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Baghdad

BAGHDAD

The largest city and capital of Iraq.



Baghdad is the largest city in Iraq and is situated on both sides of the Tigris River at a point 40 miles from the Euphrates River. The city is approximately 300 miles from the northern, southern, and western borders of the country. It has a temperature range of 29°F (-1.6°C) to 31°F (-0.5°C) in the winter and 114°F (45.5°C) to 121°F (49°C) in the summer. The name and the site of Baghdad are pre-Islamic. The etymology of the name is not clear. It is not of Arabic origin; it may be a combination of two Persian words, bad and dad, which together mean gift of God. Others suggest that the name existed before the time of Hammurabi as the name Baghdadu. Records of Baghdad's early history before Islam are sketchy. There are some indications that in the late period of the Sassanids and at the time of the Islamic conquest of Iraq, Baghdad was a small village next to major cities such as Ctesiphone of Sassanide.

Early History

Baghdad was founded on the west bank of the Tigris by al-Mansur, the second caliph of the Abbasid Empire, in 762 c.e. It was to be the administrative capital of the new empire. The construction of Baghdad was completed in 766 c.e. It cost more than 883,000 dirhams to build, and employed more that 100,000 architects, craftsmen, and workers drawn from all over the Muslim world. It was built in a circular form, in the Parthian Sassanid tradition. It had three concentric walls with four gates opening toward Basra, Syria, Kufah, and Khorasan. It was surrounded by a deep moat and had four highways radiating out from the four gates. Unlike the Greek, Roman, and Sassanid emperors, who named cities after themselves, al-Mansur chose the name Dar alSalam, abode of peace, a name alluding to paradise. Furthermore, he did not object to the use of the ancient city name of Baghdad. The city later gained many more appellations, including al-Mudawara, meaning round city, because of its circular form, and al-Zawarh, meaning the winding city, because of its location on the winding banks of the Tigris.

The site for the city was chosen because of its strategic location in the middle of Mesopotamia. It was a meeting place for caravan routes on the road to Khorasan. It had a system of canals that provided water for cultivation and could be used as ramparts for the city. It also had an adequate water supply for the people of the city and provided an environment more or less free of malaria. The city was first built as an administrative center, but it grew into a veritable cosmopolis of the medieval world. It became a conglomerate of districts on both banks of the Tigris that gained fame and importance socially, economically, and culturally. Baghdad reached its Golden Age during the fourth and sixth reigns of Harun al-Rashid (786809 c.e.) and his son alMaʾmun (813833 c.e.). In the ninth century, Baghdad, with a population of 300,000 to 500,000, was larger than any other Middle East city except Istanbul. The population included Arabs and non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims who had come to Baghdad to work, to trade, and to study. Baghdad became an international trade center for textiles, leather, paper, and other goods from areas that ranged from the Baltic to China. Baghdad also became a center for scientific and intellectual achievements. The famous Bayt al-Hikma Academy, established in 830 c.e., had facilities for the translation of scientific and philosophical works from Greek, Aramaic, and Persian into Arabic.

Baghdad lost its splendor with the decline of the Abbassid Caliphate due to religious, ethnic, and regional strife. In 1258 c.e. Hülegü Khan, the grandson of Chinggiz Khan (Jengis Khan), sacked Baghdad. He burned the schools and the libraries, destroyed the mosques and the palaces, and ruined the elaborate system of canals that made it possible to support agricultural production for a large population. The fall of Baghdad at the hands of Hülegü, and the subsequent destruction of Baghdad by Timur Lenk (Tamarlane) in 1401, were turning points in the history of the city, and the city never recovered. Successive Persian and Turkish dynasties controlled Baghdad. It was captured by Shah Ismaʿil of Persia in 1501 and later by the Ottomans under Süleiman the Magnificent in 1556. The city remained under Ottoman rule until the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, except for a short period of Persian Safavid control in the seventeenth century (16231638). During the Ottoman's period, Baghdad lost its importance as a center for trade and learning. The heart of Islam had shifted to Istanbul, and Baghdad sank to the level of a decaying provincial town with doubtful authority, even over the neighboring country districts. Furthermore, a succession of plagues, famines, floods, and other disasters besieged Baghdad, destroying thousands of houses and killing thousands of people. The population was reduced, according to one report in the sixteenth century, to less than 50,000 people.

