BAGHDAD (بَغْدَاد)

Finally, we arrived in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, located on the Tigris River in the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, around 530 kilometers from the headwaters of the Persian Gulf. The city was founded in 762 as the capital of the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs. For the next 500 years, it was the most important cultural center of Arab and Islamic civilization. It was conquered by the Mongol leader Hülegü in 1258, after which its importance waned. A provincial capital under the Ottoman Empire, Baghdad regained prominence only when it became the capital of Iraq in 1920; over the next half century, the city grew prodigiously and took on all the characteristics of a modern metropolis.

Baghdad was heavily damaged by aerial bombardment during the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) and again by air and ground operations during the Iraq War (2003–11). Moreover, during the interwar period, the city’s services and infrastructure deteriorated severely because of inattention and fiscal constraints resulting from economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations.

Despite the sundry vicissitudes visited on the city in its history, Baghdad has maintained a mystique and allure equaled by a few of the world’s cities. Many Muslims revere it as the seat of the last legitimate caliphate, and others as the cosmopolitan center of the Arab and Islamic worlds when they were at the height of their grandeur. We have parked in a modern, prosperous, sophisticated Al-Manṣūr quarter with walled villas and green gardens. Of course, there are also luxurious shopping malls, excellent restaurants, and sidewalk cafés. It was the most heavily developed section of the city under the Baʿathist regime of Saddam Hussein.

Parking location – Baghdad: 33.310518N 44.353686E (🚻, 💦)