Baghdad was founded (762) on the west bank of the Tigris by the Abbasid caliph Mansur, who made it his capital. Its commercial position became generally unrivaled and under the caliph Harun ar-Rashid, Baghdad rose to become one of the greatest cities of Islam. It was the home of many eminent scholars, artists, and poets, who enjoyed the city's wealth and culture. The period of its utmost glory is reflected in the Thousand and One Nights, in which many of the tales are set in Baghdad. After the death (809) of Harun the seat of the caliph was moved to Samarra; when the caliphate was returned later in the century, Baghdad had already been weakened by internal struggles.
In 1258 the Mongols sacked the city and destroyed nearly all of its splendor. It revived but was captured again by Timur (1400) and by the Persians (1524). Baghdad was repeatedly contested by Persians and Turks until 1638, when it became part of the Ottoman Empire. By that time the city's population had dwindled from a peak of c.1,000,000 to only a few thousand. Baghdad was captured by the British in 1917, and in 1920 it became the capital of the newly constituted kingdom of Iraq. In the early 1950s the majority of Baghdad's large Jewish population, who were present there since the city's founding, left on organized flights to Israel. The city was the scene of a coup in 1958 that overthrew the monarchy and established the Iraqi republic.
As a result of the growing Iraqi oil industry, Baghdad experienced rapid economic and population growth. With the onset of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), however, Baghdad became a target for Iranian attacks; its economic development stagnated as the oil industry was affected by the war. In Aug., 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait; as a result of coalition force reprisal action, Baghdad suffered heavy air attacks at the start of the Persian Gulf War (1991). A large portion of the city's infrastructure and military industrial capacity was destroyed, and residents lost homes, electrical power, and water services. Great amounts of foreign aid, specifically food and medical supplies, were needed to sustain the population.
In the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2004, Baghdad gradually became a terror battleground as U.S. forces were confronted by Sunni insurgents and Islamists. Sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis also scarred the city, leading to more religiously homogeneous neighborhoods. Although the U.S. "surge" of 2007 led to decreased levels of violence, the sectarian divisions in the city remained pronounced.
See works by F. Stark. See also R. Levy, A Baghdad Chronicle (1929, repr. 78); G. LeStrange, Baghdad During the Abbasid Caliphate (1942, repr. 1983); C. Owles, Salad Days in Baghdad (1986).
City (pop., 2003 est.: metro. area, 5,750,000), capital of Iraq. Located on the Tigris River, the site has been settled from ancient times. It rose to importance after being chosen in AD 762 by Caliph al-Manssubdotūr (r. 754–775) as the capital of the
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Baghdad (بغداد) is the capital of Iraq and of Baghdad Governorate, with which it is also coterminous. With a municipal population estimated at 7,000,000, it is the largest city in Iraq, and the third largest city in the Middle East after Cairo and Tehran.
This city of 23 square miles is located on the Tigris River. The city dates back to at least the 8th century, and probably to pre-Islamic times. Once the center of Dar al-salam, the Muslim world, Baghdad is now important because of the ongoing Iraq War.
Baghdad is a city within Iraq that is near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. On 30 July 762 the caliph Abu Ja'far Al-Mansur founded the city . Mansur believed that Baghdad was the perfect city to be the capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasids. Mansur loved the site so much he is quoted saying, “This is indeed the city that I am to found, where I am to live, and where my descendants will reign afterward". The city's growth was helped by its location, which gave it control over strategic and trading routes (along the Tigris to the sea and east-west from the Middle East to the rest of Asia. Monthly trade fairs were also held in this area. Another reason why Baghdad provided an excellent location was due to the abundance of water and its healthy climate. Water exists on both north and south ends of the city gates, allowing all households to have a plentiful supply, which was very uncommon during this time. Baghdad reached its greatest prosperity during the reign of the caliph Harun al-Rashid in the early 9th century.
Baghdad eclipsed Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian Empire, which was located some 30 km (20 miles) to the southeast, which had been under Muslim control since 637, and which became quickly deserted after the foundation of Baghdad. The site of Babylon, which had been deserted since the 2nd century BC, lies some 90 km (55 miles) to the south.
