees who had got into the racket early on.
    Victoria, deciding that first things came first, finally bent her steps to a travel agency, and there made her inquiries. There was no difficulty, it seemed, in travelling to Baghdad. You could go by air, by long sea to Basrah, by train to Marseilles and by boat to Beirut and across the desert by car. You could go via Egypt. You could go all the way by train if you were determined to do so, but visas were at present difficult and uncertain and were apt to have actually expired by the time you received them. Baghdad was in the sterling area and money therefore presented no difficulties. Not, that is to say, in the clerk’s meaning of the word. What it all boiled down to was that there was no difficulty whatsoever in getting to Baghdad so long as you had between sixty and a hundred pounds in cash.
  • When the war finally started, we were ready. On January 16, 1991, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw reported to the world, “The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated . . .” As predicted, Iraqi power and communications systems were destroyed by stealth fighter jets and cruise missiles. Every media company based in Baghdad—except CNN—lost power and transmission capabilities. Only CNN broadcast live to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. All channels turned to us for exclusive coverage; there was no place else. Back then CNN was the only global 24/7 news channel. That live coverage of war—the first time it had been televised worldwide—transformed the media landscape. CNN became required viewing for informed citizens and heads of state, the one truly global news source. That has changed now, with multiple cable networks and news breaking on social media. But without the investment in journalism from visionary owners such as Turner, today’s networks focus more on commentary than newsgathering.
  • It is not solely by weapons that ISIS imposes its control. More important is the terror it has instilled in millions in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and, increasingly, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Indeed, Jordan’s panic-driven decision to execute two jihadists in response to the burning of its captured pilot is another sign of the terror Daesh has instilled in Arab governments and much of the public. In the short run, terror is a very effective means of psychological control of unarmed and largely defenseless populations. Even in areas far from Daesh’s reach, growing numbers of preachers, writers, politicians and even sheiks and emirs, terrorized by unprecedented savagery, are hedging their bets. Today, Daesh is a menacing presence not only in Baghdad but in Arab capitals from Cairo to Muscat — an evil ghost capable of launching attacks in the Sinai and organizing deadly raids on Jordanian and Saudi borders. ISIS enjoys yet another advantage: It has a clear strategy of making areas beyond its control unsafe. No one thinks Daesh can seize Baghdad, but few Baghdadis feel they’re living anything close to a normal life. Daesh’s message is clear: No one is safe anywhere, including in non-Muslim lands, until the whole world is brought under “proper Islamic rule.”

Iraq War edit

  • Baghdad is determined to force the Mongols of our age to commit suicide at its gates.
  • Baghdad is safe, protected. There are no American infidels in Baghdad.

Historiography edit

  • In 762, to symbolize and propel the new order, Al-Mansur decided to build the grand new capital of Baghdad as a massive round city. The caliph assembled an elite team of the empire’s top engineers, architects, and visionaries—notably including Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews, such as Mashallah Ibnul-Athari.
    • Mohamad Jebara, The Life of the Qur'an: From Eternal Roots to Enduring Legacy (2024)
  • As the Qur’an itself had quoted Moses to declare (and as Muhammad had cited in his final letter to the assassin Musailimah): “The earth belongs to the Loving Divine, who allots it to whomever He wills; yet the most lasting legacy will be the enduring impact of those who have action-based hope.” Tellingly, when Al-Mansur inaugurated his new capital, the cornerstone of Baghdad featured that very verse etched for all to see.
    • Mohamad Jebara, The Life of the Qur'an: From Eternal Roots to Enduring Legacy (2024)
  • In 771, a traveller arrived in the city [Baghdad] with a copy of a work of Hindu astronomy called the Siddhanta (The Opening of the Universe), by the Indian mathematician Brahmagupta. Unlike Euclid, Brahmagupta did not set out his mathematical propositions clearly with proofs, but obscured them (as was traditional in Indian mathematics) under a veil of poetry — beautiful, but extremely difficult to unravel. Al-Mansur gave his court astrologer, al-Fazari, the Herculean task of translating the Siddhanta, which introduced Baghdad to the concept of 'positional notation' – the way we write numbers to this day, using the digits 1 to 9, in columns of units, tens, hundreds and so on. The possibilities that this system opened up were limitless; when it was eventually adopted, it transformed the entire discipline of mathematics by allowing calculations that would have been impossible with the old Roman-numeral system. Positional notation was already known in Syria and had been admired by Severus Sebokht, who wrote about the 'nine sings' of Indian mathematicians in 662.
    • Violet Moller, The Map of Knowledge: How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found (2019)

Arabian Nights edit

  • Then I journeyed through many regions and saw many a city intending for Baghdad, that I might seek audience, in the House of Peace, with the Commander of the Faithful and tell him all that had befallen me.

