The city of Baghdad


It's the capital of Iraq, in central Iraq, on the Tigris River. Baghdad is the center of air, road, and railroad transportation in Iraq. It is the leading manufacturing city of the country, with oil refineries, food-processing plants, tanneries, and textile mills. Among the handcrafted wares produced in Baghdad are cloth, household utensils, jewelry, leather goods, felt, and rugs, which may be purchased in the bazaars. Consisting of rows of small shops or stalls, these bazaars have long been a feature of the city. Educational institutions in the city include the University of Baghdad (1957), al-Mustansiriyah University (1963), and the University of Technology (1974). Among the noteworthy historical structures of Baghdad is the ruins of Bab al-Wastani, the last remaining of the famous gates of Baghdad, which has been converted into an arms museum. Other notable buildings are the Abbasid Palace, which probably dates from 1179, the al-Mustansiriyah, a college founded in 1232 (both restored as museums), and the Mirjan Mosque, completed in 1358. A few miles north of Baghdad is Kazimayn, notable for its magnificent gold-domed mosque (completed in the 19th century) and the tombs of religious leaders venerated by the Shiite Muslims.

Baghdad was built by the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur in 762 on the western bank of the Tigris River, opposite an old Iranian village also named Baghdad. The original city was round, with three concentric walls. The innermost wall enclosed the palace of the caliph, the second wall defined the army quarters, and the homes of the people occupied the outermost enclosure. The merchants' quarters, or bazaars, were located outside the city walls. Within the next half century the city reached a peak of prosperity and influence under the caliph Harun ar-Rashid, whose reign is celebrated in the famous tales of the Arabian Nights. During this period the city expanded to the eastern bank of the Tigris, which later became the heart of Baghdad. Although past its zenith after Harun's time, Baghdad remained an important center of trade and culture for more than four centuries.

The decline of Baghdad began when Hulagu, the grandson of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, sacked the city in 1258, putting an end to the Abbasid caliphate. Another Mongol, Tamerlane, sacked the city in 1401. Baghdad was brought under Persian control in 1508. In 1534 it was captured by the Ottoman Turks. The Persians recaptured the city in 1623, holding it until 1638, when it was again annexed by Turkey. For almost three centuries thereafter Baghdad was ruled by Turkish governors. In 1917 it was captured from the Turks by British forces. In 1921 Baghdad was designated the capital of the newly created kingdom of Iraq, which became a republic in 1958. The city suffered damage from Allied bombing during the Persian Gulf War. Population (1987) 3,844,608.