Baghdad (Arabic: بـغداد Baġdād) is the capital of Iraq.
Once one of the greatest centres of learning and culture in the Islamic world, Baghdad has a long and illustrious history. Once a favoured destination on the 'hippie trail' and packed full of sights, since the coalition invasion of 2003, Baghdad has since become one of the most dangerous cities on earth.
Travel to Baghdad is emphatically not recommended at the present time (2015), owing to wartime instability and security concerns. Westerners are particular targets of kidnapping and assassination by militant and extremist groups.
All flights land at the Baghdad International Airport (previously Saddam international airport) , situated about 12 kilometres to the west of the city centre. Baghdad is well connected to cities in the Middle East such as Abu Dhabi, Amman, Beirut, Istanbul and Tehran. The national carrier Iraqi Airways offers regular flights from most major European capitals as well as a few Asian cities. There are currently no direct flights from North America.
A nightly train service is available from Basra, arriving early morning. Delays are however very common. Prices range between IQD10,000 for a couchette to IQD25,000 for first-class. Irregular services from Karbala, mostly on weekends, are available too. Due to the ongoing conflict cancellations are common.
Completed in 1953, 'Baghdad Central Station' (محطة بغداد المركزية) is an architecturally impressive terminus, all trains call here. Located on Qahira Street, a kilometre north of city centre, at Damascus Square.
Overland travel is possible from all neighbouring countries, but is strongly discouraged due to violence.
The preferred method of transportation is helicopter. If helicopter transport is not available, use of a fully armoured car or Rhino (armoured bus) is recommended. Within the International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) there is a free shuttle bus service by KBR. You can also walk to many destinations in the International Zone or use a bicycle.
A commuter service connects the city with the southern suburb of Doura.
- Al-Faw Palace (قصر الفاو). Also known as the Water Palace for its site beside the Tigris River. Used as a military base for US troops.
- Baghdad Zoo (حديقة حيوانات بغداد). The largest zoo in the country, opened in 1971. It was destroyed in the 2003 war but has quickly recovered. There are, however, few larger mammals to see.
- Swords of Qādisīyah (قوس النصر) (Inside the Green Zone). A huge pair of triumphal arches celebrating the alleged victory over Iran. Also known as the Hands of Victory. It marks the entrances to a former parade ground.
- Monument to the Unknown Soldier (صرح الجندي المجهول). Inspired by the glorification of a martyr from the Iran–Iraq War. The monument represents a traditional shield (dira¹a) dropping from the dying grasp of an Iraqi warrior. The monument used to house a museum which is now mostly empty. Ask the Iraqi soldiers who guard the monument for permission.
- Al-Shaheed Monument (نُصب الشهيد) (East side of the Tigris river, near the Army Canal). Another monument dedicated to the Iraqi soldiers who died in the Iran-Iraq war. The monument consists of a circular platform 190 metres in diameter in the centre of an artificial lake. A museum, library, cafeteria, lecture hall, and exhibition gallery are on two levels underneath the domes.
- National Museum of Iraq (المتحف العراقي). Covering the history of Mesopotamian culture, this museum housed a huge collection before the Iraq War. Today, many pieces have been looted and the museum is open only on special occasions.
- Umm al-Qura Mosque (جامع أم القرى). A mosque built to commemorate the "victory" in the 1991 Gulf War, the minarets are shaped like barrels of guns and SCUD missiles.
- Al-Kadhimiya Mosque (الحضرة الكاظمية) (Northwest of Baghdad). One of the most important Shi'ite religious sites in Iraq. It was finished in 1515 and the 7th Musa ibn Jafar al-Kathim and the 9th Imams Mohammed Al-Jawad were buried there.
- One of the oldest buildings is the 12th century or 13th century Abbasid Palace. The palace is part of the central historical area of the city
There are several ways to work in Iraq as a foreigner. For US citizens the most obvious is the US Army which still maintains personnel here. Next are the government contractors, such as the construction company KBR . Many contractors hire personnel with prior military experience to return to Iraq. Persons with military experience or who are fluent in Arabic are especially sought after. Lastly, there are civilian government agencies in Iraq. USAID and the US Department of State send their own personnel as well as contractors to Iraq.
The agencies above are all relevant for US citizens. Citizens of other countries with a presence in Iraq can apply for work through the respective agencies in their home country.
Rugs and DVDs are available to buy. Inspect the quality of rugs carefully: Some are cheap Chinese-made rugs, and many are extremely overpriced. Also, many DVDs, especially those from street vendors, are bootlegs of varying quality.
Restaurants and cafés are notorious targets for suicide bombers, making eating out a quite dangerous activity. However, safety is much better among the restaurants inside the Green Zone. The zone is also the place for finding American fast-food in the Middle East including Burger King, McDonald's, and Subway.
- Bob Hope Burger Bar (At Baghdad International Airport), ☎ +964 7903852457. One of the few American-style restaurants outside the Green Zone.
- Marsa Al-Zawariq (On Abu Nuwas St), ☎ +964 5373228. A place famous for its kebab grills.
Many international organisations have their own bars, and some are open to all.
Most organizations arrange their own accommodation inside the Green Zone. Sleeping in hotels in the proper city is always a risky due to bombings.
- Baghdad International Airport Hotel (فندق مطار بغداد الدولي). A standard business hotel, but with quite a hefty price. On secure grounds at the airport and often used by people visiting on business. USD225 for a standard room, lower rates when staying longer.
- Coral Baghdad Hotel, ☎ +964 7 8144 00000, e-mail: email@example.com. An upstart hotel that has quickly become one of the most popular higher-end hotels in Baghdad. USD215+.
- Masbah Plaza Hotel (At Masbah Crossing in Karada district), ☎ +964 7193865, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Luxury hotel, restaurant on site. Free Wi-Fi.
See also War zone safety
The easiest way to stay safe in Baghdad is not to go there in the first place, except for official reasons. Movement within Baghdad is difficult and entry into the International Zone, aka Green Zone, requires a pass or that you be accompanied by authorized officials. Iraq is a war zone and even if you're from a country which is part of the coalition, you will not be granted entry into the IZ without authorization. Most expats and business travellers to Iraq hire a security detail which constantly monitors the security situation within Iraq and around Baghdad. Travel outside the IZ is extremely dangerous. Roadside and car bombs are detonated every day in Baghdad. Many Iraqis are armed. Markets and popular gathering places are frequent targets of bombers. As a foreigner you are more likely to be targeted for kidnapping. Kidnappings are often financially motivated. These threats are not restricted to Americans or women. You are also likely to be refused access to accommodation as Iraqis will fear being targeted for supporting the occupying forces.
- Greece, Hay Babil, AL-Jadriyah Sector 913, Rd. 31/ Built 63, ☎ +9641 778 2273, +964 790 364 2046 (Emergencies), fax: +870-763262272, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Serbia, Jadriya Babil District Mahala 923, ZUKAK 35, Bldg 16, ☎ +964 1 778-78-87, fax: +964 1 778-04-89.
- United States, Al-Kindi St, International Zone, e-mail: BaghdadACS@state.gov firstname.lastname@example.org; BaghdadACS@state.gov. Su-Th, 08:00-16:30.