Iraq or officially the Republic of Iraq is a Middle Eastern state in the Mesopotamian plain. It borders Kuwait, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. On the south-east it has access to the Persian Gulf. The capital city is Baghdad.
There are two climatic zones in the country: subtropical on the north and tropical on the south. The best time for travelling to Iraq is the off-season. Winter is fine for visiting skiing resorts.
The official languages are Arabic, Aramaic, Turkmen, and Sorani. The officially recognised religion is Islam.
Sightseeing is probably the main purpose of travelling to Iraq. In this country, architectural monuments of ancient civilisations and museums are still preserved despite the war. The tourists can see the historical sights not far from Hilla, in Basra, Baghdad, and Erbil as well as unique archaeological sites in Kirkuk. Some iconic sights in Baqubah and in the Anbar province also present a great interest, however, it is not recommended to visit these places due to unstable military and political situation there. The safest region in Iraq is a partly independent Kurdistan Region.
Go shopping in Sulaymaniyah, Dahuk, and Baghdad.
The access to the Persian Gulf is in the Al-Faw port. The beaches here are not equipped, but the lovers of wild nature and out-of-town tourism will like it here.
The pilgrims often visit the centre of Shiism in An Najaf and a holy city of Karbala.
Active tourists can go mountain trekking in the Ninawa province and visit a skiing resort in the Kurrak mountain.
The tourists will have a chance to fish in one of the largest rivers in the world, in the Tigris river in Al Amarah or in Al Kut.
There are no direct flights between CIS, EU countries and Iraq. The most convenient route for the European tourists is with a transfer in Jordan or Turkey. The flights are offered by Airberlin, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Air France, Finnair, and Singapore Airlines.
The CIS citizens will have to choose a transit flight with a stop in Istanbul, Antalya, Rome, Vienna or Amman. Belavia, Royal Jordanian, IUA, Turkish Airlines, Transaero, Aeroflot, Air Astana, and Austrian offer the flights to Iraq from CIS.
The rail connection between Iraq and Turkey has recently resumed. There is the train running from Gaziantep to Mosul. Due to the battles taking place in the country, the train timetable can change.
At the borders with each neighbouring countries, there are checkpoints. The Ibrahim Khalil border is the most demanded and the safest.
The EU and CIS citizens need a visa to come to Iraq. The visa is issued by the Consulate of the country.
It normally takes two weeks to obtain a visa.
A visitor visa is valid for three months and allows stay on the territory for 30 days.
If the tourists have an Israel visa, they may be not allowed visit Iraq.
Kurdistan has an independent status and a separate visa is required to visit this region. The EU tourists are allowed to visit Kurdistan visa-free for 15 days. The CIS citizens can obtain a visa by applying to the authorities of Kurdistan or by sending an application form to the e-mail of the KRG Ministry of Interior. Normally, the documents are processed within 10-14 working days and a visa allows the tourists stay in the country for two weeks.
The import of foreign currency is not restricted (except Israeli currency). The money in any amount must be declared. The export of foreign currency is limited to the sum indicated on the declaration form. The tourists are allowed to bring in 25 dinars (IQD) and export not more than 5 IQD. The import of Israeli shekels is strictly prohibited.
The tourists are allowed to bring in the following goods duty-free:
- some tobacco and alcohol;
- 500 ml of perfume (2 opened bottles);
- one photo and audio gadget per person;
- gifts the cost of which does not exceed 28 US dollars.
It is prohibited to bring in:
- mango, citrus fruits, and some other plants and fruits;
- political and religious materials and some feature films;
- certain medications.
It is prohibited to export:
- imported goods;
- coins, stamps, books, and crafts without a document confirming their legal purchase.
To avoid any conflicts with the Customs officers, we recommend you declaring all the valuable things.
The Iraqi cuisine is one of the oldest cuisines in the world and it has its roots in the cooking traditions of the Arab Bedouins and the indigenous people. The staple food in Iraq is grains, beans, vegetables and fruits, nuts, dairy products, fish, and meat. People in Iraq do not eat pork. The Iraqis add a lot of herbs and spices to their traditional dishes.
