A map of Iraq In ancient times, the fertile plains between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates—known as Mesopotamia—were ruled by the great Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Today, this land is the central region of Iraq, home to its capital, Baghdad, and most of the country’s people. The Zagros Mountains rise along Iraq’s eastern border, including its northern region, Kurdistan. The barren Syrian Desert lies in the west. The south of the country is flat and marshy, criss-crossed by rivers. Iraq has a desert climate with hot, dry summers, mild winters and a short rainy season. Winters can be bitterly cold in the northern mountains, often bringing heavy snow.
About three-quarters of the people are Arabs. Nearly all Iraqis are Muslims, with around 65% of them Shia, 35% Sunni. Most of the population lives in and around the cities of Baghdad, Mosul in the north and Basra in the south. In the countryside, people live in small villages of mud-brick or concrete houses. Some live as nomads, herding their animals between grazing pastures in summer.
A street in Baghdad, March 2013
Iraqis have had mobile phones only since 2003. Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, Iraqis were not allowed to own or use them.
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