Tourism Board
Haifa Street, POB 7783
Tel: 5433912, Fax: 288 6020, Tlx: 213460

Physical geography

Iraq covers an area of 435,052km square and is bounded on the east by Iran on the west by Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia; on the north by Turkey, and on the south by Kuwait and the Arab Gulf. The central geographic fact is the magnificent river system. From the lofty mountains of Turkey come both the Tigris and the Euphrates, each one sweeping in great long loops to irrigate the land.

Iraq is divided into three distinct geographic zones: The desert (in the west and southwest) is part of a belt that runs from North Africa to Central Asia. It is an upland region with altitudes from 610 to 914m, but declines gently towards the Euphrates.

Dominated by the river systems of the Tigris and Euphrates, the plains area is economically the richest. It is composed of two regions divided by a ridge, some 76m above the flood plain, between al-Ramadi and a point south of Baghdad which marks the prehistoric coastline of the Arabian Gulf. The lower Euphrates Tigris valley has been built up by the silt the two rivers carry. The low-lying region consists of marshland and low mud plains crisscrossed by drainage channels. At Qurna, just above Basrah, the two rivers combine and form the Shatt-al-Arab, a broad navigable waterway through which ocean-going vessels enter the harbour of Basra.

In the upper Euphrates valley, the two streams form two distinct basins separated by a broad stretch of upland plateau known as the Jazirah. To the north, Jabal Sinjar rises to 914m. From the very ancient times of Babylon and even earlier, canals have been run from these two rivers to water the surrounding landscapes.


In the mountainous northeastern area, a comparatively long winter is usual with temperature falling below zero between December and January. In summer, temperatures are moderate to warm. The central and south area is characterised by a moderate to warm. The central and south area is characterised by a moderate winter and long dry summer. The hottest weather occurs from June to September. In the evening, however, it becomes wonderfully relaxing. Rain falls mainly in winter. Spring and autumn are transitional but most delightful seasons. Normally no rain falls from the end of May to the end of September.

Economic geography

Iraq is a fertile country in which agriculture has always been the backbone of its economy. About 40 per cent of the whole population depend on agriculture. It is only recently that there has been a drive to industrialise the country. Some 57,325 sq km. of the land are under cultivation and 18,000 are forests. Northern Iraq receives enough rain for the winter crops, while in Central and Southern Iraq the rain is not sufficient, thus artificial irrigation is necessary. The main winter crops are wheat, barley, etc. The main summer crops: rice tobacco, cotton, sesame etc. Dates are very important to the country's economy as 50 per cent of the world's production comes from Iraq. There are over 13 million heads of livestock: sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, water buffalo, mules camels and horses.

Iraq is the land of oil; 349,435,000 long tons of it have been produced during the years between 1966 and 1970. After the nationalisation of the Iraq and Mosul Petroleum Companies operations on 1 June 1972 all oil is extracted by national companies.

Of no less significance is sulphur, which has been extracted since 1972.

Apart from this the main industries are: the processing of agricultural products, building materials like cement and bricks; the production of consumer goods such as textiles, soap, matches, cigarettes, shoes, beverages, etc.


The total population of Iraq is 20 million.

A brief history

The 'land between the rivers', as the name Mesopotamia might be translated, was a fabulously fertile country. Because it was surrounded by desert and mountainous regions, it was always a tempting prize for people inhabiting these less rich neighbouring areas. Its history was one of successive conquests and defeats, now told by the ruins of great and famous cities: Babylon of the Hanging Gardens, Ur of the Chaldees, Nineveh and others.

The earliest settlers known by name were the Sumerians (3500 BC). Semites began to move into the land before 2300 BC. Gradually the Semites and the Sumerians intermixed. About 1750 BC. they were brought under the rule of Hammurabi, a Semitic King who established his capital in Babylon.

The Balylonian Empire was succeeded by the Assyrian Empire (1400 BC). The Assyrians were skilled hunters and fighters and among the first to use horses. Power shifted from Nineveh back to Babylon with the advent of the Chaldean Empire, which reached its height under King Nebuchadnezzar (about 570 BC). The Chaldean Empire was replaced by the Achaemenian Persians (538-331 BC) who were defeated by Alexander the Great. His successor Seleucus, moved the capital to Seleucia on the Tigris, then Babylon started to lose its cultural and political dominance over the country and to crumble into ruins.

The Seleucids were followed by the Parthian Persians (135 BC 226 AD). These were replaced by the Sassanids, whose rule was not broken until the Arab conquest in 637 AD.

Over a hundred years later, Baghdad was founded by the Abbassid Caliph Al-Mansour. The brillant period that followed reached a dazzling peak in the time of Haroun Al-Rashid (787-809), the celebrated Caliph of the Thousand and One Nights.

In the 13th century, Baghdad was overrun by the Mogols; in the 16th century, the Turks conquered it and ruled it until the First World War. From 1921 to 1932, Iraq was under British Mandate, then under a pseudo-constitutional monarchy which was overthrown in 1958 and replaced by a new republican era.


The predominant and official religion of Iraq is Islam, but complete freedom of worship is guaranteed to all inhabitants.

Languages spoken by nationals

Arabic is the official language. In the north, the two main languages spoken are Arabic and Kurdish. English is widely understood and the tourist conversant with this language should experience no difficulty. Attendants at all good business houses and shops, managers and stewards at all good restaurants and hotels have usually a working knowledge of English.


