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Baghdad - thecapital of IraqBaghdad - 'Given by God'

Baghdad is the name of the capital of Iraq and the province in which it is located. In 2011, 7,200,000 people registered as residents, but the authorities say they are expecting the figure to have risen to 9,000,000 by now. Baghdad is the second biggest city in the Arab world.

Baghdad was founded to be a capital in the Eighth Century and evolved into one of the greatest centres of learning and the most populated city in the world by the Middle Ages. This situation changed rapidly when the Mongols sacked it in 1258. Baghdad remained affected by the damaged caused by the siege until the last century by which time it had recovered some of its reputation as a centre of learning wIth regard to Arabic culture.

Baghdad has suffered a lot in the Twenty-First Century again, especially after the 2003 invasion by allied forces which resulted in the overthrow of the Ba'ath Party and its leader Saddam Hussein. In 2012 Baghdad was still classified as one of the worst places in the world to live and the worst of the 221 cities on the list.

* There is evidence in Assyrian writing that the name Baghdadu goes back to 2000 BC, and there was an Aramaic Christian village called Baghdad there in 600 BC. There are two possible meanings for the name, depending on the stress used on the compound words. Baghdad could mean either 'Given by God' or 'Fair Garden', both of which would fit. Perhaps the word Baghdad formed the basis for an ancient Persian pun!

The city was round and huge with 2,400 metres between the gates on its four walls, which were 44 metres thick at the base and 12 metres thick at the top. The double iron gates were so massive that it took several men to move them. Around this wall, there was another, even thicker wall of 50 metres thickness with towers and armaments built into it. Beyond that was a trench which was partly constructed from quicklime and outside that was a moat.

It was an amazing feat for the Mongols to defeat such a fortified city, but they made the people of Baghdad pay a huge price for their resistance. The Mongols massacred at least 200,000 people, but some say that the number may have been as high as 1,000,000!

It was one of the greatest cities of learning of its day during the 500 years between its foundation and its sacking. Many of the stories of the 'One Thousand and One Nights' have Baghdad as their backdrop.

In 1534, Baghdad fell to the Ottoman Empire and a period of further decline ensued.

The National Museum of Iraq used to house many thousands of priceless relics, but Saddam Hussein had many of them destroyed. The museum was severely looted during the 2003 invasion too. Baghdad Zoo was also the biggest in the Middle East prior to the 2003 invasion, but within eight days only 35 0f the 650 specimens survived. Some died from lack of food, but many were poached for food by the starving inhabitants of Baghdad.