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Iraq is the country of Mesopotamia or Land Between the Rivers in classical times.
Anyone travelling in these lands should read about the many civilizations that have passed through here. As a minimum be prepared on Sumer, Babylon, Assur, Persians, Greeks, Romans and finally Arabs. You will find many hundreds of ruins of cities everywhere you go.
It has a subtropical climate, with a tendency in direction of continental climate in the north. Iraq is very dependent on water from Tigris and Euphrates, as there is little rain falling here except during the rainy season. The west and south is mostly stone desert. The country became known as Iraq in the 7th century. It’s the land were paradise allegedly once was. The region's extensive alluvial plains gave rise to the world's earliest civilizations, though in recent times it was not all that civilized. The modern Iraq was created in the aftermath of World War I and gained independence in 1932. Since then there was war on Iran, Syria, and most recently the invasion of Kuwait that led to the Gulf War. Internally the country has known violent uprising of Kurdish minorities answered by bloody suppression. After the monarchy was overthrown in 1958 there was a period of political instability with coups and countercoups until Saddam Hussein seized power in the 70s.
Iraq used to be one of the world's leading oil producers. In recent decades a steady cash flow generated by the black gold was the engine behind ambitious building projects and development programs and to build one of the largest and most powerful armies in the Middle East. Its strength was demonstrated during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and in the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Everyone that has seen the images of missiles and bombs falling on the capital Baghdad will understand that this is not a holiday destination for the mentally sane. Economy has been totally disrupted by the war and reconstruction is slow. Tension between insurgents and coalition troops are still high.
Theoretically there’s the possibility to cross the northern borders from Turkey or Jordan, but the ongoing struggle for Kurdish independence also makes this area hazardous. There are few commercial flights to Baghdad and the borders to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and of course Kuwait are closed off.
Should it become easier to visit Iraq then the highlights of your visit would include Mosul in the north, with the big Assyrian cities of Ninevah and Nimrod close by, Baghdad , the capital, Karbala and An najaf just south of Baghdad, with the tombs of Ali and Husain, two very important Shiite religious leaders and Basra in the south.
Iraq is the dream of any historian and archeolog. For the west, its where it all began. All those small hills you see on the highway, those are Tells, the ruins of ancient cities.