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Baghdad - 3320'N 4423'E

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and the center of air, road, and rail transport in the country. As the leading manufacturing city of Iraq, The city has numerous oil refineries, food-processing plants, tanneries, and textile mills. The city extends along both banks of the Tigris. The east-bank settlement is known as Rusafah, the west-bank as al-Karkh. To the north, urban expansion has absorbed the medieval townships of al-A'zamiyah on the east bank and al-Kazimiyah on the west bank. Baghdad suffered damage from allied bombing during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Baghdad was founded in the 8th century following an Arab victory over a larger Persian army. Baghdad was the seat of the Abbasid caliphate from the 9th to the 13th centuries. During this era, it became the center of Islamic learning and international trade. Modern Iraqis proudly look back to this period as the golden age of Islamic civilization. Baghdad was one of the three seats of provincial Ottoman rule, and was maintained as a Sunni buffer against the Shia Safavid Empire in Iran. With more than 5 million people, Baghdad is the largest and most diverse city in Iraq. It is approximately 70% Shia. It is home to many important religious and cultural sites dating to the Abbasid period, including shrines of great Imams such as Sheik al-Ghailani, who established the Sufi order al-Qadiriya, and Imam al-A'dham, who developed Islamic jurisprudence.

The city of Baghdad was founded in AD762 by Abu Jafar al-Mansur, the second Abbasid caliph, on the west bank of the Tigris River. The capital was surrounded by a circular wall, and became known as the "Round City". Baghdad was at the height of its commercial prosperity during the 8th and 9th centuries AD, and between the 8th and 12th centuries, Baghdad was a flourishing center of Arab civilization. The stories of Scheherazade as told in the Arabian Nights give an idea of life about 800 AD in the court of one of the most famous Abbasid rulers, Caliph Harun ar-Rashid. Baghdad became a famous center of learning in the Middle Ages, and by the tenth century was regarded as the intellectual center of the world. As capital of the caliphate, Baghdad was also to become the cultural capital of the Islamic world.

The Abbasid caliphs' power subsequently weakened, and in 1258, Baghdad was overrun by Mongolian conquerers under Hulagu Khan, who killed the last Caliph, massacred Baghdad's population and destroyed the city and countryside. In 1401 the Mongol leader Tamerlane (Timur the Lame) sacked Baghdad and massacred many of its inhabitants. By the beginning of the 16th century Baghdad's irrigation systen was in dis-repair and the population was reduced to 150,000. Iraq became a land of small kingdoms. The Ottomans maintained Iraq as a Sunni-controlled buffer state.

At the end of World War I, the League of Nations gave Great Britain a mandate to administer Iraq until it established its own government. The British placed a member of the Hashemite family, Faisal ibn Husayn, on the throne as King Faisal I in 1921. Oil reserves in Iraq began to be developed in 1931 under an agreement signed by the Iraqi government and a number of international oil companies. Full independence was achieved in 1932, when the British Mandate was officially terminated. Iraq was a constitutional monarchy until 1958, when a group of army officers overthrew the government. In 1963 the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party, known as the Baath party, seized power.

The oil boom of the 1970s brought wealth to Baghdad, and the city was developed on an impressive scale. The city stretches along both banks of the Tigris, with the district of Rusafah on the east and the district of Karkh on the west. Eleven bridges connect the two halves of the city, with a total population of 5 million people.

There are many significant historical and traditional sites in Baghdad. Tell Harmal, a small mound of antiquity on the outskirts of Baghdad, was ancient Shaduppum, the administrative center of the kingdom of Eshnunna where the first laws (preceding the laws of Hammurabi) were discovered. The same site has yielded tablets showing mathematical and geometrical problems that precede the same Greek developments by centuries. Aqarquf is another fascinating site for its wonderful ziggurat, a tall, terraced ancient Babylonian structure used to protect important buildings from flooding.

By late 2003 there were nine district councils in the city. District council members are selected from the 88 Neighborhood Advisory Councils. The number of neighborhood representatives on the district council is based upon the community's population. The Baghdad City Advisory Council consists of 37 members drawn from the district councils and is also based on the district's population.

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Page last modified: 14-02-2016 20:12:16 ZULU