In its early years the city was known as a deliberate reminder of an expression in the Qu'ran, when it refers to Paradise . Four years before Baghdad's foundation, in 758 Mansur assembled engineers, surveyors, and art constructionists from around the world to come together and draw up plans for the city. Over 100,000 construction workers come to survey the plans; many were distributed salaries to start the building of the grand city. The framework of the city itself is two large semicircles about twelve miles (19 km) in diameter. July was chosen as the starting time because two astronomers, Naubaknt and Mashallah, believed that the city should be built under the sign of the lion, Leo . Leo is significant because he is the element of fire and symbolizes productivity, proudness, and expansion. The bricks used to make the city were 18” on all four sides. Abu Hanifa was the counter of the bricks and he developed a canal, which brought water to the work site for the use of both human consumption and the manufacturing of the bricks. Also, throughout the city marble was used to make the buildings and marble steps led down to the river’s edge. Within the city there were many parks, gardens, villas, and beautiful promenades which gave the city an elegant and classy finish . The city was designed as a circle about 2 km in diameter, leading it to be known as the "Round City". The original design shows a ring of residential and commercial structures along the inside of the city walls, but the final construction added another ring, inside the first. In the center of the city lay the mosque, as well as headquarters for guards. The purpose or use of the remaining space in the center is unknown. The circular design of the city was a direct reflection of the traditional Persian Sasanian urban design. The ancient Sasanian city of Gur/Firouzabad is nearly identical in its general circular design, radiating avenues, and the government buildings and temples at the center of the city.
The four surrounding walls of Baghdad were named Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, and Syria; these names were given to the gates because they granted access to these destinations . The distance between these gates was a little less than a mile and a half. Each gate had double doors that were made of iron, because the doors were so heavy it took several men to open and close them. The wall, itself, was about thick at the base and about thick at the top. Also, the wall was high, which included the merlons, a solid part of an embattled parapet usually pierced by embrasures. This wall was surrounded by another impressive wall that consisted of and was extremely thick. The second wall had towers and rounded merlons, which surrounded the towers. This outer wall was protected by solid glacis, which is made out of bricks and quicklime. Beyond the outer wall was a water filled moat .
In the middle of Baghdad, in the central square was the Golden Gate Palace. The Palace was the residence of the caliph and his family. In the central part of the building was a green dome that was high. On top of this dome was a horseman holding a lamp. This horseman was believed to have magical powers that leaving a mysterious presence to visitors of the caliph. Surrounding the palace was an esplanade, a waterside building, in which only the caliph could come riding on horseback. In addition, the palace was near other mansions and officer’s residences. Near the Gate of Syria a building served as the home for the guards. It was made of brick and marble. The palace governor lived in the latter part of the building and the commander of the guards in the front. In 813, after the death of caliph Amin the palace was no longer used as the home for the caliph and his family . The roundness points to the fact that it was based on Persian precedents such as Firouzabad in Persia. The two designers who were hired by al-Mansur to plan the city's design were Naubakht, a former Persian Zoroastrian who also determined that the date of the foundation of the city would be astrologically auspicious, and Mashallah, a Jew from Khorasan, Iran.
The Abbasid Caliphate was based on them being the descendants of the uncle of Muhammad and being part of the Quraysh tribe. They used Shi’a resentment, Khurasanian movement, and appeals to the ambitions and traditions of the newly conquered Persian aristocracy to overthrow the Umayyads . The Abbasids sought to combine the hegemony of the Arabic tribes with the imperial court ceremonial and administrative structures of the Persians. The Abbasids considered themselves the inheritors of two traditions: the Arabian-Islamic (bearers of the mantle of Muhammad) and the Persian (successors to the Sassanid monarchs). These two things are evident from the construction, which is modeled after Persian structures and the need of Mansur to place the capital in a place that was representative of Arab-Islamic identity by building the House of Wisdom, where ancient texts were translated from their original language, such as Greek, to Arabic. Mansur is responsible for the “Translation Movement” for this. The Persian structures are exemplified in how the city was built: round, which is why it is called the “Round City”. It is also near the ancient Sassanid imperial seat of Ctesiphon on the Tigris River .
By the 10th century, the city's population was between 300,000 and 500,000. Baghdad's early meteoric growth slowed due to troubles within the Caliphate, including relocations of the capital to Samarra (during 808–819 and 836–892), the loss of the western and easternmost provinces, and periods of political domination by the Iranian Buwayhids (945–1055) and Seljuk Turks (1055–1135).
The Seljuks were a clan of the Oghuz Turks from the Siberian steppes that converted to the Sunni branch of Islam. In 1040, they destroyed the Ghaznavids, taking over their land and in 1055, Tughril Beg, the leader of the Seljuks, took over Baghdad. The Seljuks expelled the Buyids dynasty of Shiites that ruled for some time and took over power and control of Baghdad. They ruled as Sultans in the name of the Abbasid caliphs (they saw themselves as being part of the Abbasid regime) Tughril Beg saw himself as the protector of the Abbasid Caliphs . On February 10, 1258, Baghdad was captured by the Mongols led by Hulegu, a grandson of Chingiz Khan during the sack of Baghdad. Many quarters were ruined by fire, siege, or looting. The Mongols massacred most of the city's inhabitants, including the caliph Al-Musta'sim, and destroyed large sections of the city. The canals and dykes forming the city's irrigation system were also destroyed. The sack of Baghdad put an end to the Abbasid Caliphate, a blow from which the Islamic civilization never fully recovered.
