The many-sided Baghdad is a complete contradiction. On the one hand, where else to explore the East with all its treasures and mysteries, if not in the city of the best Arabian fairy tales, ancient streets, mosques and markets. Even the name of the Iraqi capital, standing on the banks of the legendary Tigris, means “gift of God” in translation, and generous gifts from the 19th century BC. e. and a lot has accumulated.
But the reverse side of the coin is not so brilliant: quite recently, bloody wars shook Iraq, and safe tourism was out of the question. Fortunately, the dark times are over, peace is gradually returning to the ancient land, and with it the travelers who dream of comprehending the magic of Baghdad.
How to get to Baghdad
According to wholevehicles, the largest airport in the country, Baghdad, the base of Iraqi Airways, is located 16 km from the center of the capital. There are no direct flights from Russia, the cheapest way to fly from Moscow is with Royal Jordanian Airlines: tickets – from 335 USD round trip, departure from Domodedovo, transfer in Amman, travel time – from 7 hours. Pegasus Airlines flies through Istanbul for 445 USD in both directions and 9 hours 40 minutes, Turkish Airlines – for 460 USD and at least 8 hours with a connection in the same city.
You can get from St. Petersburg with Pobeda and Pegasus Airlines for 535 USD in both directions and 14 hours with a transfer in Istanbul. The fastest flights are with Turkish Airlines: from 8 hours and 725 USD round trip with a similar connection.
From airport to city
Buses run from the airport to the center, but travel on them is still unsafe for tourists. It is better to use the shuttles provided by some hotels, or taxis: parking lots are located at both terminals, it takes about half an hour to get to the center, the standard fare is 55,000 IQD.
There are buses in Baghdad, and a metro will be built in the future, but public transport is far from the most suitable place for tourists. It is wiser to travel by sightseeing buses as part of organized groups, and when traveling independently, by rented cars or minibuses.
There are several rental-a-car offices in the city, it is better to trust international ones: for example, Europcar has compact cars from 60,000 IQD per day, pickups – from 110,000 IQD. Taxi rides cost 6,000-18,000 IQD depending on the distance.
There are few hotels in Baghdad, but almost all of them provide decent service and a sufficient level of security.
Comfortable “fours” and “fives” are concentrated not far from the “green zone” – a closed central area with the main attractions.
The rooms are equipped with amenities and appliances, Wi-Fi is usually free, there are parking lots on site, and continental breakfasts are served in restaurants, which are included in the price. A double room in a 4 * hotel costs from 100,000 IQD, in a 5 * – from 202,000 IQD, luxurious family apartments – from 185,000 IQD per day.
For shopping, we recommend going to any of the Baghdad markets – they are textbook here, with a scattering of curiosities on the shelves, sellers who respect bargaining and a unique oriental flavor. The most popular is the covered Souk as-Saray on the left bank of the Tigris, where you can buy unusual shoes, carpets, national clothes and interior decorations. There are separate rows with sewing accessories and books: from valuable rarities to modern publications.
Fans of literature are attracted by Mutanabbi Street – one of the oldest in Baghdad, the historical center of the bookselling.
Another interesting shopping location is the Copper Market, where pots, jugs and other artfully decorated copper utensils have been sold for a long time. The Shorja Bazaar is famous for aromatic spices, tea, coffee and handmade soap. There are also modern malls in the capital: Al-Mansur, Babylon, Maksimoll, etc., open from 10:00-11:00 to 22:00-23:00.
Cuisine and restaurants in Baghdad
Iraqi cuisine is a bizarre mixture of Assyrian, Sumerian, Turkish, Arabic and other culinary traditions. The tables are dominated by rice, vegetables, legumes, cereals and meat, generously seasoned with herbs and spices. The most popular appetizer is “meze”: assorted fried eggplants, salads, marinated vegetables “turshi” and other goodies.
First of all, you should take a rich margo soup with meat, tomatoes and dried lemons. Of the hot dishes, pilaf “biryani” with chicken, raisins, nuts, potatoes and peas, river fish “masguf” baked whole in the oven or on coals, pies with minced meat “kubbe”, classic dolma, kebabs and falafel are good. And the most appetizing desserts are made from dates: baklava, marmalade, cookies, mixtures with nuts and dried fruits – healthy and tasty.
In the “green zone” guests are greeted by elegant Western-style restaurants, traditional oriental coffee houses and teahouses, ice cream gelaterias and even branches of international fast food chains. Bars affiliated with foreign organizations sell alcohol. Lunch in an inexpensive cafe costs from 8,000-10,000 IQD per person, a hearty dinner in a restaurant – from 30,000 IQD for two.
Sights of Baghdad
The architecture of Baghdad is amazing: palaces, mosques, mausoleums and other sights amaze with grandeur and beauty. The Al-Fao Palace on an artificial island was erected by order of Hussein in honor of the capture of the peninsula of the same name during the war with Iran. Solemn Al Sijud, Saddam’s former residence on the Tigris Quay, is surrounded by a lush park with pools and fountains. And in the mausoleum of Zubaydah directed to heaven, the beloved wife of Caliph Harun ar-Rashid rests.
The most famous religious monument is the Golden Mosque with 8 minarets of different heights, domes sparkling in the sun, colorful tiles and calligraphic inscriptions on the walls. The Umm al-Mahar Mosque, or “Mother of All Battles”, is famous for its rocket-like minarets, marble room, and man-made lake – all of which look very respectable, but have been in existence recently, since 1990.
There is also a Catholic church in Baghdad – the monumental church of the Holy Virgin Mary, dating from the 17th century.
One of the symbols of the new era is the 205-meter steel and concrete TV tower built in the 1990s. and reminiscent of a minaret due to the coloring and Arabic arches at the base. The monument to the warriors of Al-Shahid is also impressive – two huge halves of the turquoise dome, divided by the Eternal Flame. The most interesting museum is the National Museum with 20 galleries full of historical artifacts. And with children, you can visit the restored Baghdad Zoo – if, of course, you decide to travel to Iraq with the whole family.