Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and the second-largest city in the Arab world after Cairo. Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center of the Muslim world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, including the House of Wisdom, as well as hosting a multiethnic and multireligious environment, garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the «Centre of Learning».
Baghdad is Iraq’s largest city and one of the most populous urban agglomerations of the Middle East. The city was founded in 762 as the capital of the ʿAbbāsid dynasty of caliphs, and for the next 500 years it was the most significant cultural centre of Arab and Islamic civilization and one of the greatest cities of the world. It was conquered by the Mongol leader Hülegü in 1258, after which its importance waned. A provincial capital under the Ottoman Empire, Baghdad regained prominence only when it became the capital of Iraq in 1920; over the next half century, the city grew prodigiously and took on all the characteristics of a modern metropolis.
The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires. With the recognition of Iraq as an independent state in 1932, Baghdad gradually regained some of its former prominence as a significant center of Arabic culture, with a population variously estimated at 6 or over 7 million.In contemporary times, the city has often faced severe infrastructural damage, most recently due to the United States-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent Iraq War that lasted until December 2011. In recent years, the city has been frequently subjected to insurgency attacks. The war had resulted in a substantial loss of cultural heritage and historical artifacts as well.
Data and Facts
- Baghdad covers an area of 254 square miles (658 square kilometers). It is home to approximately 5.4 million people
- The city of Baghdad was established in the A.D. 700's
- In 1258, Baghdad was almost destroyed by invading Mongols
- After the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in World War I (1914–18), Baghdad came under British rule
- The four surrounding walls of Baghdad were named Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, and Syria; named because their gates pointed in the directions of these destinations
Administratively, Baghdad Governorate is divided into districts which are further divided into sub-districts. Municipally, the governorate is divided into 9 municipalities, which have responsibility for local issues. Regional services, however, are coordinated and carried out by a mayor who oversees the municipalities. There is no single city council that singularly governs Baghdad at a municipal level. The governorate council is responsible for the governorate-wide policy.
These official subdivisions of the city served as administrative centres for the delivery of municipal services but until 2003 had no political function. The process initially focused on the election of neighbourhood councils in the official neighbourhoods, elected by neighbourhood caucuses.
The CPA convened a series of meetings in each neighbourhood to explain local government, to describe the caucus election process and to encourage participants to spread the word and bring friends, relatives and neighbours to subsequent meetings. Each neighbourhood process ultimately ended with a final meeting where candidates for the new neighbourhood councils identified themselves and asked their neighbours to vote for them.
Once all 88 neighbourhood councils were in place, each neighbourhood council elected representatives from among their members to serve on one of the city's nine district councils. The number of neighbourhood representatives on a district council is based upon the neighbourhood's population. 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 neighbourhoods and these councils elected representatives from their members to serve on six district councils . As within the city, the district councils then elected representatives from among their members to serve on the 35 member Baghdad Regional Council.
The first 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.
Most of Iraq’s manufacturing, finance, and commerce is concentrated in and around Baghdad. At least half of the country’s large-scale manufacturing and much of its smaller manufacturing is located in the Baghdad governorate. The exception is heavy industry , which is situated near the oil fields in the north and the south . Most economic activities are owned or controlled by the government, which both stimulates and monopolizes the country’s economic activities. The government is the city’s principal employer. Hundreds of thousands of citizens work for the government, directly or indirectly, in the civil service, in government-run educational institutions, and in government-owned industrial and commercial enterprises.
Baghdad accounts for 22.2 per cent of Iraq's population and 40 per cent of the country's gross domestic product . Iraqi Airways, the national airline of Iraq, has its headquarters on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad.Most Iraqi reconstruction efforts have been devoted to the restoration and repair of badly damaged urban infrastructure. A plan was proposed by a GThe Baghdad Eye, a 198 m tall Ferris wheel, was proposed for Baghdad in August 2008. At that time, three possible locations had been identified, but no estimates of cost or completion date were given.In October 2008, it was reported that Al-Zawraa Park was expected to be the site, and a 55 m wheel was installed there in March 2011.Iraq's Tourism Board is also seeking investors to develop a «romantic» island on the River Tigris in Baghdad that was once a popular honeymoon spot for newlywed Iraqis. The project would include 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 develop the city's financial centre in Kadhehemiah.In October 2008, the Baghdad Metro resumed service. It connects the center to the southern neighborhood of Dora.
Despite the growth of modern manufacturing, however, a large portion of Baghdad’s labour force still works in traditional economic activities, such as retail trade, production of handmade consumer goods, auto and mechanical repairs, and personal services.
The main offices of the Central Bank of Iraq , which has the sole right to issue currency, and the commercial Rafidain Bank are in Baghdad. The main offices of the government companies for commerce, trade, and industry are located in Baghdad, as are the branches of foreign companies operating in Iraq. The Baghdad Stock Exchange was opened in 1992.
