Welcome to Baghdad!
Baghdad, Iraq, is a remarkable, turbulent, and complicated place to visit. An ancient city, and a center for learning and culture throughout the ages, its glorious past has been overshadowed by a far more bloody modern history. Baghdad’s recovery from the 2003 US-led invasion has been slow and made harder by the rise of jihadist fundamentalist groups, but there are signs that this amazing city has turned a corner. Safety and security should be front and center of any travel plans, but for travelers with a yearning for adventure, there are some remarkable things to discover here.
Far from the regular tourist trail, and requiring immensely careful planning, Baghdad is an amazing destination. A worldwide local will find sights and experiences not available to anyone else with the help of this insider’s guide to the troubled beauty of Baghdad.
Be Safe and Responsible
The visa process to visit Iraq is long and complicated, and once you’ve successfully gone through it, you’ll need a local guide with you at all times. However, journeying around Baghdad itself is a surprisingly unrestricted experience, with locals and soldiers happy to give advice, offer help, and even pose for photos. As an ancient city, and even with its war-torn recent past, there is plenty to see downtown, from bustling Baghdad markets and traditional teahouses to a lively cafe and restaurant culture.
Worldwide Local Tip: While there has been a resurgence in high end, glitzy restaurants located in the Green Zone, the best food in Baghdad is still found in the small, traditional eateries in the old city center. One of the best Baghdad restaurants is Al-Areesha, specializing in grilled chicken but also serving an array of Iraqi specialties, including quzi and fried catfish.
Monuments and More
One of the most striking things about Baghdad is the number and incredible variety of monuments scattered around the city. The Save Iraqi Culture monument is striking and evocative, and there remain several statues and sculptures built during Saddam Hussein’s reign. Many others celebrate the folk tales from 1001 Arabian Nights, such as the Flying Carpet monument and the Magic Lamp monument.
Worldwide Local Tip: A monument to more recent history, the Al-Faw Palace (Water Palace) is an eye-catching sight in a stunning location, near the Tigris River on an artificial lake. Although the interior is usually closed, the views from outside the palace are well worth the trip.
Baghdad’s Remarkable History
Of course, the real beauty of Baghdad is in its rich and remarkably storied history, and despite the recent strife, this is a city which still shines brightly in the right light. The Abbasid Palace in the historic center of the city, built in the 12th or 13th century, is a testament to Iraq’s glorious past, and the Al-Kadhimiya Mosque is one of the most important Shi’ite sites in the country. The National Museum is an imposing building, and once housed an incredibly impressive collection exploring the Mesopotamian culture. Many artifacts were looted during the 2003 conflict, but visiting this museum is still one of the most fascinating things to do in Baghdad.
Worldwide Local Tip: One of the most interesting buildings in the city is the grand Olympic Gymnasium, designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. A relic of King Faisal II’s failed Olympic bid in 1957, this was only completed in 1982, and its survival gives hope to the small but vocal Iraqi preservation movement.
Enjoy Your Stay!
From the dry heat of Baghdad’s weather to the turbulence of its politics, this city is not an easy destination for travelers, and a visit should not be undertaken lightly. However, with careful planning and a worldwide local perspective, this ancient city will provide a unique, exciting, unforgettable trip, and something few others will ever experience!