Iraq (Arabic: العراق Al-Irāq) is a country in the Middle East. It lies at the north end of the Persian Gulf and has a small (58 km) coastline in the southeast of the country. It is surrounded by Iran to the east, Kuwait to the south, Saudi Arabia to the southwest, Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, and Turkey to the north.
Major cities and tourist attractions
- Ashur — former capital of the Assyrian Empire and UNESCO World Heritage site, this is one of the country's few great archaeological sites that has benefited from the latest invasion—the Hussein government planned to create a dam nearby that would have flooded and utterly destroyed the site.
- Babylon (بابل) — damaged by inept reconstruction, looting, and military negligence, the ruins of ancient Babylon are still some of the most impressive in the Cradle of Civilization.
- Ctesiphon — the ancient capital of the Parthian and Sassanid Empires left us with magnificent, towering ruins, most notably of the magnificent Arch of Ctesiphon; just across the Tigris is the archaeological site of the ancient Hellenistic city of Seleucia.
- Hatra — a UNESCO World Heritage site, these incredibly well preserved Parthian city off in the desert are quite possibly Iraq's most magnificent ruins
- Nineveh (نينوى) — a 3,000 year old city and one time capital of Assyria, whose partially reconstructed ruins and archaeological site lies across the Tigris from Mosul.
- Ur (أور) — the ruins of the ancient Sumerian city, best known for its giant step pyramid, the Great Ziggurat of Ur.
Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) (formerly known as Saddam International Airport) (IATA: BGW; ICAO: ORBS, now ORBI) is about 16 km from the center of Baghdad.
All visitors to Iraq, require a visa for entry. Currently, contract and military personnel working for the U.S. Department of Defense are exempt from this visa policy, as long as they present a valid Common Access Card (CAC card) issued by the Department of Defense. This only holds true if you are flying into the military side of BIAP by Gryphon Air or on a military flight. If you fly into Baghdad International without an entry or working visa you will be deported.
For those entering the country without a visa, one can be purchased at most border crossings for US$80. The border crossing from Turkey to Iraq (Silopi/Zakho) did not charge for a visa as of March 2007. Total crossing time is around 1 hour for individuals. If you intend to acquire a visa at your port of entry, be prepared for long waits, and bring plenty of documentation about who you are and what your business in Iraq is. Letters on company or government letterhead are preferred.
Obtaining a travel visa to Iraq is complicated and time consuming. You can obtain an application at the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C.. However, all applications are vetted in Baghdad. Even if you do obtain a visa, you may still be refused entry into Iraq once you arrive. Visas can be acquired in advance at the Iraqi embassies in London, Paris, and Washington, D.C..