Although rich in oil, Iraq has been a war-torn country for years. Let’s explore more about the country that has been under decades of dictatorship, war and turmoil. Here are some interesting facts about Iraq’s history, geography, culture, government, people, economy and wars.

Interesting facts about Iraq’s history

1. In Arabic, the name Iraq means “deeply rooted, well watered; fertile.” The name has been in use since before the sixth century.

2. Iraq was under British rule for 17 years, and Ottoman rule for centuries.

3. It gained independence from Britain on October 3, 1932.

4. In 1991 the phrase “Allahu Akbar” was added in green Arabic script to the flag of Iraq. (See the image of Iraq’s flag above)

5. The metric system of weights and measures is the legal standard in the country.

6. Beginning its participation in the Olympic Games in 1948, Iraq has only won a Bronze medal (from the 1960 games) to this day. 

About Saddam Hussein

7. General Saddam Hussein became Iraqi dictator in 1979.

8. He (Saddam Hussein) invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. However, both the invasions were unsuccessful, only draining Iraq of its resources and burdening its economy.

9. Saddam Hussein was hanged on December 30, 2006 for crimes against humanity.

Interesting facts about Iraq: Saddam Hussein before being hanged
A composed-looking Saddam refused a black hood over his head before a masked hangman placed the noose around his neck, a Shi’ite Muslim politician who witnesses the execution said. Image credit – Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

10. During the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein was an ally of the United States.

11. In the memory of Iraqi soldiers who died during the Iraq-Iran war, a monument—al Shaheed Monument—was built in Baghdad.

12. Since the Gulf War, an increasing number of women are sold into sex slavery.

About Bunkers and underground tunnels in Baghdad

13. The underground bunkers built for Saddam Hussein were said to be virtually indestructible, being able to resist a direct hit by a 2,000-kilo TNT bomb. And the bunkers were as deep as 90 meters under the ground.

14. The company that built bunkers for Saddam Hussein also built air-raid shelters for Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

15. The bunker specially built for the fifth President of Iraq (Saddam Hussein) was not just a small space to hide during war time. Moreover, it was equipped with amenities such as a swimming pool, a recreation room, a gourmet kitchen and nursery for Saddam Hussein’s grandchildren.

16. Another addition to this state-of-the-art bunker was the “war room.” The room was studded with the latest technology so that the dictator could monitor activities above the ground.

17. The underground tunnels and bunkers for the Iraqi dictator were built between 1970s and 1980s by Yugoslav engineers.

18. Baghdad had a fabled and labyrinthine network of underground tunnels that would stretch for kilometers. It had the capability to house thousands of Iraqi people, hospitals and even military command posts.

19. The bunkers and tunnels were built on the order of General Saddam Hussein for his protection in the event of a war. The cost of building these bunkers was paid in the form of oil.

20. Iraq is also home to the world’s first writing system and recorded history.

Related: Interesting facts about Syria

Geographical facts about Iraq

21. Iraq is a Middle Eastern country, officially called the Republic of Iraq.

22. Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, is situated in the eastern central region of the country.

23. Iraq has a narrow section of coastline measuring 58 km on the northern Persian Gulf.

24. The Tigris and Euphrates are the two major rivers of Iraq. These rivers contribute significantly toward making the land of Iraq very fertile.

25. Mesopotamia, the region (which roughly corresponds to modern-day Iraq, also referred to as the “land amidst the rivers”) between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, is considered to be one of the cradles of civilization.

26. Iraq has been home to indigenous Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian empires in its history.

Geographical location of Iraq

Iraq Map
Iraq Map

Did you know?

27. Iraq’s oil reserves (approx – 150 billion barrels) are the fifth largest in the world. Venezuela tops the charts with 298 billion barrels of oil.

28. Shiite Muslims are in dominance in Iraq.

29. Islamic traditions relate that Noah’s ark was built in the city of Kufa, which is in Iraq. The ark was built by prophet Nuh/Noah (P.B.U.H).

