If we keep aside the rocky political atmosphere in Iraq, the country is a great opportunity for tourists to experience a region which was once home to the cradle of civilization, the Mesopotamia civilization and many other subsequent civilizations such as Assyrian and Babylonian whose contribution to the worldly-web of social, economic, culture and religious ideas and development is immense. Even today, the relevance of Iraq is vital for regional and international politics and economy.
Iraq usually does not make it to the top countries to visit in our list, and much of the cause for this rejection is its history with political and military strife and terrorism particularly advocated by ISIL. However, from a touristic perspective, Iraq is a country of immense historical relevance and should be developed to attract as many tourists as it can—because it is that amazing.
In case you are interested in traveling to Iraq, I have a few recommendations to make. Here are 4 things which you should not miss when here. These places are some of the best the country has to offer and will give you a fresh perspective on it.
- Pay a visit to Babylon
There is not much left in the legendary and once one of the most powerful centers in the world, Babylon. It is, therefore, important that you visit it and see for yourself what remains of it and what made it such a great deal.
The first time I heard of Babylon was when my History teacher mentioned one of the earliest written codes of law in the history of human civilization, the Code of Hammurabi. However, now I know that there is much more to Babylon than the Code. Ruins which remain include Lion of Babylon, black rock sculpture and the Ishtar Gate. Unfortunately, we are yet to find any evidence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but if they ever existed here, they must have been bewitching.
- Great Mosque of Samarra, Samarra
The Abbasid dynasty was a formidable dynasty to have ruled Iraq and was known for many things. Of what remains of this dynasty, the Great Mosque of Samarra is most notable and which was once the largest mosque in the whole world.
The Great Mosque was once called the Snail Shell Minaret, with a tall tower as the primary centre of attraction. However, over time, the mosque was subjected to natural and man-made destructive forces. In 2005, the famous minaret was significantly destroyed during insurgency. Whatever remains of this Great monument stands as a reminder of why we must protect the relics if we wished to stay connected with our pasts.
- The Ancient City of Erbil
More often than not Babylon takes away footage in the International media, but the city of Erbil deserves recognition as much as any other ancient city. It is one of the oldest areas to have witnessed continuous habitation. It has been a major city for a number of empires which came and vanished in Iraq such as Assyrian empire, Seljuk and Ottoman empires.
Evidently, you can expect to see a lot of monuments and artefacts in its museum which highlight the contribution of the city in the making of Iraqi history. However, what steals the show is the Citadel of Erbil which stands at the heart of the city. The Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is presently the most visited places in the country.
- Lalish Temple, Al-Shikhan
Yazidis are a Kurmanji-speaking ethnic group in Iraq and a couple of other countries which worship a monotheistic religion. The group came to highlight when the ISIL carried out its massacre and caused military intervention of the United States in Iraq. Lalish Temple is the holiest site of these very Yazidis.
Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir was a central figure in the Yazidi religion and who rests in the temple. Yazidis are expected to make a pilgrimage to the temple once in their lifetime. The Temple is one of the oldest sites in the country, with it being as old as 4000 years. Today, not many Yazidis live in the region, as a majority of them have fled the country in fear of persecution.
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