Summer: GMT+ four from 1 April to 30 Sept. Winter: GMT +3 from 1 Oct to 31 March.


The Iraqi unit of money is the Iraqi Dinar (I.D.). One Dinar = 1,000 fils.

The rate of exchange varies.

Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)

Every Friday, 1 January New Years Day - 6 January, Army Day - 2 Eid Al Fitr - 18 February, 14th Ramadam, 1963 Revolution - 21 March, Spring Day, Nawruy - 17 April, Al Fas City Liberation Day - 18 April, Eid Al Adha - 1 May, Labour Day - 17 May, 1st Mukarram, beginning of Hijra Year - 14 July, 1958 Revolution - 17 July, 1968 Revolution , Republic Day, and birthday of Prophet Muhammed - 18 August, Victory Day.

What one should not fail to see

In Baghdad: the Abassid Palace, the Suq Al-Ghazil minaret, the Marjan Mosque, the Khan Marjan with the Museum of Arab Antiquities, the gates of Baghdad, Zubaida's tomb, the Iraq Museum, the Arms Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the Baghdadi Museum, the Customs and Ethnographic Museum, Museum of the Arab Ba'at Socialist Party, Saddam Art Centre, Postal and Stamp Museum, Museum of Heritage, Museum of Dar Al Azzicia (Iraqi House of Fashion), Museum of Reconstruction, Triumph of Leader Museum, Military Museum.

At Teli Aqar Quf: the remains of the Ziggurat tower of the Cassites (about 1300 BC).

Some 35km below Baghdad, the Ctesiphon arch.

In Kadhimain: the Golden Mosque.

In Babylon: the ruins of the Hanging Gardens and the Great Lion, the great Street of Processions, the Ishtar Gate, the temples of Easgila and Etemenanki.

In Tel Harmal: the ruins of the 4,000-year-old city.

At Nineveh: the ruins of the Assyrian capital and its gates, Nergal, Adad and Shams and Tel Nabi Younis mosque.

Near Mosul: the ruins of Nimrud. The ancient city of Hatra.

In Sammarra: the Friday mosque, the House of Caliph, horse race ground, the Ashiq Palace, the Suawan and the two 13th-century tombs.

In Najaf: the Mosque of Iman Ali. In Karbala: the shrine of Iman El-Hussein Ibn Ali, the fortress palace of Ukhaidhir.

In Kufa: the mosque (the first mosque in Iraq).

Near Nasiriya: the ancient city of Ur with the famous Red Ziggurat, Tel Al-Ubeid and the Marsh land.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

The most favourable season to visit Iraq is October to May.

How to dress

Ladies: summers are very hot, but the evenings delightfully cool. Light clothing will do for the day and a wrap for the evening. If you are travelling in months other than from June to September, make sure to take some sweaters and possibly a warm coat for the evening. Cool weather clothing is advisable for the spring and autumn months.

Gentlemen: light clothing for the summer will do (do not forget sports equipment if you want to go to a resort). A lightweight suit for evening is advisable. Otherwise medium-weight clothes for spring and autumn are necessary.

Main holiday resorts

Salahuddin (1,091 metres high), Shaqlawa, Gali Ali Beg, Haji Omran (skiing in winter), Zawita, Swaratouka, Sarsang.

Main holiday sports

Swimming, boating, windsurfing.

What to eat and drink

One interesting facet of Iraq life is the variety of food to be found there. If the season is right, one must not leave without sampling masgouf, the delicious fish from the Tigris which is cooked right on the river bank. In restaurants, you may try kabab: it is usually made of lamb, skewered chunks of lamb between generous pieces of onion, tomato, pepper, etc. You should also try kubba filled with minced fat, nuts, raisins and spices. Almost anyone in the East cooks excellent rice, and the Iraqis are no exception. For drinks there is a wide choice ranging from the internationally known soft drinks to the typical local drink lebn (like yoghurt), or coffee made very strong and sweet and with a deep sediment, or tea served in small glasses. There is even a lemon tea which should at least be tried.

What to buy

Carpets and unique silver work. Arabic and picturesque Kurdish costumes, embroideries, colourful woollen hats, rugs, amber prayer beads, copper trays and vases, gold earrings, bracelets, necklaces.

Frontier formalities

Passports and visas

Persons of all nationalities require a valid passport. Passports containing a visa for Israel either valid or expired are not permitted to enter Iraq. Visas are normally required of all nationalities; except Jordanians. Entry and transit visas are issued by Iraqi diplomatic representations abroad on behalf of authorities concerned in Baghdad. An exit visa is required only when visitors stay for a period exceeding 30 days.

Health regulations

An HIV test at the borders at a fee of $50 or equivalent. For age group 14-16 males, 14-50 females.


Apart from personal items the following can be brought in duty-free: 200 cigarettes or 250gr of tobacco or 50 cigars; two small bottles of perfume, a bottle of liquor, gifts worth a maximum ID300.

Currency regulations

There is no limit as to the foreign money that can be brought in. It must, however, be declared. Iraqi money allowed to be brought into the country should not exceed ID1,000. There is no limit to traveller's cheques and foreign currency.

Main travel routes

Iraq is connected by air to all main cities of Europe and the Far East. It is also connected by road and rail to all its neighbouring countries. Basra is the great seaport linking Iraq to all other major ports in the world.

Representatives abroad

Please apply to the branch offices of Iraqi Airways, Jordan. Tel: 638 600.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on Iraq thanks to the co-operation of the Tourism Board in Baghdad.