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Book a flight to Baghdad and you’ll be visiting a city that has recaptured its original grandeur, balancing modern architecture with beautiful brickwork buildings, central courtyards and populated with a warm and welcoming people. Using traditional building techniques, features and decorative details, the Baghdad of the 21st Century is a far cry from its once-dusty appearance.
With a huge program of palm tree planting, the city has also regained its oasis-style appearance with lush greenery offering an eye-catching backdrop to the cream coloured buildings. Take a flight to Baghdad with Qatar Airways and explore a city with a rich heritage and a thriving culture.
If you want to get an idea of how Baghdad looked in its early years, then take yourself along to the Abbasid Palace; an undulating masterpiece of rolling arches and intricate muqarnas. Both imposing and majestic, it offers superb views over the Tigris River, once you’ve finished investigating the two stories of sumptuous opulent rooms. A great attraction for any trip to Baghdad.
Baghdad plays host to one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites: the Ancient City of Ur. With ancient houses and crumbling ziggurats, it’s obvious that time and the desert have taken their toll on this once-busy city. However, the wear and tear only serves to make it more eerily spectacular, as you walk up tattered steps and explore ancient architectures. When you consider that much of it dates back to 4000 BC, it stands as testament to the ingenuity of the original inhabitants.
Art is always a good way to gain an insight into a culture and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kifah Street is a fantastic place to start. The building itself is impressive enough, with beautifully restored galleries and state-of-the-art climate control. Inside, you’ll find stunning examples of art in all its forms, from paintings and sculptures to ornate friezes and ceramics.
A trip to Baghdad is more of a cultural experience than anything else. However, if you do find you’ve had your fill of museums and art galleries, there is a national pastime that can give you an adrenaline buzz, usually reserved for extreme sports: haggling.
The best place to flex your bargaining muscles is in The Baghdad Bazaar. This is the place where deals are done, tea is drunk and money changes hands. The tunnels and streets of the bazaar unravel like a ball of string, populated with traders, buyers and children looking for sweet treats. It’s a feast for the senses, with the smells of spice, tea, fresh bread and perfumes lacing the air and the sounds of music and chatter everywhere you go.
The key to haggling is to make it good-natured and never start something you’re not prepared to finish. Once you’ve begun the process, the unspoken rule is that, at some point, you will buy.
If you want to spend a lazy day in the company of some exotic creatures then head to Alzawraa Zoo, home to over a thousand animals. Also known as the Baghdad Zoo, it is a 200-acre zoo originally opened in 1971 and is located in the Al Zawra’a Gardens area. Nearby there is also the Al Zawra’a Dream Park (a great family amusement park) and Zawra'a Tower.
There’s no better way to get under the skin of a culture than to sample its cuisine. A trip to Baghdad will take you on a culinary tour of Asia, china and Central Africa; all these races have, at some point, left their mark here.
Bazaars offer a chance to sample the local equivalent of fast food, with street vendors selling dishes such as kubbat mousel: layers of burghul crackers sandwiching lamb cooked with raisins and almonds. Sheikh Mahshi is another popular dish, served on the street and in restaurants. These are small aubergines, stuffed with meat, courgettes and spices and served with a fresh tomato and onion sauce.
If the idea of a bazaar is a little too much for you, then you can always lose yourself in one of Baghdad’s many shopping malls. These are a much more conventional shopping experience, with balconies on which weary shoppers can enjoy a tea or a strong, aromatic coffee.
The Maxima Hall is one of the larger malls, boasting a private park and a dedicated children’s area. You’ll also find plenty of shops stocking both national and international brands.
Baghdad is a predominantly Muslim city and following a few simple guidelines will ensure that you don’t cause unintentional offence.
Women should not sit in the front seat of a taxi and not be seen alone with a man she isn’t related to. There are no strictly enforced dress codes, and in fact Baghdad is a very forward and modern city. For example, there is no need for women to cover their hair, unless they already wear a hijab.
Flights to Baghdad will take you to Baghdad International Airport, about 16kms west of the city. There are plenty of taxis available and good car-hire facilities.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Baghdad please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Iraqi Dinar (IQD)
Voltage: 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type C / D / G
International dialing code: +964