The one week trip to Iraq in June 2021 was a first of its kind..
The plan was simple; book some nice hotels, rent a minibus and a local guide and then take the group to my favourite places in Iraq, which I had mapped out earlier the same year when I spent two months traveling to every province and major city in the country.
The time had come, and one by one the trip members arrived at the hotel, and when all had arrived we met up for a welcome drink and a pre departure briefing about dos and don’ts and what to expect from the trip. We had a lot of adventures laying ahead of us.
We started off by driving from Baghdad down to Taq Kasrah, which used to be the capital of the Persian Empire. We saw the Arch of Cstephion, the largest single span mud brick arch in the World! After exploring this site and the nearby Panorama Tower we headed to the family of a friend of mine called Jassim, where we were served the biggest meal per person that I have seen in my life!
On our next day we set off to explore the ancient city of Babylon, famous from stories from the bible and known to be the site of ancient wonders of the World; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. For some, the highlight of this day was also to visit the abandoned palace that was built on the top of the hill by Saddam Hussein, which was overlooking the archeological site. For the night we went to the holy city of Karbala, which is the resting place for Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas- a religious place attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrimage visitors every year.
The following day was a busy one, stopping by Al-Kifl, which had a mosque which used to be a synagogue, and was sacred for both jews and muslims alike. We also went to the city of Kufa where Imam Ali had been born and killed, right outside of Najaf where we spent the night. Najaf is another site for pilgrimage visitors and is the place which has the largest cemetary in the World (the Wadi Al-Salaam/”the Valley of Peace”).
Driving back towards Baghdad we stopped at the King Ghazi Landscape Museum and an ancient Sumerian City called Nippur. This is the place where the oldest library in the World was located and a place that had not seen a single tourist since 2018, so it fest quite incredible to be allowed in to see this ancient historical place.
After checking into our 5 star Baghdad hotel we left the following morning to Tall Akarkuf to see a ziggurat, which can be described as the fore runner to the ancient pyramids in Egypt. From there we went to Samarra to see the place where the largest mosque in the World had been standing, and to see the original, quite iconic minaret which the place is famous for.
The trip did not go completely smoothly. For our day in Samarra we had to go with a military escort, two places we had to spend a couple of hours in police checkpoints and some days were so busy that we almost did not find the time to sit down and eat, but all in all it was an incredible trip which I hope to repeat some time in the future.