With literary creation being at the core of the city’s cultural life, the Directorate of Cultural Relations allocates $US150,000 of its annual budget in support of literary events and women and young writers. Such funding enabled Baghdad to organize the first International Conference on Translations and the Nazik al-Malaika Award for women writers. Throughout the year, many poetry festivals, including al-Jawahiri Festival, are hosted in Baghdad with the genre of poetry being one of the leitmotivs in multiple literary events.
Baghdad benefits from state-owned and nongovernmental literary research centres and programmes such as: the Union of Iraqi Writers, the House of Cultural Affairs, the al-Mamoon House for Translation and Publishing, the Iraqi House of Poetry.
Baghdad is the hub of the country’s transportation system. Baghdad’s international airport has served a number of international carriers, including Iraqi Airways ; it was closed throughout the 1990s because of UN sanctions. The major lines of the state-owned railway meet at Baghdad. These connect Baghdad with Basra and Umm Qaṣr near the Persian Gulf, with Karkūk and Arbīl in the northeast, with Mosul in the north, and with Al-Qāʾim near the Syrian border in the northwest.
Within the city, a network of expressways completed in the 1980s relieves traffic congestion and links the city centre with its suburbs. The main means of public transportation are the red double-deck bus and the public taxi.
Beginning in the 1950s, the government greatly expanded public services in Baghdad, providing low-cost housing for poor and middle-income families, as well as electricity, sewage, and medical facilities. As a result, water purification, which was powered by electricity, was difficult to maintain, and rates of infectious disease transmitted through waterborne pathogens increased. The conflict that began in 2003 was also destructive, in part because of the already fragile state of the city’s infrastructure.
Police and fire services have historically been good, although the police force has traditionally been highly politicized. Following the initial phase of the Iraq War, the restoration of order was hampered by the large number of police officials who had been closely tied to the Baʿthist regime and were either unable or unwilling to return to duty.
Baghdad is the centre of higher education in Iraq. The University of Baghdad was established in 1957, although some of its faculties were founded much earlier. There are, in addition, three other institutions of higher learning: Al-Mustanṣiriyyah University , the University of Technology , and Al-Bakr Military Academy. Modern manufacturing began in the 1920s and ’30s, spurred by the Law for the Encouragement of Industry in 1929. Early factory production centred on textiles , food processing, brick making, and cigarettes. Beginning in the 1950s, the government used increased oil revenues to develop manufacturing industries. Subsequently the city produced a wide variety of consumer and industrial goods, including processed foods and beverages, tobacco, textiles, clothes, leather goods, wood products, furniture, paper and printed material, bricks and cement, chemicals, plastics, electrical equipment, and metal and nonmetallic products.
In late 2019 protesters took to the streets of Baghdad and other cities to demonstrate against the lack of economic improvement, government corruption, and foreign interference in domestic affairs. Iraqis were further enraged on December 29 when the United States conducted airstrikes in Iraq against an Iraqi militia with close ties to Iran. Two days later a group of protesters attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
Baghdad's population was estimated at 7.22 million in 2015. The city historically had a predominantly Sunni population, but by the early 21st century around 82% of the city's population were Iraqi Shia. At the beginning of the 21st century, some 1.5 million people migrated to Baghdad, most of them Shiites and a few Sunnis. Sunni Muslims make up 23% of Iraq's population and they are still a majority in west and north Iraq. As early as 2003, about 20 percent of the population of the city was the result of mixed marriages between Shi'ites and Sunnis: they are often referred to as «Sushis».
The Iraqi Civil War following ISIS' invasion in 2014 caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi internally displaced people to flee to the city. The city currently has Sunni, Shia, Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriacs, Armenians and mixed neighborhoods. The city was also home to a large Jewish community and regularly visited by Sikh pilgrims.
A substantial Persian-speaking population departed for Iran in the 1970s and ’80s under pressure from the Baʿthist regime. There are several Eastern-rite Christian communities, notably the Chaldeans and Assyrians. There was once a vigorous and large Jewish community with ancient roots in Mesopotamia; however, ethnic persecution drove most Jews out of the country beginning in the 1950s, and by the end of the century virtually none remained.
Likewise the city once was home to a large community of foreign Arabs, including hundreds of thousands of Egyptians. Many left the country prior to the Persian Gulf War.
Traditionally, people of the same sect, ethnic or tribal group, or craft have lived together in separate quarters or neighbourhoods. Although oil wealth and massive migration from rural areas to the city have resulted in distribution based on socioeconomic stratification, traditional patterns have to a great extent remained, though in somewhat different form. Shiʿi migrants from southern war zones in the 1980s and ’90s settled almost exclusively in the eastern suburb of Saddam City, and Sunni supporters of the ruling regime—many from the region in and around the city of Tikrīt—settled in the Al-Karkh district.
As the city expanded physically, the government offered parcels of land for a minimal fee to various professional associations.