Everything you need to know about Iraq, including geography, history and popular recipes to make.
Please note, this article is written at a very high level. There are many nuances and details to Iraq’s history and current situation that are not described in detail in this article.
- Iraq developed the first writing system that we know of called Cuneiform in which symbols were scratched into wet clay. The clay was then baked to solidify the writing.
- It is believed that Noah built his ark in Iraq
- Iraq was home to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
- In 2021, Iraq was the fifth least peaceful country in the world.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh is an Epic poem from Ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) written between 2150 and 1400 BCE
The flag of Iraq is made up of 3 horizontal stripes in red, white and black. There is a green inscription on the flag that reads Allāhu akbar, which means “God is Great”.
The red stands for the willingness to shed blood for the country, and the green symbolizes the country’s fertile fields. The black represents the battles the country has fought, and the white represents the purity of their motives.
Iraq is located in the Middle East and is bordered by 6 other countries: Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. The capital of the country is Baghdad.
The country is divided into 19 different regions geographically. Ethno Linguistically, many Shias live in the South, many Sunnis live in the middle, and many Kurds live in the north. There is a region in the north called Iraqi Kurdistan that is an autonomous zone where many of the Kurds live.
The terms “Mesopotamia” and “The Fertile Crescent” have historically referred to an area of Iraq outlined by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. About 75% of the country’s population resides in this region.
Iraq only gets about 9.4 inches of rain per year, making it a very dry country. This leads to dust storms caused by the Shamal (North Wind). The mountain region does get a decent amount of snow! The fertile valley gives the country an opportunity to farm crops like rice, dates, lentils, etc.
Iraq has a population of 40 million people. 75% of the population are Arabs, 15% are Kurds, and the rest are made up of various people groups. The majority of the population are Shia Muslims (65%) with Sunnis making up 25% of the population.
Most of the money from Iraq’s exports come from oil and petroleum. It is the 3rd largest oil reserve in the Middle East.
Some of the earliest civilizations in the entire world come from what is now Iraq. Sumer is a civilization that rose in the 5th century BCE. They practiced agriculture and architecture and were the civilization that invented the wheel.
Eventually Sumer was conquered by the Akkadians, who adopted a lot of Sumer’s customs. The Akkadian Empire reached its peak in the 2200s BCE. The Old Assyrian Empire in the north began in 2025 BCE and lasted until the battle of Nineveh in 612 BCE. The Old Babylonian Empire in the South began in 1894 BCE. The Babylonians held great power and wonder (including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon!) until the 6th century BCE when they were defeated and absorbed into the Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great.
The next several hundred years showed a period of much change in Iraq. The land was conquered first by Alexander the Great of Greece, then by the Parthian Empire, the Roman Empire under Trajan, and the Persians. The Islamic Empire began ruling in the 7th century and continued all the way until the 1500s. In 1534, Suleiman the Magnificent captured Baghdad, and the rule of the Ottoman Empire lasted in Iraq through World War I.
After World War I, the British took control of Iraq. In 1932 Iraq became an independent country that was ruled by a constitutional monarchy. On July 14, 1958, the monarchy was officially overthrown and Iraq was declared a Republic.
The next decades showed Iraq under the rule of many dictators. One of these, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, was in office from 1968 to 1979. Under his rule the country began flourishing, including oil sales spiking and living conditions improving.
In 1979, Saddam Hussein officially replaced al-Bakr. The Iran-Iraq war began in 1980 and lasted until 1988. Shortly after, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and took control. This angered much of the international community, and the United States led a coalition of forces against Iraq in the Gulf War (1990-1991) which resulted in Operation Desert Storm.
In 2003, the US (falsely) believed that Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction and invaded Iraq. They removed Saddam Hussein from power. The Iraq War lasted from 2003 – 2011. During and after the war, notable terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS formed. In 2006, Saddam Hussein was executed for his crimes against humanity.
Iraqis like to eat vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, okra, potatoes, leeks, peppers, and more. For grains, rice, bulghur wheat, and barley are popular.
Fruits that are commonly enjoyed include dates, raisins, apricots, figs, grapes, oranges, etc. Lamb is a popular protein, but so are beef, goat and fish. Many dishes are also paired with yogurt and nuts for delicious and flavorful combinations.
The national dish of the country is Masgouf, which is seasoned and grilled carp.