Baghdad is the capital of the Republic of Iraq. It is located on the Tigris River, in the center of the country. The Muslim Abbasid dynasty established the city in 762 AD as the capital of their empire. Baghdad became an important economic center by the early 8th Century. It served as a crossroads for merchants traveling trade routes between Europe, Persia and India. The city soon gained distinction for its vibrant cultural life. It was the seat of the Bayt al Hikma, or House of Wisdom, a meeting place for scholars, philosophers, scientists and architects. During this period, many of the tales later gathered in One Thousand and One Nights were developed in Baghdad. The book is a vast work legendarily strung together by the princess Scheherazade.
In 836, the Abbasids moved the capital of their empire to the city of Samarra. But Baghdad maintained its cultural supremacy. It housed many libraries and universities and was also the site of the largest hospital in the Muslim world. The University of Al Mustansiriya and the Palace of the Abbasids were built in this period. In 1258, Mongolians conquered and destroyed the city. Baghdad went into decline. Over the following centuries, Baghdad was occupied numerous times. In the 16th century it became part of the Ottoman Empire. With the fall of the Turkish Empire at the end of World War One, Iraq became a constitutional monarchy. Baghdad was once again a capital city. Thanks to profit from Iraqi oil wells, the city enjoyed a period of prosperity during the 1970s. In the 1980s, many of Baghdad’s citizens were killed during a territorial conflict that erupted between Iraq and Iran.
In 1990, Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein, who invaded Kuwait in order to further the country’s economic interests. A multinational coalition that included the US, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom opposed the aggression. Baghdad was heavily bombarded and its infrastructure was severely damaged. In 2003, Iraq became involved in another war as a result of a series of bellicose and unilateral actions taken by the US following the attacks of September 11, 2001. American forces occupied Baghdad between the 7 and 9th of April, 2003. The city remains under US control today. Baghdad’s population currently lives in extreme poverty and insecurity.