Orientalism edit

Reported in: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places, Vols. XXI–XXIII (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1876–1879)
  • Thou, too, art fallen, Bagdad! City of Peace,
        Thou too hast had thy day;
    And loathsome Ignorance and brute Servitude
        Pollute thy dwellings now,
    Erst for the mighty and the wise renowned.
    O, yet illustrious for remembered fame,—
    Thy founder the Victorious,—and the pomp
    Of Haroun, for whose name by blood defiled,
    Yahia’s, and the blameless Barmecides’,
    Genius hath wrought salvation,—and the years
    When Science with the good Al-Maimon dwelt;
    So one day may the Crescent from thy mosques
    Be plucked by Wisdom, when the enlightened arm
    Of Europe conquers to redeem the East!
    Then Pomp and Pleasure dwelt within her walls;
    The merchants of the East and of the West
        Met in her arched bazaars;
        All day the active poor
    Showered a cool comfort o’er her thronging streets;
      Labour was busy in her looms;
        Through all her open gates
    Long troops of laden camels lined the roads,
    And Tigris bore upon his tameless stream
    Armenian harvests to her multitudes.
Jaffàr was dead, slain by a doom unjust
  —Leigh Hunt
  • Jaffàr, the Barmecide, the good Vizier,
    The poor man’s hope, the friend without a peer,
    Jaffàr was dead, slain by a doom unjust;
    And guilty Hàroun, sullen with mistrust
    Of what the good and e’en the bad might say,
    Ordained that no man living from that day
    Should dare to speak his name on pain of death.
    All Araby and Persia held their breath.
    All but the brave Mondeer. He, proud to show
    How far for love a grateful soul could go,
    And facing death for very scorn and grief
    (For his great heart wanted a great relief),
    Stood forth in Bagdad, daily, in the square
    Where once had stood a happy house; and there
    Harangued the tremblers at the scymitar
    On all they owed to the divine Jaffàr.
    “Bring me this man,” the caliph cried. The man
    Was brought,—was gazed upon. The mutes began
    To bind his arms. “Welcome, brave cords!” cried he;
    “From bonds far worse Jaffàr delivered me;
    From wants, from shames, from loveless household fears;
    Made a man’s eyes friends with delicious tears;
    Restored me,—loved me,—put me on a par
    With his great self. How can I pay Jaffàr?”
    Hàroun, who felt that on a soul like this
    The mightiest vengeance could but fall amiss,
    Now deigned to smile, as one great lord of fate
    Might smile upon another half as great.
    He said, “Let worth grow frenzied, if it will;
    The caliph’s judgment shall be master still.
    Go; and since gifts thus move thee, take this gem,
    The richest in the Tartar’s diadem,
    And hold the giver as thou deemest fit.”
    “Gifts!” cried the friend. He took; and holding it
    High towards the heavens, as though to meet his star,
    Exclaimed, “This, too, I owe to thee, Jaffàr!”
By Bagdat’s shrines of fretted gold,
High-walléd gardens green and old
  —Alfred Tennyson
The good Haroun Alraschid
  —Alfred Tennyson
Then stole I up, and trancédly
Gazed on the Persian girl alone,
Serene with argent-lidded eyes
Amorous, and lashes like to rays
Of darkness, and a brow of pearl
Tresséd with redolent ebony,
In many a dark delicious curl,
Flowing beneath her rose-hued zone
  —Alfred Tennyson
  • When the breeze of a joyful dawn blew free
    In the silken sail of infancy,
    The tide of time flowed back with me,
      The forward-flowing tide of time;
    And many a sheeny summer-morn,
    Adown the Tigris I was borne,
    By Bagdat’s shrines of fretted gold,
    High-walléd gardens green and old;
    True Mussulman was I and sworn,
      For it was in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Anight my shallop, rustling through
    The low and blooméd foliage, drove
    The fragrant, glistening deeps, and clove
    The citron-shadows in the blue:
    By garden porches on the brim,
    The costly doors flung open wide,
    Gold glittering through lamplight dim,
    And broidered sofas on each side;
      In sooth it was a goodly time,
      For it was in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Often, where clear stemmed platans guard
    The outlet, did I turn away
    The boat-head down a broad canal
    From the main river sluiced, where all
    The sloping of the moonlit sward
    Was damask-work, and deep inlay
    Of braided blooms unmown, which crept
    Adown to where the water slept.
      A goodly place, a goodly time,
      For it was in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    A motion from the river won
    Ridged the smooth level, bearing on
    My shallop through the star-strown calm,
    Until another night in night
    I entered, from the clearer light,
    Imbowered vaults of pillared palm,
    Imprisoning sweets, which, as they clomb
    Heavenward, were stayed beneath the dome
      Of hollow boughs. A goodly time,
      For it was in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Still onward; and the clear canal