In the nineteenth century, Baghdad began to receive some attention from both the Ottoman rulers and Western powers. Two Ottoman governors, Daʾud Paşa (18161832) and Midhat Pasşa (18691872), made some serious attempts to improve the conditions of the city. Daʾud tried to control the tribes and to restore order and security. He cleaned up the irrigation canals, established textile and arms factories, and encouraged local industries. He built three large mosques and founded madrasas (schools). He organized an army of 20,000 soldiers and had them trained by a French officer. Midhat Pasha laid telegraph lines, built a horse tramway to Kasimayn, and built several schools. He introduced a Turkish steamboat line between Baghdad and Basra. Western powers, particularly Britain, showed some interest in Baghdad for commercial reasons and as a land route to India. Britain established a consulate in Baghdad in 1802, and France followed soon after. Western countries introduced steam navigation on the Tigris in 1836 and telegraph lines in 1860s.

Twentieth Century

Late in the nineteenth century, Baghdad was chosen to be the terminal railroad station for the line that ran between Istanbul and Baghdad (later extended to Basra). In 1917 Baghdad was occupied by the British. In 1921 Baghdad became the capital of the new country of Iraq. Since 1921, Baghdad has grown by leaps and bounds both in size and in population. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Baghdad covered an area of less than 4 square miles that was surrounded by dikes in several directions to protect it from the unpredictable flooding of the Tigris. These dikes limited Baghdad's outward expansion, but thanks to flood-control projects in the 1950s, Baghdad's area increased from less than 30 square miles in 1950 to 312 square miles in 1965, and from 375 square miles in 1977 to more than 780 square miles in 1990. Modern Baghdad incorporates many of the surrounding areas and numerous suburbs.

The city's population increased from 200,000 in 1921 to 515,000, in 1947 and from 1,490,000 in 1965 to about five million in 1990. The huge increase was due in part to natural increases in population, but also to the large number of immigrants, particularly those from southern Iraq who had been driven north by the desperate economic conditions present in the south and by the lure of better employment opportunities. Baghdad was the headquarters of most government agencies, the center for most industrial establishments and economic activities, and the home to major educational facilities. It was also a center for health and social services, as well as a major site for recreational activities. The IranIraq War (19801982) and the Gulf War of 1991 contributed to Baghdad's population as thousands of people fled the war zone searching for safety. Many of the early southern immigrants lived in temporary sharaif (mud houses) on the northern edge of the city.

In the early 1960s the regime of Abd al-Karim Qasim built numerous housing projects to improve the living conditions of these immigrants. Also, the area was renamed al-Thawra (Revolution) City, commemorating the revolution of 1958. This, in turn, attracted more immigrants. By the early twenty-first century, the city was home to more than one-third of Baghdad's population and was informally known as Saddam City.




In 1980 the Iraqi government spent more than $7 billion to give Baghdad a facelift in preparation for hosting the Non-Aligned conference in 1982. The conference did not convene in Baghdad due to the IranIraq War. The government constructed new freeways and wider streets across the city, opened several five-star hotels and a plethora of modern shopping centers and high rises, and built several new bridges. The government adorned the city with historical and modern monuments, as well as pictures and posters of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Names of some of the districts were changed to commemorate famous people and places in Islamic Arabic history and the contemporary Arab world; examples are Khalid ibn al-Walid, Tariq Ibn Ziyad, and Palestine.

Modern Baghdad, as in the past, is divided into two parts by the Tigris River; the eastern part is called al-Risafa and the western part is called alKarkh. Al-Risafa is more historic and contains many of the historical monuments, popular markets, and al-Thawra City. Al-Karkh is more modern, with wealthy districts such as al-Mansur and alYarmuk, modern hotels, the international airport, government buildings, and many palaces housing high-ranking government officials.

Baghdad is the burial place of several important religious people, among them the seventh and ninth Shiʿite Imam, in the Kasimayn district; Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, the great Muslim Sunni Sufi, in the Bab al-Shaykh district; Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanafi School of Law in the Sunni tradition, in the Asamiyad district. It also is the site of the tomb of the famous Sufi Maʿruf al-Karkhi, who died in 815 c.e. Baghdad and its environs are home to a number of Jewish shrines, notably the reputed tomb of Joshua and those of Ezra and Ezekiel. Baghdad has several other historical sites, including the Arch of Ctesiphion, the Mustassriya School, the Abbasid Palace, and the Jami al-Khulafa and Mirjan mosques.

In the 1990s, and until it fell to the invading U.S. military forces on 9 April 2003, Baghdad suffered like the rest of the country from the sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations in the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War. The United States and the Allied Forces bombed Iraq, including Baghdad, relentlessly for forty-three days in the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991. The bombing, in the words of a United Nations report, pushed Iraq into a preindustrial age. The Iraqi government repaired and restored some of the destroyed and damaged facilities, but it was unable to restore them to prewar levels due to the sanctions that limited Iraq's ability to sell its oil and import spare parts. Electricity, clean water, medicine, and food were in short supply, and many children, women, and elderly people died. United Nations documents reported that more than one million Iraqis (including Baghdadis) died as a result of the sanctions.

