Baghdad

The city of Baghdad dates back to Babylonian times, but only gained large importance after the creation of Islam. During the Abbasid Caliphate, Baghdad transformed from a tiny Persian city into a bustling capital. During this time, Baghdad was not only a political center, but also a hub of education, medicine, arts, and science. One of the more famous places in Baghdad was the Bayt al-Hikmah, or the House of Wisdom. Translators and philosophers worked here preserving works by Plato and Aristotle along with other classical texts from the ancient world. After the Ottomans conquered much of the Middle East, the city came under Ottoman rule. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed after the First World War, Baghdad was placed under British control. In 1932, Iraq gained independence from the British.

Ibn Battuta was very impressed with the city of Baghdad. He found the mosques and architecture beautiful. But he was most impressed with the bazaars of Baghdad. Inside the Tuesday Bazaar, the largest in Baghdad, were colleges and mosques. Throughout the Rihla, Ibn Battuta visits many different bazaars, but often he would refer back to the one in Baghdad as the greatest of them all. Ibn Battuta also experienced an elaborate bathing ritual in Baghdad, which involved hot and cold water faucets, using three towels, and cubicles that only one person used. It was a modern day shower which was unheard of in the fifteenth century. Ibn Battuta stayed for a short time in Baghdad before traveling to other parts of Iraq and Persia.

Baghdad in recent years has been influenced by war. After the capture and execution of dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq became a constitution-based country.  The United States recently pulled out of Iraq, ending the decade-long Iraqi War. There are still cases of bombings in Baghdad, but they are declining in numbers. The city will hopefully be restored to the splendor it once enjoyed during medieval times.