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Najaf

Wadi al-Salam Cemetery

Shiites from all over the world, not only Iraqis or Iranians, but Shiites from Pakistan, India, Bahrain, all over the world go to Najaf and they ask to be buried in Najaf close to that mosque. And historically and religiously it's a very important city and mosque for Shiite Muslims. Shiites aspire to bury their dead in its cemetery, which stretches for miles. To the north and east of the town there are acres of graves and myriads of domes of various colors and at various stages of disrepair. The cemetery of Al-Najaf is one of the largest cemeteries in the world. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing in Najaf is the graveyard. Millions of Muslims over the centuries have been brought here for burial from all parts of the world of Islam. So Najaf is embraced by a vast semi-circle of graves- by an immense City of the Dead.

The Wadi al-Salam [Valley of Peace] cemetery is believed to be either the largest or the second largest cemetery in the world. It is the holiest and most highly sought-after burial place among Shiites. There are acres of graves and myriads of domes of various colours and at various stages of disrepair to the North and East of the town. Corpses are brought from across Iraq, Iran and elsewhere in the Shiite world to lie close to Imam Ali, the cousin of Muhammad and his successor, whose remains are enshrined in a gold-domed mosque. The trade involving transporting dead bodies from far off areas of Shi'a dead has been operating for centuries. Saddam had curtailed the "corpse traffic" from Iran after the war started in 1980, but after his fall it resumed, reviving the local economy with a profitable "corpse traffic" of at least a 100 funerals a day. The corpse traffic is organized and regulated by the Customs and Health Departments -- Customs collects duty on the corpses and Health keeps watch to prevent epidemics.




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