Capital | Baghdad
Population | 30,399,572 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 437,072 SQ KM
Official Language | Arabic, Kurdish
Holidays | Republic Day, July 14 (1958); note - the Government of Iraq has yet to declare an official national holiday but still observes Republic Day
Currency | Dinar (IQD)
Time Zone | UTC +3
Best Time to Visit | April to September depending on the political state or play and your tolerance to 35˚C- plus days.
Connecting with the Culture | Visiting the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one the Seven Wonders of the World and Iraq’s most famous ancient site. Winding along mountain roads through dramatic scenery, pleasant towns, orchards and waterfalls in the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Experiencing the extreme and shimmering heat of the Anabar and Al Hajara Deserts. Exploring a lively bazaar with people selling colourful rugs, jewellery and copperware. Taking a boat ride down the Euphrates River.
Read | The New Iraq: Rebuilding the Country for Its People, the Middle East, and the World by Joseph Braude, a forward-looking and positive account of the country post Saddam; or for a glimpse of the old Iraq, seek out a translation of the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest works of literature.
Listen | to Irazi-born Kazem El-Saher singer ‘love poetry’ on his album Abhathu Anki.
Watch | National Geographic- 21Days to Baghdad, an insider’s look at Operation Iraqi Freedom; the eerie prologue of horror flick The Exorcist, filmed in Northern Iraq; and Three Kings, starring George Clooney and set in post- Desert Storm Iraq.
Eat | masgouf, a traditional dish made from Tigris River fish.
Drink | sweet, strong black tea; soft drinks made from rose petals or orange blossom.
In a Word | salām ‘alaykum (peace be upon you)
Characteristics | One of the world’s most high-profile troubled spots; oil interests; arid desert; mosques; long-suffering people; marshes; dust storms.
Surprises | The garden of Eden is said to have been located in Iraq; the country is a breeding centre for Arabian horses.
NEWS ABOUT IRAQ:
Iraq and Iran Make Friends
(HN, 4/23/12) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that if Iran & Iraq stay “powerful & esteemed” there will be no place for enemies of the world’s nations. He made the remarks in a meeting with Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran on Sunday. He called Tehran-Baghdad ties "exemplary" & said that there is no obstacle in the path of "consolidating relations between the 2 countries at regional & international levels". The 2 leaders emphasized the need to accelerate previous agreements between them & said that Iran & Iraq should take measures necessary to promote cooperation based on principles of peace, stability & common interests saying the Tehran-Baghdad political relationship is "close" but they should cement ties in "all areas". Al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has received support from Iran, a regional Shiite powerhouse. Iraq will host the next round of nuclear talks between Iran & the 6 world powers in Baghdad May 23. (Read more at Al-Arabiya)
The Donkey's Are Coming
(HN, 4/12/12) - A political party in Iraq’s Kurdistan region called the Donkeys’ Party has unveiled a statue of its 4-legged namesake on Nali street in central Sulaimaniyah. The bronze statue shows the head & shoulders of a donkey dressed in a suit, collared shirt & tie. It took famous Kurdish sculptor Zerak Mira 7 months to create & cost $4,000. Donkeys’ Party secretary-general Omar Kalol said he hopes the statue will encourage people in Kurdistan to treat animals better, especially donkeys. “The donkey played a very distinguished role in the Kurdish armed liberation movement & it was the only friend of the Kurdish fighters in the mountains during the struggle” he said, referring to decades-long guerrilla war in northern Iraq & Iran. The Donkeys’ Party was founded & officially authorized in 2005. (Read more here at Khaleej Times)
Arab summit in Iraq discusses Annan's Syria plan
(HN, 3/22/12) - Arab leaders meeting in Iraq's, capital Baghdad were expected to endorse the 6-point proposal from UN-Arab League envoy Annan, which seeks a ceasefire & political dialogue in what Iraq called a "last chance" for Syria. The plan urges an end to violence but does not demand President Bashar al-Assad step down, & the Arab League has said it would not accept any foreign intervention in Syria. Annan's proposal calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, humanitarian assistance, the release of prisoners & free movement & access for journalists. Arab states appeared to soften their initial proposal demanding that Assad step down after Russia & China vetoed UN draft resolutions condemning him. Kofi Annan's proposal is the latest attempt to broker an end to more than a year of violence in Syria after Assad sent troops into cities to try to crush rebels seeking to end his 12-year rule. Sunni powers Saudi Arabia & Qatar have led the push to isolate Syria, but other non-Gulf Arab states such as Algeria, Egypt & Iraq's Shi'ite-led government urge more caution, fearing that toppling Assad could spark sectarian violence. (Read more at WorldBulletin)
Scores of dead in string of Iraq blasts
(HN, 3/15/12) - A wave of car bombings and roadside blasts across several cities in Iraq have killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 180 people, police and hospital sources say. One of the deadliest attacks targeted the city of Karbala, where at least 13 people were killed. In the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb exploded near a police headquarters, killing 13 and wounding 30. (READ MORE from AlJazeera)
Wave of militant attacks in 12 Iraqi cities kill dozens
(HN, 2/20/12) - A rapid series of attacks spread over a wide swath of Iraqi territory killed at least 50 people on Thursday, targeting mostly security forces in what appeared to be a vicious strike by al-Qaida militants bent on destabilizing the country. (READ MORE from CTV)