30. A rare phenomenon that brought rain and hail storms caused a river of frozen water that streamed through the desert of Iraq. You can watch the video below.

31. The Constitution of Iraq is Iraq’s fundamental law.

32. Baghdad served as the center of learning during the Islamic Golden Age, and was also the largest multicultural city of the middle ages.

33. The country’s first productive oil well was drilled in 1927 in Baba dome.

34. Iraqi women are twice as illiterate as men in the country.

Facts about the Iraq War

35. The Iraq war started on March 20th, 2003.

36. The invasion was supported by a coalition of 35 countries with the U.S., Great Britain and Australia playing major roles.

37. Initially, several precision bombs were dropped on the bunkers where Saddam Hussein was believed to be conducting meetings with senior staff.

38. On April 4th, U.S. forces took control of Baghdad’s International airport.

39. After much resistance and confrontation by Iraq, U.S. forces took control of Baghdad on April 9th.

40. By early 2007, at least 3000 troops from the U.S. and several hundred soldiers from other coalition countries were killed.

41. The Iraq war is also called the Second Persian Gulf War.

42. An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 Iraqis were killed during the first three to four years of the war.

43. Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces in December, 2003. The operation was named “Operation Red Dawn.”

U.S. army during Iraq war
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 20th Engineer Brigade shuttle trucks across the Euphrates River Nov. 16, 2007, in support a combat operation near Baghdad, Iraq. Image credit – Spc. Luke Thornberry

44. By December 2011, there were no U.S. troops in Iraq.

45. During the beginning of the Iraq War, the majority of Iraqi troops simply chose not to resist the advancement of the coalition forces. However, “Saddam’s Fidayeen” posed the greatest resistance to U.S. forces.

46. President Bush’s claim before going to war was that Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction, which could jeopardize the world’s safety. However, no such evidence of manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction was found in Iraq. Thus, the president’s claim became a major political debating point in the U.S. in 2004.

Related: Interesting facts about Turkey

Culture of Iraq

47. Based on Arabic poetry, ‘maqam’ is the traditional music of Iraq.

48. In Iraq, eating with the left hand is considered to be offensive.

49. Almost half of all married couples in Iraq are first or second cousins.

50. ‘Reading of fortunes in the constellations’ and ‘the fear of black cats’ were all invented in Iraq, as per archaeologist Leonard Woolley.

51. Production of honey and its trade is a major industry in Iraq. Honey is known as a miracle cure in the country, and has the ability to treat headaches, arthritis and many other ailments. Multiple wars suffered by the country had a negative effect on this industry.

52. Iraq is among the top three date-producing countries in the world. Remember: essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc are found in dates.

53. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature (dating back to circa 2100 BC).

54. Iraq banned karate films in 1979. Isn’t that a strange law?

Quick/fast facts about Iraq

Capital CityBaghdad
33°20′N 44°26′E
Largest CityBaghdad
33°20′N 44°26′E
Total area438,317 sq km
Population37,056,169 (2015)
Official LanguageArabic & Kurdish
BordersTotal = 3,809 km. Iran 1,599 km, Jordan 179 km, Kuwait 254 km, Saudi Arabia 811 km, Syria 599 km, Turkey 367 km
CurrencyIraqi dinar (IQD)
ReligionIslam
Life expectancy74.85 years (2012)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Time ZoneArabia Standard Time (UTC+3)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$15,500 (2015 est.)
Terrainmostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur
Agricultural land18.1%
Birth rate31.45 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate3.77 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio1.02 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Government typefederal parliamentary republic
National symbolgolden eagle; national colors: red, white, black
National anthem"Mawtini" (My Homeland)
Industriespetroleum, chemicals, textiles, leather, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing
Exports$54.65 billion (2015 est.)
crude oil 84%, crude materials excluding fuels, food, live animals
Imports$42.94 billion (2015 est.)
Internet users6.381 million
percent of population: 17.2% (July 2015 est.)
Internet country code.iq
Calling Code+964
Drives on theRight

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