The tourists should try the mutton and almond pilaf Biryani, a meat stew Makhlama, roasted mutton Tikka, eggplants stuffed with meat Sheikh Mahshi, meat and rice balls Kubba, stuffed lamb Kuzi, and meat and potato stew Kibbe batata.
If you want to try something exotic, order Bacha (a boiled sheep’s head).
The most popular fish dish is Mesguf (fish cooked over the charcoal).
For the first course, order a thick meat and tomato soup Marag, which is often served as a gravy for a main dish. The tourists will like the taste of a mutton and potato soup Tirshib. The Iraqis add whole onions to this soup. We also recommend Shorba (lentils and potatoes soup with meat broth) and a chickpea soup Lyablyabi.
The most popular side dishes are pea Falafel, vegetables stuffed with rice Yalanci, pickled vegetables Turshi, savoury mashed eggplants Baba Ghanoush or a porridge Burghul.
The Iraqi cuisine is rich in desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you should definitely try various sherbets, honey pastry Baklava, halvah, candied fruits, pies Simbusak, sweet honey rolls Kahi, sweet rice with nuts and raisins Plow ahmar and pudding Mamounia.
After a meal, tea or coffee is served. Do not miss a chance to try a fig-based vodka Arak.
The official currency is the new Iraqi Dinar (IQD) which is equal to 20 dirhams or 1.000 fils but they are almost never used today. In circulation are the coins 25 and 100 dirhams and 50 to 25.000 dirham bank notes.
Officially the foreign currency is accepted only in tax-free shops, but in real life, the tourists can pay with US dollars and Euro virtually anywhere.
The tourists can exchange the currency on the markets and in the street exchange offices because the banks in Iraq do not work.
There are no ATMs in Iraq and cashless payments are not accepted. One can cash traveller’s checks only in two banks in the capital city.
There are tax-free shops in Iraq. To buy things without a tax, a tourist should make a purchase for the sum of 200 dollars and provide the international passport.
We strictly recommend you against walking in the city without a guide who knows the territory well. On the territory of the country, there are a lot of mines placed by the terrorists. Avoid the roads and roadsides near the military bases, do not come close to the military equipment and administrative buildings.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Iraq
In the country, there are three UNESCO sites which survived the military actions.
- The lovers of history should visit and see the ruins of the first Assyrian city Ashur. Admittedly, the history of the city began in the 3d century B.C. It played an important role in the international trading and was an administrative and a religious centre. When the city was destroyed by the Babylonians, it rose again in the 1st – 2d centuries A.D.
- In the Al Amarah province on the territory of Kurdistan, there is the Erbil Citadel the first written evidence of which date back to the 5th century B.C. The total area of the fortified settlement is about 100.000 square meters. There is one well-preserved mosque within the citadel. The archaeological excavations started in 2007. This is one of the oldest settlements in the world with permanent residents on the day of its foundation and until now.
- A trip to the Samarra Archaeological City will be interesting for the lovers of sightseeing. There are the ruins of 42 palaces, 4 mosques, mausoleums of the Abbasid Dynasty. In Samarra, the tourists will see two largest palaces in Islamic architecture. The city is a holy place for the Shiites because there are the burial places of the imams of the Al Askari Mosque.
- In Iraq, the travellers will also have a chance to see 8 out of 9 UNESCO candidate sites which survived in the war. Among them is a city-state Ur, the Ancient City of Nineveh, the Fortress of Al-Ukhaidar, the ancient Islam city Wasit and the Babylon Cultural Landscape and Archaeological City.
Souvenirs in Iraq
In Iraq, the tourists buy these souvenirs and gifts:
- leather bags and wallets;
- jars, candlesticks, and aroma lamps;
- copies of antique tableware;
- rugs, bed covers, table cloth, and wraps;
- jewellery from precious metals;
- spices and herbs;
- nuts and sweets.