    Is rounded to as clear a lake.
    From the green rivage many a fall
    Of diamond rillets musical,
    Through little crystal arches low
    Down from the central fountain’s flow
    Fallen silver-chiming, seemed to shake
    The sparkling flints beneath the prow,
      A goodly place, a goodly time,
      For it was in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Above through many a bowery turn
    A walk with vary-coloured shells
    Wandered engrained. On either side
    All round about the fragrant marge
    From fluted vase, and brazen urn
    In order, Eastern flowers large,
    Some dropping low their crimson bells
    Half-closed, and others studded wide
      With disks and tiars, fed the time
      With odour in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Far off, and where the lemon grove
    In closest coverture upsprung,
    The living airs of middle night
    Died round the bulbul as he sung;
    Not he: but something which possessed
    The darkness of the world, delight,
    Life, anguish, death, immortal love,
    Ceasing not, mingled, unrepressed,
      Apart from place, withholding time,
      But flattering the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Black the garden-bowers and grots
    Slumbered; the solemn palms were ranged
    Above, unwooed of summer wind:
    A sudden splendour from behind
    Flushed all the leaves with rich gold-green,
    And, flowing rapidly between
    Their interspaces, counterchanged
    The level lake with diamond plots
      Of dark and bright. A lovely time,
      For it was in the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Dark-blue the deep sphere overhead,
    Distinct with vivid stars inlaid,
    Grew darker from that under-flame:
    So, leaping lightly from the boat,
    With silver anchor left afloat,
    In marvel whence that glory came
    Upon me, as in sleep I sank
    In cool soft turf upon the bank,
      Entrancéd with that place and time,
      So worthy of the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Thence through the garden I was drawn,—
    A realm of pleasance, many a mound,
    And many a shadow-checkered lawn
    Full of the city’s stilly sound,
    And deep myrrh-thickets blowing round
    The stately cedar, tamarisks,
    Thick rosaries of scented thorn,
    Tall orient shrubs, and obelisks,
      Graven with emblems of the time,
      In honour of the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    With dazéd vision unawares
    From the long alley’s latticed shade
    Emerged, I came upon the great
    Pavilion of the Caliphat.
    Right to the carven cedarn doors,
    Flung inward over spangled floors,
    Broad-baséd nights of marble stairs
    Ran up with golden balustrade,
      After the fashion of the time,
      And humour of the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    The fourscore windows all alight
    As with the quintessence of flame,
    A million tapers flaring bright
    From twisted silvers looked to shame
    The hollow-vaulted dark, and streamed
    Upon the moonéd domes aloof
    In inmost Bagdat, till there seemed
    Hundreds of crescents on the roof
      Of night new-risen, that marvellous time
      To celebrate the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Then stole I up, and trancédly
    Gazed on the Persian girl alone,
    Serene with argent-lidded eyes
    Amorous, and lashes like to rays
    Of darkness, and a brow of pearl
    Tresséd with redolent ebony,
    In many a dark delicious curl,
    Flowing beneath her rose-hued zone;
      The sweetest lady of the time,
      Well worthy of the golden prime
        Of good Haroun Alraschid.
    Six columns, three on either side,
    Pure silver, underpropt a rich
    Throne of the massive ore, from which
    Down-drooped, in many a floating fold,
    Engarlanded and diapered
    With inwrought flowers, a cloth of gold.
    Thereon, his deep eye laughter-stirred
    With merriment of kingly pride,
      Sole star of all that place and time.
      I saw him in his golden prime,
        The good Haroun Alraschid!
  • Still on we press, and now the ruddy beam
    To amber turns swift Tigris’ arrowy stream,
    Shines on famed Bagdad’s walls, and bathes with fire
    Each gilded dome, and crescent-mounted spire.
    Romantic Bagdad! name to childhood dear,
    Awaking terror’s thrill and pity’s tear;
    For there the sorcerer gloomed, the genii dwelt,
    And Love and Worth to good Al Rashid knelt;
    Prince of the Thousand Tales! whose glorious reign
    So brightly shines in fancy’s fair domain!
    Whose noble deeds still Arab minstrels sing,
    Who rivalled all but Gallia’s knightly king.
    Yonder where fountains gush and yew-trees weep,
    Watch o’er his harem-queen doth Azrael keep;
    Yes, morn’s rich hues illume that sacred pile,
    Like beams shed down by some blest angel’s smile,—
    Where fair Zobeida, shrined in odor, lies:
    Her soul long since in starry Paradise.

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