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jorgesanchez Baghdad - A travel report by jorge
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Baghdad,  Iraq - flag Iraq -  Baghdåd
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

The fairy-tale city of Harun al-Rashid

  29 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4
I was lucky enough to visit Iraq during the year 2003, for two weeks, before the last social cancer manifestation called war. Apart from local tribes in several so called “third world countries”, I never met people so friendly and helpful like the Iraqis.

Fragment of a stone relief representing King of Assyria Assurnasirpal II
Fragment of a stone relief representing King of Assyria Assurnasirpal II
Iraq, like North Korea, Afghanistan and Bhutan, is a very hard country to visit today. In Amman, Jordan, I met four individual Spanish travellers. The Iraqi embassy in Madrid imposed us the conditions to travel in a group of a minimum of five persons to this country under the supervision of an official travel agency in Baghdad. It was one of the very rare times that I was compelled to join a tourist group during my travels. In the border with Iraq we were invited to produce a test of AIDS test in situ. If you did not agree with this condition you were not accepted into the country. After this prerequisite we were introduced to our tour leader, driver, and headed to Baghdad at 120 kilometres per hour through a paved road in very good conditions stopping twice for drinking tea and eating the unavoidable shish kebabs. Baghdad appeared stunning and radiant. Its mosques, like the celebrated Kazimayn, were of highly aesthetic and exquisite forms decorated with colourful and harmonious tiles representing geometrical shapes, reminding me those of Isfahan, Baku, Kabul, Bukhara and Samarkand that I had visited in the past. The archaeological museum was like the Ali Baba cave, and the central market, with its covered winding lanes like a labyrinth, was almost as exotic and rich like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Finding your way around the many stalls where the polite sellers offered you tea all the times, you would have not been surprised if somebody would have offered you the enchanted lamp of Aladdin, or a flying carpet, or meeting Mullah Nasrudin with his donkey around the corner.

Favourite spots:
Before Husayn Ibn Ali vault in Karbala
Before Husayn Ibn Ali vault in Karbala
KARBALA Karbala, at about 100 kilometres distance south from Baghdad, is a very holy place for the Shia Muslims. During the VII century there was martyred Hussayn, the Prophet Mohammed grandson, during a massacre of Shia faithful people. In order to enter this mosque I had to be very respectful, observing all the Muslim rules. First I took my shoes off, put them in a plastic bag and give them to a porter to hide in an armchair in the mosque premises, as everybody does. The religious feelings inside were as powerful as the Christians in Vatican, Lourdes or Fatima, or the Jews in Jerusalem, or the Hindus during their Kumbha Mela’s, or the Buddhists in the Potala Palace. Under a startling and contagious atmosphere people cried desperately and, weeping, they caressed with tenderness the Husayn vault exteriorizing infinite pain and introducing notes through its slots.

What's really great:
I climbed to this mosque in form of ziggurat in Samarra
I climbed to this mosque in form of ziggurat in Samarra
BABYLONIA One of the day visits that we made based in Baghdad was to Babylonia. We entered the site through the Ishtar Gate, which was part of the temple devoted to Bel, built by Nabucodonosor II. But the present gate was a reproduction. The original (restored) is to be found in the Staatliche Museum, in Berlin, Germany. The atmosphere inside Babylonia premises is breathtaking. When you walk among its ruins and walls you feel that you are in fabulous city that in the past was the capital of the world. Babylonia is located 90 kilometres south of Baghdad.

Sorry for featuring myself spoiling the picture, but is the only one that I have
Sorry for featuring myself spoiling the picture, but is the only one that I have
Every day was a new discovery in Iraq. Every day was better than the previous one. Sometimes we felt that we were learning more history than a student in a University. Our programme was full with cultural activities: one day in Nineveh, another in Najaf to see the tomb of Ali, in the next one I visited in Ur the house where lived Abraham, and still another one we went to the Temple and Palace of Hatra, which was a caravanserai stop in the Silk Road.
But the best was the three days excursion that we did to the north, to Mosul, where live the Kurds. There, we entered in Nestorian Churches and also in a temple of the Yezidis, or followers of a fallen angel that they call Meleke Tawus, and believe in the reincarnation.

I prepare my dinner
I prepare my dinner
Everything was included in this tour, hotels, restaurants, transport, excursions, tickets to the museums, car with driver and guide, etc. Individual tourism is, today, not viable.

Other recommendations:
Many good travellers that I have met in the past have the taboo of never travelling back to a place where they had already been. If you return, they assured me, you ruin the first feeling, and second parts are never good. I thought that this argument was nonsense. But after what has happened to Iraq in the present times, I do not think that I will ever revisit this fascinating country. It would be too sad.

Published on Friday July 8th, 2005

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Sat, Jan 10 2009 - 05:23 PM rating by hieronyma

Iraq is the place I would like to go, especially to visit the gardens, but ... Your report made envious. All the beauties you have seen, all the history you learnt ... I like the way you write, writing seems so easy for you.

Tue, Nov 13 2007 - 02:04 PM rating by zrusseff

Thanks for the report - might be all we have left after the country is all bombed away. Hopefully Iran will be spared.

Sun, Mar 26 2006 - 07:25 AM rating by st.vincent

Let us hope that in not too many more years visitors will be allowed a similar experience to yours.

Sun, Jan 15 2006 - 10:42 AM rating by frenchfrog

Wow! It s sound really exiting, what a shame this country is at war. iraq as got a great potential to earn money from tourism. I love the picture of the Mosque in Samara. You must feel desapointed that these lovelly spots might be destroyed by war, or now no tourists will lucky enought as you were to see these beautifull country. Well written report. well done

Fri, Sep 09 2005 - 02:46 AM rating by horourke

I love your description of war as a social cancer

Sun, Aug 21 2005 - 01:09 AM rating by gwynspekes

A great insight into a country that will never be the same. Gwyn

Mon, Jul 11 2005 - 05:24 PM rating by magsalex

So very fortunate to visit this place before all the destruction and misery that we see now.

Sat, Jul 09 2005 - 11:08 AM rating by davidx

Tengo los mismos sentimientos sobre Zimbabwe y no he escrito nunca sobre eso pais.
A terrific experience and a terrific report.

Sat, Jul 09 2005 - 02:54 AM rating by mkrkiran

Great report.

Sat, Jul 09 2005 - 02:15 AM rating by kandath

Super report again !! You are making this a habbit of yours now, are'nt you? Well done Jorge,
Kris Kandath

Fri, Jul 08 2005 - 10:52 PM rating by gloriajames

Thanks for showing another light on this country. Fantastic report, as ever ;) 5*

Fri, Jul 08 2005 - 08:15 PM rating by rangutan

Well done! A well expressed title and also emotional departure. I add that: as hostile as any nation might seem, there is 90% (nine of ten fingers) of goodwill amoungst all and every nations people, sad only for the others, hope for change (everywhere)...

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