On 9 April 2003 Baghdad surrendered to the U.S. armed forces, and Iraq was occupied. During the invasion, Baghdad was relentlessly attacked by the U.S. forces, which bombed Baghdad on a daily basis for three weeks, destroying many major government buildings with one notable exception, the ministry of oil. Extensive looting and some burning took place in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, which lasted for more than a week. The looting took place in front of the occupying American forces, which did not intervene until later. Baghdad suffered from shortages in electricity, clean water, and other essential supplies. The city also lacked security and became a major center for the resistance against the occupying U.S. forces. The residents of al-Thawra or Saddam City decided to change the name of their city to Sadr City to commemorate Ayatullah Sadiq al-Sadr, a leading Shiʿite cleric who was killed in southern Iraq presumably by government assassins in January of 1999.

see also daʾud pasha; gulf war (1991); hussein, saddam; iraq; iraniraq war (19801988); midhat paŞa; war in iraq (2003).


Bibliography

Ellis, William. "The New Face of Baghdad." National Geographic 167, no. 1 (1985): 80109.

Hitti, Philip K. Capital Cities of Arab Islam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1973.

Mackey, Sandra. The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.

Marr, Phebe. The Modern History of Iraq, 2d edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

Ayad Al-Qazzaz

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Baghdad

Baghdad or Bagdad (both: băg´dăd, bägdäd´), city (1987 pop. 3,841,268), capital of Iraq, central Iraq, on both banks of the Tigris River. The city's principal economic activity is oil refining. Most of Iraq's other industries are in Baghdad, such as the making of carpets, leather, textiles, cement, and tobacco products and the distilling of arrack, a liquor. Military industries are also located there. Baghdad has several museums, numerous archaeological sites, and three universities, the largest of which is the Univ. of Baghdad (1958).

Baghdad was founded (762) on the west bank of the Tigris by the Abbasid caliph Mansur, who made it his capital. Its commercial position became generally unrivaled and under the caliph Harun ar-Rashid, Baghdad rose to become one of the greatest cities of Islam. It was the home of many eminent scholars, artists, and poets, who enjoyed the city's wealth and culture. The period of its utmost glory is reflected in the Thousand and One Nights, in which many of the tales are set in Baghdad. After the death (809) of Harun the seat of the caliph was moved to Samarra; when the caliphate was returned later in the century, Baghdad had already been weakened by internal struggles.

In 1258 the Mongols sacked the city and destroyed nearly all of its splendor. It revived but was captured again by Timur (1400) and by the Persians (1524). Baghdad was repeatedly contested by Persians and Turks until 1638, when it became part of the Ottoman Empire. By that time the city's population had dwindled from a peak of c.1,000,000 to only a few thousand. Baghdad was captured by the British in 1917, and in 1920 it became the capital of the newly constituted kingdom of Iraq. In the early 1950s the majority of Baghdad's large Jewish population, who were present there since the city's founding, left on organized flights to Israel. The city was the scene of a coup in 1958 that overthrew the monarchy and established the Iraqi republic.

As a result of the growing Iraqi oil industry, Baghdad experienced rapid economic and population growth. With the onset of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), however, Baghdad became a target for Iranian attacks; its economic development stagnated as the oil industry was affected by the war. In Aug., 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait; as a result of coalition force reprisal action, Baghdad suffered heavy air attacks at the start of the Persian Gulf War (1991). A large portion of the city's infrastructure and military industrial capacity was destroyed, and residents lost homes, electrical power, and water services. Great amounts of foreign aid, specifically food and medical supplies, were needed to sustain the population.

In the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2004, Baghdad gradually became a terror battleground as U.S. forces were confronted by Sunni insurgents and Islamists. Sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis also scarred the city, leading to more religiously homogeneous neighborhoods. Although the U.S. "surge" of 2007 led to decreased levels of violence, the sectarian divisions in the city remained pronounced.

See works by F. Stark. See also R. Levy, A Baghdad Chronicle (1929, repr. 78); G. LeStrange, Baghdad During the Abbasid Caliphate (1942, repr. 1983); C. Owles, Salad Days in Baghdad (1986).

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Baghdad

Baghdad Capital of Iraq, on the River Tigris. Established in 762 as capital of the Abbasid caliphate, it became a centre of Islamic civilization and focus of caravan routes between Asia and Europe. It was almost destroyed by the Mongols in 1258. In 1921 Baghdad became the capital of newly independent Iraq. It was badly damaged during the Gulf War (1991). Notable sites include the 13th-century Abbasid Palace. Industries: building materials, textiles, tanning, bookbinding. Pop. (1997 est.) 4,832,477.

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Baghdad

Baghdad the capital of modern-day Iraq, on the River Tigris, which was a thriving city under the Abbasid caliphs, notably Harun of Chancery, in the 8th and 9th centuries.

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Baghdad

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