Iraq is a very interesting country with a historic culture. While most people know about oil, the wars, and Saddam, we compiled a list of some interesting facts you might not know about Iraq. Read on to find out some cool stuff!
“Masgouf” Is The Fishy National Dish
This national dish dates way back to ancient times and it is still extremely popular among Iraqis and tourists. While I can’t try it due to my dogmatic veganism, it seems awesome! It is a carp dish made with tumeric and taramind, and roasted slowly in a “fire altar.” A fire altar is out of the question for most people, so these days it is grilled on an open fire or in a clay oven.
Shoe memorials seem to be growing in popularity around the world. They are often are used to commemorate lives that have been lost in conflict. In Tikrit, Iraq, orphans effected by the Iraqi war helped to build a monument of shoe that was flung at former US president, George W. Bush. The monument is 11.5 feet tall and cost an estimated $5,000 USD. It was built in 15 days. As far as I know, this one is the biggest shoe monument to date.
Don’t Eat With Your Left Hand!
In Iraq, don’t eat with your left hand! In Iraq as well as in other predominately Muslim countries it is considered very offensive. This is because the left hand is considered to be unclean.
Dates and Date Confections To Die For
The date palm tree is the national tree of Iraq, and has existed in Iraqi soil for over 70,000 years! The tree spread from Iraq to the rest of the Middle East, and I’m glad it did! Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries are incredibly inventive with their use of this ingredient. Some Iraqi deserts that use dates in an amazing way include madgooga (date truffle balls), date filled bread, and maamoul cookies (made with dates and nuts). They are also great stuffed with tahini or just on their own.
Did you know the Iraqi flag was edited not too long ago in 1991? “Allahu Akbar” which means “God is Great” was actually added in green script to the flag.
Home Of The Largest Embassy
The largest embassy in the world is located in Iraq. It is the U.S. embassy and it employs over 15,000 people.
U.S. Imported Sand into Iraq
Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? The U.S. imported expensive sand into Iraq to use for building blasting walls. The sand in Iraq was “not the right type” according to military officials and they spent quite a bit of money getting the “right kind.”
Maqam is the traditional music of Iraq that has been around over 400 years! It is very slow, beautiful, and tranquil. It is based on Arabic poetry and performed today within communities and in complete Maqam concerts.
As per Iraqi tradition, more than half of all brides and grooms marry their first or second cousin.
There are currently about 140,000 Iraqi Americans living in the U.S. The highest populations are in Michigan, California and Illinois. Luckily, they brought some of the food with them!
The national cookie is delicous! It is called Klecha and it is circular. It is usually prepared for holidays such as Easter, Christmas and Eid, but can be enjoyed at any time.
One very interesting religious minority group in Iraq is the Yazidi. Their current population is between 200,000 and one million, with about 400,000 of them living in Iraq. Their beliefs include aspects of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism.
Iraq is home to the world’s first writing system: cuneiform script which means “wedge shaped.” This is because the marks wedge shaped and the writing was done on clay tablets. Between 500,000 and two million cuneiform tablets have been discovered in modern times, but less than 100,000 have been read or published.
Did you know Abdul Wahid Aziz is the only person in the history of the country to win an Olympic medal? While Iraq has participated in the Olympics since 1948, but has only won one bronze medal thanks to Abdul. He took the medal at the 1960 summer Olympic Games for weightlifting.
General Saddam Hussein became the Iraqi dictator in 1979. He became unpopular in the country after invading Iran and Kuwait. He was hung in 2006 for crimes against humanity.
Two New Years
We all know what New Year’s ccelebrations are like, but now can you imagine having them twice? Iraqis have the opportunity to celebrate during Muharram, which is the first month on the Muslim calendar. The second opportunity is the one we’re familiar with – December 31st.
In the region, arranged marriages have always been a common practice. However, recently this practice has been overshadowed by Iraqi citizens who would prefer to find their own partners.
Not Quite Belly Dancing
Like many cultures, dancing is greatly important to those who live in Iraq. The specific type of dancing they like, is called, ‘the hacha’a’. At first glance it seems similar to belly dancing, only this dance has more movement of the hands, neck and head. It’s known to be better if the woman dancing has long hair so that she can swing it around as she dances.
While we believe that eating quickly is rude, in Iraq, the locals will think that you’re really enjoying your food. And to top it all off, if you were to eat without a knife and fork, that would also be fine.
No Doggy Bag
Here’s another example of how we’re different from those living in Iraq when it comes to meal time. Having pets come to the table is considered rude and disrespectful.
Hold Off On The Compliments
It might feel completely natural to throw out compliments when you visit a friend’s house. But in Iraq you ought to be careful! Complimenting someone on an item in their house will make them feel obligated to give it to you. So that’s a big no to lavish praising in someone else’s house.
