Some history to read while you are sipping your tea


 

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I think one of the absolute coolest parts of Iraq is of course, the marshes. I love how the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers “marry” as my husband says…yet the do not combine. One is salt water and the other is fresh. Truly an amazing miracle from Allah/God. It also amazes me how Iraq Marsh Arabs build those houses that literally float around the marshes the way they do and they love like that!!! I mean yes, there are house boats and yachts….but not there. They are so natural and “earthy” it keeps me in awe when I look at the pictures. Can you imagine that? What if the house floated super far away?? It would terrify me….ahahahaaha! Random thoughts yes, but this is my blog so I am allowed for sure. 

So my in-laws are from the marshes as well, however not “in” the marshes. They have farms, which is very interesting to me because if I or we could live totally off the land, I so would. I really admire his family and everything that they do even with all the technology and “new” ways of life, they are still pretty much old school, so to say. Which is awesome.  So, I wanted to give some of the history of Al-Qurnah, Basrah…….which is exactly where my husband is from. It will not be boring…come and take a journey with me. 

Al-Qurnah, Iraq litterally means “the corner” so it says on wikipedia, and  is a pleasant little place 74 km north west of Basra at the very tip of the point named Shatt El-Arab where the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet; a strategic position that has been the scene of conflicts for centuries. As legends have it, Qurna is the reputed site of the Gardens of Eden. It has been said, it was once a city built by Seleucus Nicator I in honor of his wife Apamea, the general who succeeded Alexander the Great on the latter’s death on the Tigris. From the pictures I have seen, the tree of Adam is still there, and they have built a park around it as well. I can not wait to go and see it. 

The contrast of the lush south of Iraq with the rest of a country which is often too bare can be seen very well, and even better on side-trips up the rivers. Each river has a strongly defined character: the banks of the Euphrates are the more wooded and picturesque, and the Tigris is the busier.

The backwaters, creeks and side channels of both are exceedingly beautiful, and here one can get a glimpse of the fertility that must have belonged to Mesopotamia when it was a network of streams and when the forests abounded.

The region of Basra, the city of Sinbad the Sailorand the starting point of his famous adventurous voyages to the World, is, some would say, the most beautiful part of Iraq, outshining both the Persian miniature scenery of the central Euphrates and the cool, majestic north.

But Basra retains a romantic aura. So does the whole area of the south from Shatt El-Arab (the meeting point of Tigris and Euphrates rivers) up to Amara on the Tigris and Suq Eshiukh on the Euphrates: it is lush, watered, full of trees and gardens and canoes gliding on the mirror-surfaces of calm lagoons. It is an area of countless birds and a variety of animals. You feel that lions, possibly dragons or the Great Roc of A Thousand and One Nights may appear.

Basra is Iraq’s 3rd largest city and main seaport, situated 67 km to the north of the Arabian Gulf and 549 km south east of Baghdad. When you see it today, you will be reminded of the commercial importance it has enjoyed for centuries; endless ships shuttle back and forth on Shatt El-Arab.

Ashar is the heart of the city and the old commercial center; its covered bazaar and mosque mark the end of the creek that links it and the river to Old Basra. Upstream is Margil, the garden suburb fanning out from the forest of cranes at the wharves of the Old Basra port and the railway station; and a little further you cross to the island that faces the Shatt El-Arab Hotel, where Basra’s airport was sited until the 1960s when it was moved to Shuaiba. Here are flowers and palms and that blessed water that is the glory of all Iraq, but particularly of the south

Basra was founded in 637 AD by Utba bin Ghazwan on order from Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab (634-644 AD), as soon as the Sassanian capital at Ctesiphon fell to the Muslim armies. It was made into a military base, and a mosque was built there of mud and reeds. Of that and of the original palace nothing can be seen today. 

Basra looms into history once again with the raising there by Zubeir ibn Al-Awwam and Talha bin Ubaidullah of a force to resist the claim of Ali, the Prophet Mohammad’s cousin, to the Caliphate after the murders of Caliphs Omar and Othman. A battle took place outside Basra to the west and it resulted in the deaths of both Zubeir and Talha. Zubeir was buried on the battle-site and that is why the small town that has grown up there is called Azzubeir to this day.

Today the older parts of Ashar are still attractive. The covered bazaars is full of beautiful old-style houses with balconies leaning over into the narrow streets and beautiful wooden facades in the style of old Arab architecture (called Shanasheel). They have character and are worth wandering through. They are quite extensive; the shops are well-stocked; they smell of spice and herbs and coffee; there is an old-world atmosphere there.

Now, to me, I love the old buildings and the history. I like to search in them, and if they allow me to, when we get to Iraq, Insha Allah, I will!!! History by reading can get boring to me, honestly. But actually walking and touching things that are ancient……that is amazing. I can not wait.


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