During ancient times the lands now comprising Iraq were know as Mesopotamia (“Land Between the Rivers”), a region that gave rise to some of the world’s earliest civilizations. This wealthy region, constituting much of what is called the Fertile Crescent, later became part of larger imperial powers, including the Persian, Greek, and Roman dynasties, and, after the seventh century, it became an integral part of the Islamic world. Baghdad became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate in the eighth century.
Founded in 762, the city of Baghdad was originally built on the west bank of the Tigris River. As the city spread beyond the original walks to the east bank of the Tigris, the two halves were joined by a bridge. Baghdad once stood at the centre of trade routes between the East and the West, linking Asia with Europe. Caravans and travellers along the Silk Road brought silk and other valuable items. Ivory, gold, and other items were brought here from Zanzibar. Ships came upriver from the port of Basra bringing spices and printed cotton cloth from India, pearls from the Persian Gulf, and precious stones from Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka).
Baghdad was also the centre of intellectual pursuits attracting scholars, scientists, and philosophers. The entire philosophical heritage, the legacy of Aristotle, Plato, the great Greek philosophers, physicians and scientists, was translated into Arabic in the ninth century at the Bait al-Hikma and that entire corpus was subsequently available to the West in a Latin translation based on the Arabic. The first modern-day concept of hospital was built here in the eighth century while the first observatory was founded here in the ninth century. Baghdad’s impressive buildings and magnificent gardens gave it the reputation of the richest and most beautiful city of the world.
Alnoor Dhanani, “Muslim Philosophy and the Sciences,” The Muslim Almanac ed. Azim A. Nanji Detroit. Gale Research Inc. 1996.
Research by Nimira Dewji
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