Loss Of Freedom
Before the Gulf War in Iraq, women actually had the ability to do a lot more than they can today. But ever since religious groups took power, women have suffered and lost the freedom they once had.
December 2011 was a happy month for most American citizens. It was during this month that the biggest U.S. troops withdrawal took place since the Vietnam War. This withdrawal marked the end of a 9-year war.
Based on the UNHCR’s report in 2010, Iraqis made up the 2nd largest refugee population in the world – 1.8 million! Apart from Iraq, sitting at the top of the list, was Afghanistan – 2.9 million!
Famous American Iraqis
Some notable American Iraqi figures include: Chris Kattan (comedian & actor for SNL), actress Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), comedian GoRemyh, and Nadya Suleman (Octomom).
Many believe that Iraq has some prominent biblical connections. Here are some of those examples: Abraham came from Ur, in southern Iraq. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, came from Nahor, which is in Iraq too. Lastly and most grandly, many believe that the Garden of Eden was in Iraq.
Native to Iraq, licorice has been a commonly chewed plant for centuries. In ancient times, warriors were said to have chewed licorice to keep them from getting thirsty during battle.
The ancient dwellers in Iraq used mud to build pretty much all buildings. But mud didn’t stop there for them, it was also a tool for creating tablets of clay with engravings.
Don’t Go Out
What do you expect when you’re surrounded by sand? Sandstorms can easily rage for up to 50 days each year in Iraq! And if sand isn’t bad enough as it is, dust storms reaching as high as 6,000 feet can really do the job.
It’s quite common for families in Iraq to all live in one home. With families growing, house expansions are a regular task for family members.
Fish And Sharks
In Iraq, carp can really grow large, and can weight as much as 300 pounds! But the biggest fish you’d better be careful of is sharks, who find it easy to swim upstream in Iraq’s rivers and marshes.
If you were to ever go to South Africa, then you could visit the “cradle of humankind”. If you were to visit Iraq however, you would be able to visit what the world has called the “cradle of civilization”.
Before the Gulf War in 1991, and the U.N. sanctions, Iraq actually had some of the best schools and colleges in the Arab world. As it stands, only about 40% of Iraqis have the ability to read and write.
Nothing Like Democracy
Believe it or not, it took until January 2005 for Iraq to see their first democratic elections. The last time this occurred was more than 50 years prior.
The biggest sport by far in Iraq is soccer. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t play other sports, because they do. Some of those sports include basketball, horseback riding, weightlifting, and horse racing.
Many don’t know it, but America once had Saddam Hussein as an ally. During the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980’s, America gave Saddam weapons and he in return helped America to prevent Iran from winning the war.
Due to the severe backlash of the war with Iran, Iraq went bankrupt which led Saddam Hussein to attack Kuwait in an attempt to hijack their oil fields. He wasn’t successful as an American-led coalition drove him out.
A massive protest against the War on Iraq took place on February 15th, 2003. Approximately 10 million protesters around the world let their voices be heard. The main protesters came from the U.S., Britain, France, and South Africa.
It has been a tradition in Iraqi households to keep bees. This tradition has been running for more than 5,000 years and it has provided a sustainable source of income and food for those that have them.
97% of the population in Iraq is Muslim. This means that most of them pray five times a day and fast during the holiday of Ramadan. It is also in their interest to make the trip of pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime.
The most populated city in Iraq is Baghdad, the capital, with approximately 5.75 million people living there. Following after Baghdad is Mosul, which has a population of about 1.44 million citizens.
Even though there are Christians living in Iraq, there are very strict laws pertaining to their freedom to worship. They are not allowed to talk about their religion, or hold public events, outside of their churches.
Size And Neighborhood
Iraq takes up 438,317 sq. mile, which you could say is about the same size as California. Its neighbors are: Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey.
At birth, the approximate life expectancy in Iraq is 70.55. That makes Iraq the 146th on the world chart. To give you some perspective, the United States ranks at 50 with 78.37 years, and first place goes to Monaco with 89.73.
Iraq’s currency is called the “dinar”. For every single American dollar, you could get approximately 1,189 dinar! Now that’s an exchange rate worth going shopping for.
The desert is certainly not a friendly place for many reasons. One of those reasons is the scorpions that roam there. There’s even one kind that can grow up to 8 inches long!
It’s a funny thing to say, but many people refer to Iraq’s land shape as a piece of pie. Additionally there is only a 36-mile strip of coastline in Iraq.
Record temperatures have been measured in Iraq over the years. The highest was 124º F, and the lowest recorded was 12º F at al-Salman.
Plague Of Locusts
Every now and again Iraq is hit with a massive plague of locusts. How many are we talking about? Let’s see, between 40 and 80 million! They are capable of travelling as far as 80 miles in a single day and they can consume entire fields!
Every country has its national bird, and Iraq is no exception. The national bird of Iraq is the Chucker Partridge (Alectoris chukar)