• Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

  • Tajikistan!

    Tajikistan: A yurt in the mountains. Go Now!

    The high mountains have mysteries around every turn, including yurts (pictured), a home for the nomadic people. Go Now!

Architecture of Iraq

WARNING: Iraq is currently unstable, please read this travel warning before going!

Iraqi Architecture - Town of Zakho
Town of Zakho

Iraq was home to both ancient Mesopotamia (truly a region rather than an empire) and Babylon, however these rulers are from such a historic period few buildings remain from their rules. Despite this, there are a number of buildings that represent Iraq's incredible history and the Babylonians have left a few structures behind, although some of their highlights have been removed to European museums.

The first great architectural movement in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) is the Sumerian period. This time, from about the 3000-2000s BC nothing remains except one building, a temple in Abu Shahrayn, which was built at the time and has ever since been updated and remodeled to maintain its original structure; what is seen today is not 5000 years old, but is the only modern representation from this time period that is fairly authentic to the original.

During this early time period (4000s BC to 300s BC) the city of Ur grew and prospered. Today this city is an incredible archeological site with numerous buildings still standing, although the city's true highlight, the treasures have been removed, most of which are now in the British Museum in London.

The next significant period is the Assyrian period, which began in about 1000 BC. Most of the structures from this time are only ruins, or more likely just the foundations of former buildings and cities. Among the best of these are the cities of Nimrud and Nineveh. Nineveh is an impressive archeological site today. However, the Assyrian period led to the neo-Babylon period as the Babylonian Empire arose in the 600s BC.

The Babylonians in the 600s and 500s BC built extensively and a few of these structures remain today, most of which is in their capital city of Babylon. Among the ruins from the city are the famed Ishtar Gate (although its ornamentation has been removed to the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, Germany); today the sight consists primarily of unimpressive ruins and reconstructions from the time.

From the fall of the Babylonians until the rise of Islam in the 600s AD there were few great architectural achievements in Iraq. However the introduction of Islam vastly altered this as the first of the Islamic rulers in the region were the Umayyads based in nearby Damascus. This influence continued under the Abbasid rulers, who were centered in modern day Iraq.

The largest changes in the architecture of the Abbasid rulers in Iraq was little more than the structures being built. This began with mosques and later religious educational centers. Among the earliest time period, no structures remain today. However, it was these early rulers that are responsible for the structure and design of most modern day mosques; they continued to develop mosques in a "hypostyle," which essentially is a large open space inside with a roof resting on columns that could be expanded easily with the building of more columns and extending the roof.

During this same time, numerous palaces were built and one, the palace at Kufah (late 600s), still stands today. This building, which was a palace and center of the government, became a model of later palaces in the country and region as a whole. Large palace cities were also built during this time as the palace centered the city, which expanded to city walls, then continued outward. This design, although none exist today, can been read about in The Thousand and One Arabian Nights or can be seen in numerous Hollywood films. Baghdad was built on this model, although little from this time period (originally built in the 700s) remains today.

Among the best architecture from the Abbasid rulers that still stands today, is the city of Samarra (which was the capital for a short while, beginning in 836). This city boasts in large number of monuments, including the famed Minaret of, and the Great Mosque itself (850).

From the initial introduction of Islam to the 1100s, later in some areas, architecture changed little. This ended with the Seljuk rulers. The Seljuks built primarily of stone as ornamental tile work became more common. Most of the buildings from this time reflect that of modern day Turkey as they shared the same rulers and maintained similar styles.

The region fell into a long period of relative decline as ruler after rule tried to take the region; this led to prolonged instability and few new monuments structures being built from the 1300s to the 1900s.

In the 1900s, Iraq has received modern buildings, which are much easier to build due to the materials and machines created by the Industrial Revolution, including concrete, steel, and cranes. There are numerous modern buildings in the country, most particularly in the capital city of Baghdad.

This page was last updated: March, 2013