At this point Baghdad was ruled by the Il-Khanids, the Mongol emperors of Iran. In 1401, Baghdad was again sacked, by Timur ("Tamerlane"). It became a provincial capital controlled by the Jalayirid (1400–1411), Kara Koyunlu (1411–1469), Ak Koyunlu (1469–1508), and the Iranian Safavid (1508–1534) dynasties.
In 1534, Baghdad was captured by the Ottoman Turks . Under the Ottomans, Baghdad fell into a period of decline, partially as a result of the enmity between its rulers and Persia, which did not accept the Turkish control of the city. Between 1623 and 1638, it was once again in Iranian hands. For a time, Baghdad had been the largest city in the Middle East. The city saw relative revival in the latter part of the 18th century under a Mamluk government. The Nuttall Encyclopedia reports the 1907 population of Baghdad as 185,000.
Baghdad and Southern Iraq were once again brought under Ottoman rule in 1638 and remained so until captured by the British during the First World War in 1917. It became the capital of the kingdom of Iraq under British control in 1921. Iraq was given formal independence in 1932, and increased autonomy in 1946. In July 1958 the Iraqi Army staged a coup under Abdul Karim Kassem. The King Faisal II, and his Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, amongst others, were killed. The city's population grew from an estimated 145,000 in 1900 to 580,000 in 1950 of which 140,000 were Jewish. During the 1970s Baghdad experienced a period of prosperity and growth because of a sharp increase in the price of petroleum, Iraq's main export. New infrastructure including modern sewage, water, and highway facilities were built during this period. However, the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s was a difficult time for the city, as money was diverted to the army and thousands of residents were killed. Iran launched a number of missile attacks against Baghdad, although they caused relatively little damage and few casualties. In 1991 the Gulf War caused damage to Baghdad's transportation, power, and sanitary infrastructure.
Baghdad was bombed very heavily in March and April 2003 in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and fell under US control by April 7-April 9. Additional damage was caused by the severe looting during the days following the end of the war. With the deposition of Saddam Hussein's regime, the city was occupied by U.S. troops. The Coalition Provisional Authority established a three-square-mile (8 km²) "Green Zone" within the heart of the city from which it governed Iraq during the period before the new Iraqi government was established. The Coalition Provisional Authority ceded power to the interim government at the end of June 2004 and thereafter dissolved itself.
On September 23 2003, a Gallup poll indicated that about two-thirds of Baghdad residents said that the removal of Hussein was worth the hardships they encountered, and that they expected a better life in five years. As time passed, however, support for the occupation declined dramatically. By April 2004, USA Today reported that a follow-up Gallup poll in Baghdad indicated that "only 13 percent of the people now say the invasion of Iraq was morally justifiable. In the 2003 poll, more than twice that number saw it as the right thing to do.
Most residents of Baghdad became impatient with the United States because essential services like electricity were still unreliable more than a year after the invasion. In the hot summer of 2004, electricity was only available intermittently in most areas of the city. The lack of security was another pressing concern. The curfew imposed immediately after the invasion was lifted in the winter of 2003, but the city with a once-vibrant night life was still considered too dangerous after dark for many citizens. Those dangers included kidnapping and the risk of being caught in fighting between security forces and insurgents.
On April 10, 2007, the United States military began construction of a three mile (5 km) long, 3.5 metre tall wall around the Sunni district of Baghdad. On April 23, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, called for construction to be halted on the wall.
In 1950, 90 percent of the Baghdad's population were Sunnis Muslims. Now Shi'ite Muslims make up 40 percent of Baghdad's population and most of the rest are Sunni. A sizeable Christian community also has a presence in Baghdad.
The capital is now in the middle of a power struggle with insurgents forcing Shi'ite residents out of some areas in western Baghdad where the Sunni sect is in the majority. After the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, Shi'ite militias retaliated and forced out 26,000 Sunni families from predominantly Shi'ite areas.
Baghdad has a hot arid climate (Koppen climate classification BWh) and is, in terms of maximum temperatures, one of the hottest cities in the world. In the summer from June to August, the average maximum temperature is as high as 44 °C (111 °F) accompanied by blazing sunshine: rainfall is almost completely unknown at this time of year. Temperatures exceeding 50 °C (122 °F) in the shade are by no means unheard of, and even at night temperatures in summer are seldom below 24 °C (75 °F) Though the humidity is very low (usually under 10%) due to Baghdad's distance from the marshy Persian Gulf, dust storms from the deserts to the west are a normal occurrence during the summer.
