Iraq Geography and Arts

By | December 19, 2021

Iraq, a state of the Near East, borders to the East with Iran, to the North with Turkey, to the West with Syria and Jordan, to the South with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and, for a short distance, it overlooks the Persian Gulf.

The name, an Arabic adaptation of the Middle Persian Iraq “Persian”, in the Middle Ages referred only to the country crossed by the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates, between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf; while the country north of this, ancient Mesopotamia, was called by the Arabs al-Giazīra “the island”. In the 9th century, the Seljuks having expanded their domination between Mesopotamia and Persia, the name Iraq was also given to Media (and hence the name Iraq‛ Agiamī “Iraq Persian” to distinguish it from Iraq al-‛Arabī “Arab Iraq”). From 1920, when today’s Iraqi state was established, assigned as a mandate by the League of Nations to Great Britain, the name of Iraq was extended to the valley of the two great rivers, south of the Anatolian mountains.

Physical characteristics

On the whole, the borders with the neighboring states delimit a well identified region, which corresponds to a depressed area in which the Tigris and Euphrates flow, limited to the South by the Persian Gulf and to the East and N by reliefs. Only to the West is the border uncertain, crossing the Syriac Desert. The two rivers filled, with the floods, the furrow included in the Precambrian flat plate of the Arabian Peninsula which plunges below the outer edge of the Zagros mountain range. Some branches of these mountains are included in the northern borders of the state (regions of Mosul with the Sinjar range, Kurdistan) and are deeply carved by the rivers that flow down to the Tigris (Khabur, Great Zab). Their height exceeds 3000 m in several places and the country generally has harsh shapes, so transit with the neighboring Turkish and Iranian regions takes place only for a few high steps. This belt of mountains, given the prevalence of limestone, functions as a water reservoir with respect to the adjacent plains. The rest of the country is flat, but in several regions it can best be described as wavy. In the western and southwestern sector, the Iraqi territory includes part of the Syriac-Arabian desert; this area, called al-Widyan, is crossed by numerous short streams, active only during short periods of rain and completely dry for most of the year. Near the place where the Tigris and Euphrates meet, the undulations disappear and become depressed until they gradually merge with the flat strips of steppe or desert that border the rivers. Little by little, the arid plain, bare, without trees, comes alive due to the appearance and the crowding of palm trees (irrigation).

Between the Syriac and Arabian desert – where the border with neighboring states is purely conventional – and the foothills of transition to the Zagros reliefs, along which the eastern border looms, lies the vast plain built by the two rivers in historical times. Here their floods and those of their confluents have gradually isolated a whole series of lakes of water, one of the largest, near the Persian Gulf, where the city of Basra stands, is the Hammar. In this region the most favorable conditions for settlement are found on the natural terraces near the rivers, where in fact the main inhabited centers are located. Furthermore, in these areas, irrigation, a decisive fact, now and in the past, in the life of this region, has been and is now easier.

The dominant climate in the plain is continental; Baghdad’s average annual temperature is 22.4 ° C (ranging from 35.5 ° C in July to 10.4 ° C in January). These conditions are maintained in the rest of the country, except in the northern mountainous bands where the altitude mitigates the excesses of the summer season and the abundant rainfall of the winter months recalls the Mediterranean climate. The rains occur from November to April, but do not exceed a total of 300 mm per year (in Baghdad 183 mm). It is therefore easy to understand how floods in Iraqi rivers have always played a decisive role in allowing acceptable living conditions.


The Iraq, from a peripheral province of Arab literature, has assumed a prominent position thanks to numerous writers and poets who in the years immediately following the Second World War gave life to a literature of renewal compared to classical models, expressing social problems and their country’s policies. Exponents of this new Iraqi literary expression are equally the poet Nāziq al-Malā’iqa, the poets Badr Shākir as-Sayyāb, ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān al Bayātī and the prose writers‛ Abd al-Maliq Nūrī and Fu’ād al-Takarlī, who, each with their own style, expressed the same feelings of patriotism and political commitment. The themes of subsequent literature are not clearly distinguishable, since at times the most diverse themes coexist in the same author: pessimism and lyricism, realism and existentialism, political commitment and individualism, to which problems linked to the Palestinian question are often added; among the best known writers we can remember: ‛Abd ar-Razzāq‛ Abd al-Waḥīd, Sa‛dī Yūsuf, poet of exile, ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān Magïd Rubay´ī, Muḥammad Khudayr and‛ Alī Gia‛far al- ‛ Allāq. Interesting is the path of the writer Y. Tawfik, exile in Italy since 1979, who has published novels in Italian such as The stranger (2001) and The refugee (2006).


In Babylon, Mosul, Nimrud, Nineveh, Samarra, there are the rich archaeological testimonies of the civilizations that flourished on the territory of the Iraq (from the Mesopotamian to the Islamic ones), to the discovery of which numerous foreign missions collaborated, today strongly involved in the safeguarding and restoration of monuments damaged by wars. ● Since the period of the English protectorate, Iraq opened to Western artistic and architectural currents, an academy of fine arts was established and an architecture school. The modernization process often led to urban interventions with demolition of the pre-existing urban fabric (Mosul, Arbil and especially Baghdad). Since the 1950s, the work of architects M. Makyia and R. Chadirji qualifies as an expression both of the need to harmonize architecture and urban planning with the historical environment, and of the search for a language capable of finding inspiration in Islamic tradition. Similar trends have been found in the figurative arts in artists who rise from the rhetorical celebration for an original research. Among the protagonists: H. Muḥammad al-Baǵdādī, who works in pure tradition, in the sphere of Arabic calligraphy and Islamic decoration; F. Hasan and J. Salim; Ḥ. Mas‛ūdī and Ḥ. Muḥammad Alī, which refer to Islamic calligraphy and decoration; Š. Ḥasan Sa‛īd; S. al-Ka‛bī, figurative; Ismā‛īl Fattāḥ, author of monumental works of international scope (monument to the Martyrs of Baghdad, 1981-83); Zyā ‘al-‛Azzāwī; Sa‛ad Sakir; S. al-Dabbāǵ and S. Usāma, active in the field of abstraction; ‛Alī al-Jābiri, who creates a synthesis between abstraction and a symbolic and allusive figurativism taken from traditional culture. For Iraq culture and traditions, please check


Iraqi music can be traced back to the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, where it was divided into two currents: the first related to tradition, the other, mainly in Sumerian language, to celebrations. The various musical traditions that developed in the Euphrates area had oriental characteristics with styles still valid today. THERE. he is musically known above all for an instrument called ‛ūd (lute) and for the rabāb (similar to a violin); the best known musicians who use these instruments are Ahmad Mukhtār and the Assyrian Munīr Bashīr respectively.

Iraqi music