The Republic of Iraq forms part of the Western Asia group of countries. Iraq borders five other countries, including Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. With a total land area of 437,072 square kilometers, Iraq is the world’s 58th largest country. The country has several important cities which have defined both the history and the existence of the country. Some of these cities, such as Karbala, Najaf, and Baghdad, are frequented by Muslims from all over the world because of their status as holy cities. Most of the cities in Iraq are political, administrative, financial, and commercial centers. The biggest cities in Iraq are looked at below.
Baghdad is the largest city and the capital city of Iraq with an estimated population of 7,180,889. It is also the second largest city both in the Arab World and in Western Asia, after Cairo and Tehran, respectively. Baghdad is located along the Tigris River and was founded in the 8th Century and immediately evolved intellectual, cultural, and commercial center. The historic Baghdad grew very fast because of its excellent location that enabled it to have control over trading routes along the Tigris and the abundant supply of water in the dry climate. The Tigris River divides the city of Baghdad into two; Risafa in the eastern and Karkh on the western half. The city is built on a fairly flat and low-lying land of alluvial origin. For administrative purposes, the city is divided into nine districts and sub-districts with the Mayor responsible for regional services. Baghdad accounts for 40% of Iraq’s GDP while several institutions and companies including Iraqi Airways and Al-Naser.
Basra is located near the border between Iraq and Kuwait along the Shatt al-Arab River. The city has an estimated population of 2,750,000 making it the second largest city in Iraq. The city is Iraq’s main port despite not having the deep water access. Basra was founded in 636 as an encampment for Arab tribesmen who made up the army of Rashid Caliph Umar while fighting the Sassanid Empire. The name “Al-Basra” which means “the over watching” was given to the city because it was a strategic military base. The city of Basra is penetrated by several streams and canals which are important for irrigation. The canals were also used for transport across the city but die to pollution and low water levels, navigation is nearly impossible. The majority of Basra population is ethnic Arabs with the main tribes including Bani Sa’ad, Bani Khalid, Bani Malik, Bani Assad, and Bani Mansour. The economy of the city is largely dependent on the oil industry with some of the country’s largest oil field located in Basra. The city is also a major agricultural region producing maize, rice, millet wheat, dates, and livestock.
Hillah is located in the central region of Iraq on the Hilla Branch of the Euphrates River, near the ruins of ancient Babylon. The city is situated in a fertile agricultural region irrigated with water from the Hilla canal. The farms produce wide range of fruits, crops, and textile. The city Hillah has a population of 1,729,666, the third largest in Iraq. The city has a rich cultural history recorded in several books. Hillah city was chosen as Iraq’s cultural capital in 2008 because of the high number of galleries and cultural gatherings. The city also has important archaeological sites including Babylon ruins, Kish ruins, and Alberes.
Najaf is also located in central Iraq to the south of Baghdad, and it is often considered as one of the holy cities by the followers of Shi’a Islam, and also the Shiites' spiritual and political center within the country. Najaf is considered spiritual because of the tomb of Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib. The city receives a lot of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world. Najaf has a population of 1,389,500, making it the fourth largest in Iraq.