In the winter, from December to February, by contrast, Baghdad has maximum temperatures averaging 15 to 16 °C (59 to 61 °F). Minima can indeed be very cold: the average January minimum is around 4 °C (39 °F) but temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) are not uncommon during this season.
Annual rainfall, almost entirely confined to the period from November to March, averages around 140 millimetres (5.5 in), but has been as high as 575 millimetres (23 in) and as low as 23 millimetres (~1 in). On January 11th of 2008, light snow fell across Baghdad for the first time in memory, caused by temperatures falling below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
The City of Baghdad has 89 official neighborhoods within 9 districts. These official subdivisions of the city served as administrative centers for the delivery of municipal services but until 2003 had no political function. Beginning in April 2003, the U.S. controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) began the process of creating new functions for these. The process initially focused on the election of neighborhood councils in the official neighborhoods, elected by neighborhood caucuses. CPA convened a series of meetings in each neighborhood to explain local government, to describe the caucus election process and to encourage participants to spread the word and bring friends, relatives and neighbors to subsequent meetings. Each neighborhood process ultimately ended with a final meeting where candidates for the new neighborhood councils identified themselves and asked their neighbors to vote for them. Once all 88 (later increased to 89) neighborhood councils were in place, each neighborhood council elected representatives from among their members to serve on one of the city's nine district councils. The number of neighborhood representatives on a district council is based upon the neighborhood’s population. The next step was to have each of the nine district councils elect representatives from their membership to serve on the 37 member Baghdad City Council. This three tier system of local government connected the people of Baghdad to the central government through their representatives from the neighborhood, through the district, and up to the city council.
The same process was used to provide representative councils for the other communities in Baghdad Province outside of the City itself. There, local councils were elected from 20 neighborhoods (Nahia) and these councils elected representatives from their members to serve on six district councils (Qada). As within the City, the district councils then elected representatives from among their members to serve on the 35 member Baghdad Regional Council.
The final step in the establishment of the system of local government for Baghdad Province was the election of the Baghdad Provincial Council. As before, the representatives to the Provincial Council were elected by their peers from the lower councils in numbers proportional to the population of the districts they represent. The 41 member Provincial Council took office in February, 2004 and served until National elections held in January 2005, when a new Provincial Council was elected.
This system of 127 separate councils may seem overly cumbersome but Baghdad Province is home to approximately seven million people. At the lowest level, the neighborhood councils, each council represents an average of 74,000 people.
The nine District Advisory Councils (DAC) are as follows:
The city comprises of the following smaller neighborhoods which may make up sectors of any of the districts above. The following is a selection of neighborhoods:
Baghdad has always played an important role in Arab cultural life and has been the home of noted writers, musicians and visual artists.
The dialect of Arabic spoken in Baghdad today differs from that of other large urban centers in Iraq, having features more characteristic of nomadic Arabic dialects (Verseegh, The Arabic Language). It is possible that this was caused by the repopulating of the city with rural residents after the multiple sacks of the late Middle Ages.
Some of the important cultural institutions in the city include:
The live theatre scene received a boost during the 1990s when UN sanctions limited the import of foreign films. As many as 30 movie theatres were reported to have been converted to live stages, producing a wide range of comedies and dramatic productions.
Institutions offering cultural education in Baghdad include the Academy of Music, Institute of Fine Arts and the Music and Ballet school Baghdad. Baghdad is also home to a number of museums which housed artifacts and relics of ancient civilizations; many of these were stolen, and the museums looted, during the widespread chaos immediately after U.S. forces entered the city.
During the 2003 occupation of Iraq, AFN Iraq ("Freedom Radio") broadcast news and entertainment within Baghdad, among other locations. There is also a private radio station called "Dijlah" (named after the Arabic word for the Tigris River) that was created in 2004 as Iraq's first independent talk radio station. Radio Dijlah offices, in the Jamia neighborhood of Baghdad, have been attacked on several occasions.
The city has also had a strong tradition of horse racing ever since World War I, known to Baghdadis simply as 'Races'. There are reports of pressures by the Islamists to stop this tradition due to the associated gambling.
Most Iraqi reconstruction efforts have been devoted to the restoration and repair of badly damaged urban infrastructure. More visible efforts at reconstruction through private development, like architect and urban designer Hisham N. Ashkouri's Baghdad Renaissance Plan and Sindbad Hotel Complex and Conference Center. There are also plans to build a giant Ferris wheel akin to the London Eye. Iraq's Tourism Board also is seeking investors to develop a "romantic" island on the Tigris River in Baghdad that was once a popular honeymoon spot for newlywed Iraqis.The project would including a six-star hotel, spa, an 18-hole golf course and a country club. In addition, the go-ahead has been given to build numerous architecturally unique skyscrapers along the Tigris that would devlope the city's financial centre in Kadhehemiah.