Explore incredible Iraq and Kurdistan
Travel to Iraq, the cradle of civilization. The country proudly bears this honorary title. Former Mesopotamia is in the same historical list as Egypt, Italy, Greece, Mexico and China. Today, the country roughly consists of two main regions: The Autonomous Region of Kurdistan and Arab (Southern) Iraq. After a turbulent time, to say the least, the country is getting ready to move on. And that’s good news, because tourists are also increasingly seen in Iraq. The Kurdish part of Iraq is highly developed and easy to visit. For Southern Iraq you need a visa that is difficult to obtain and you are partly limited in your freedom of movement.
Name: Republic of Iraq
Population: 39 million
Surface area: 435,052 km²
Language: Arabic, Kurdish
Neighbouring countries: Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria
Kurdistan: a state within a state
It is good to realize that you have roughly two travel areas in Iraq. In the Northeast you have Kurdistan. This autonomous region has its own visa (upon arrival at the airport) and also has its own border posts within which you must stay. The area feels very Turkish / Iranian and very safe. Most trips start in Erbil, the largest city in the region. From there you travel to, for example, Lalesh, the sacred place for the Yazedis, the mountainous region of Rawandas, where you can ski in winter, or Sulaymaniyah, the second city of the region, which includes the infamous Amna Suraka museum .
Unique world heritage
Iraq is full of ancient (UNESCO) monuments, buildings and ruins that tell more about the rich history of the country. Some of the places are for example the Minaret of Samarra, the Ctestiphone, the Ziggurat of Ur, the Ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu and of course, the mythical place Babylon. All these places are definitely still worth a visit and it is absurd to realize that you have most places only for yourself.
Karbala & Najaf
Iraq has two very holy cities for Shia Muslims. The cities of Karbala and Najaf receive millions of pilgrims every year, for whom these cities are very special. The most important spots are in Najaf the Imam Ali Shrine and in Karbala the Imam Hussein Shrine. These places are among the most holy places for Shia Muslims. As a non-Muslim you can visit both cities and you will soon be impressed by the intensity of both cities.
Few cities in the world have such an exotic name as Baghdad. However, those who travel to Baghdad today see little of the rich history. Located on the Tigris River, Baghdad is a giant in the Iraqi desert. Baghdad is not only a city for tourist attractions (such as the National Museum), but also a place to get to know the Iraqis and their culture: old tea houses, delicious falafel and monuments reminiscent of Alibaba and the 40 Thieves, the Flying Carpet and the Magic Lamp.
The history of the area now called Iraq dates back to the origins of civilization. Writing was invented here. Literature, science and philosophy have their origins here. The area around the Euphrates and the Tigris was the beginning of Mesopotamia. Iraq is at the basis of important eras in the history of humanity. After the fall of the Neo-Babylonia Empire in the 7th to 3rd centuries BC , Mesopotamia fell under the rule of the Persians and Greeks successively. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region became an Arab region, with Baghdad taking on an increasingly central role.
From the Ottomans via the American occupation to IS
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Iraq came under British rule. The Republic of Iraq was proclaimed in 1958, after which Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979. He ruled the country harshly. Moreover, he brought the country to war with Iran and Kuwait, among others. In 2003 he was chased away by the Americans, who seized power. The country was in chaos and there was little to no federal authority. Groups such as IS took advantage of this by taking over large parts of the country. IS was finally defeated in 2017. Since then, the country seems to be focusing somewhat on the future again.