Baghdad was once the capital of an empire and the centre of the Islamic world, but at 1,250 years old, the Iraqi city is a far cry from its past glories after being ravaged by years of war and sanctions.

Construction of the city on the bank of the Tigris River began in July 762 AD under Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar al-Mansur, and it has since played a pivotal role in Arab and Islamic civilisations.

"Baghdad represented the economic centre of the Abbasid Empire, and it was used as a starting point for controlling other neighbouring regions to enhance Islamic power," said Issam al-Faili, a professor of political history at Mustansiriyah University.

"Baghdad witnessed a renaissance of thought through translation, which was usually mastered by Jews and the Christians, and became a destination for intellectuals, poets and scholars from all parts of the world, and a centre for craftsmen and a city of construction," Faili said. "Baghdad today, after it was the capital of the world, has become one of the most miserable cities," he said.

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