top of page

From Mosul in North to Basra in South:

An trip into the heartland of Iraq, travelling the region bound by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Tracing back through history, we traveled to the centres of some of humanity’s first civilisations, two of Islam’s holiest sites, and visited the Marsk Arabs on the Shatt al-Arab.

After having visited nearly all other parts of the Middle East, including the Kurdish parts of Iraq, we were determined to visit mainland Iraq. After two gulf wars and internal wars, how had the Iraqi people coped? What damage had been done? Would it be possible to do a tour there? What is the future for Iraq?

So, we did a travel from Mosul in north over Samarra, Baghdad and Fallujah to the holy cities of Kerbala, Najaf and Kufa, ending our stay in Querna and  Basra in south.

The Iraqi's enthusiasm for freedom after Saddam's constrictive regime was very infectious and apart from heavy military presence, there is little damage to the many ancient sites. The general air of relaxation extended  beyound the numerous checkpoints we crossed all the way to us mingling with the pilgrims in Najaf and Kerbala. It was a wonderful experience.

Location: northern, central and southern Iraq

Our trip started in Mosul, know as the City of Prophets because of the number of shrines built within the old city parts. When we visited many parts of Mosul was really rampaged after heavy fighting against ISIS. History is nevertheless still alive in and around the city, which we saw visiting the ancient sites of Nineveh and Hatra. The former comprise a citadel, old gates and palaces right on the banks of River Tigris,  and the latter, also know as City of the Sun, is a massive circular old city. Unfortunately, the site of Nimrud, also close to Mosul, has been bulldozed by ISIS insurgents (at least we were told so). There are other important sites near Mosul that we have visited on another journey through Iraqi Kurdistan.

From northern Iraq we progressed south towards Samarra, Balad, Fallujah, Agargouf and Bagdad. These areas has numerous archeological sites dating back to the Ubaid period and Babylonian period, but many villages are still off limit since they have been under al-Qaida and ISIS-control until just recently. Of particular interest is Samarra, the home to an 8th-century mosque, perhaps at some point the largest in the world, and an iconic spiral minaret, totally unique in its form. Walking up to the top grants spectacular views over Samarra. 


Bagdad, the nation’s capital was one of the great Arab cities of the world and at its peak, it was the centre of the Islamic world. Some of this history still feels tangible in places such as the Mustansiriya Madrassah, the copper market and century-old tea shops. We also enjoyed he National Museum of Baghdad and the Al-Shaheed Monument, otherwise known as the Martyr Monument. Near Bagdad, we visited the Arch of Ctesiphon, the largest brick-made arch in the world, as well as Agargouf near Fallujah, one of the largest ziggurats in Iraq, housing several temples and palaces.

Next, we moved south to the holy shrine cities of Kernala, Najaf and Kufa. The busy pilgrim towns of Najaf and Karbala host to two of the holiest places in Shia Islam. Karbala is the city in which the Shia martyr, Imam Hussein, was killed during the battle of Kerbala. His death is commemorated every year by Shia Muslims on Ashura. Nearby is the Fortress of Al-Ukhaidir, famous for its unique rectangular defensive structure dating back to the 8th century. Further South is the other important Shia Islam pilgrimage site, Najaf. It is home to the shrine of the Imam Ali, found within the Najaf Mosque.

Further south, we explore Ur,  Uruk and Babylon,  two ancient Sumerian sites. Uruk is argued by many to be the world’s first major city, since it was continuously inhabited till 300CE. Ur was a wealthy down due to its strategic position as a trading centre. The town used to be closer to the Persian Gulf, when water levels were higher. Both archaeological sites grant visitors an extensive glimpse into the history of Mesopotamia. Babylon is one of the better-known cities of Mesopotamia, having forever been sought after as a prize for conquering empires. Famous for allegedly being the home of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the definite site of the Lion of Babylon and the azure Ishtar Gate. Much of the city has been heavily reconstructedWe also visit Saddam Hussein’s palace he had built overlooking the archaeological site.

We push on down to the marshes which Saddam Hussein famously drained in 1992. Since Saddam was killed, Marsh Arabs has slowly seen the UNESCO world heritage site being brought back to life. The unique culture found in the marshes can still be seen, and we visit on a small wooden canoe the tribes living on small islands in the marshes. South of the marshes where the two great rivers, the Eufrat and the Tigris, meet in Qurnah, the alleged site of the Garden of Eden. We end our journey in Basra, the socalled Venice of the Middle East.

If you fancy more of Iraq, we traveled through Iraqi Kurdistan on another journey, which comprises all of the north-eastern part of Iraq. If Middle East adventures excites you, check our pages on travels in f Kurdistan in Iran and Eastern TurkeySyria and greater Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea, and a long trip on the Hippy Trail through Turkey and Iran. 

Selected pics from this encounter:



bottom of page