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Visiting Basra Iraq´s Second Largest City As A Tourist.

Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq after the capital Baghdad.

Travel Guide to Basra the second largest town in Iraq and border city with Kuwait

Travel Guide to Basra the second largest town in Iraq.

Basra is located in the Lower Mesopotamia region of southern Iraq and is the economic capital in the country. Do its location close to both Iran (15km away), Kuwait (50km away), and it´s Iraq´s main port.

Like the rest of Iraq is not Basra, an obvious tourist destination for westerners, so I decided to visit.

The city was established in the year 636AD and played an important role in early Islamic history, with the Old Mosque of Basra ( The Imam Ali Mosque) being the first Mosque in Islam that was built outside the Arabian peninsula.

Basra was the first city in Iraq to be invaded during the 2003 invasion of Iraq when British armed forces occupied and governed the region until December 2007, when security responsibilities were returned to the Iraqi government.

Old Mosque of Basra ( The Imam Ali Mosque) was the first Mosque in Islam that was built outside the Arabian peninsula. in south Iraq

The remains of the Old Mosque of Basra ( The Imam Ali Mosque) was the first Mosque in Islam that was built outside the Arabian peninsula.

Basra also lately hit the news again do the water crisis which saw 118,000 people hospitalised due to stomach pains and skin rashes blamed on poor water quality in the city which led to violent protest around the city.

But there´s also a lot of positive things about Basra these days; it´s one of the most lively cities in the whole of Iraq with a lot of construction going on primarily by the shore along the Shatt al-Arab river which runs through Basra. Legend has it that Sinbad the Sailor embarked on a journey from Basra’s shores.

And even Saddam Hussein´s old palace in the city has now been turned into the Basra Museum with thousands of artefacts related to Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Persian civilisations some of the artefacts dating back as far as 6000BC.

Saddam Hussein´s old palace has now been turned into Basra Museum in south Iraq

Saddam Hussein´s old palace has now been turned into a Museum.

While you don´t see any visible remains from the war around the city, do you now have to look far to see the remains from the war in the harbour.

Basra doesn´t have too many obvious tourist sites around the city, and the most interesting ones are rather “obscure”.

But Here´s Top 5 Things You Should Do While In Basra. 

Take Shatt al-Arab River Cruise.

The most popular thing to do in Basra is to take a cruise down Shatt al-Arab river that runs through the city where you will get a close view of the Al Mansur, Ocean Breeze and even Saddam´s old Palace.

Two of Saddam Hussein’s private yachts still rest around the shores here, The 122m/400ft long Al Mansur was bombed here on 27th March 2003 and now lay as a rusted up wreck just of the shore.
While Saddam Hussein´s second yacht the 82m/270feet long Ocean Breeze is anchored up by the shore of the Shatt al-Arab river and now used as a  hotel for local sailors. (I wasn´t allowed to enter)

the wreck of Al Mansur, Saddam Hussein’s private yachts in south Iraq

The wreck of Al Mansur, Saddam Hussein’s private yachts lays now in the middle of the Shatt al-Arab river that runs through Basra.

the wreck of Al Mansur, Saddam Hussein’s private yachts lays now in the middle of the Shatt al-Arab river in Basra in south Iraq

The wreck of Al Mansur, Saddam Hussein’s private yachts lays now in the middle of the Shatt al-Arab river that runs through Basra.

Saddam Husseins old yacht, the Ocean Breeze is anchored up by the shore of the Shatt al-Arab river and now used as a hotel for local sailors. in south Iraq

Saddam Hussein’s old yacht, the Ocean Breeze is anchored up by the shore of the Shatt al-Arab river and now used as a hotel for local sailors seen from land.

Saddam Hussein's old yacht, the Ocean Breeze in Basra south Iraq

Saddam Hussein’s old yacht, the Ocean Breeze is anchored up by the shore of the Shatt al-Arab river and now used as a hotel for local sailors seen from the river.

Basra River cruise in Iraq

Locals are getting ready for a river cruise down the Shatt al-Arab river. The Ferris wheels in the background are working, and are popular by locals.

basra river wrecks in South Iraq

Old shipwrecks are all over the river.

basra ferris wheel in south Iraq

The ferries wheel are popular among locals.

Shatt al-Arab river bridge in Basra the second largest city in Iraq

The new 1188meter long Shatt al-Arab river bridge opened in 2017.

Saddam hussein palace in Basra in south Iraq

Saddam Hussein’s old palace as seen from the river, now a museum.

Walk Around Basra Old Town.

Old Basra was once called Venice of the east, do the canals around the city, where Jewish, Christian and Muslim lived, behind beautiful latticework windows and wood carved Shanasheel in traditional homes dating back the 16th and 17th centuries.

Unfortunately, these days are most of the beautiful old buildings that make up Old Basra crumbling away and if nothing is done will the whole historical part of Basra soon only a memory. But luckily so does it seem that at least one of the beautiful buildings might be saved after young artists turned it into an art gallery.

A old bridge across one of the small canals in old Basra in Iraq

An old bridge across one of the small canals in old Basra.

Old part of Basra Iraq

A back alley in old Basra, notice the metal poles on the right side to hold the buildings still standing.

Old Basra in Iraq

A local woman walking through the back alleys of the old part of town

wood carved Shanasheel in a old alley of Basra in south Iraq

wood carved Shanasheel in an old alley

a beautiful wood carved Shanasheel in a old alley Basra in Iraq

A wood-carved traditional Shanasheel in an old alley around the old part of town.

Inside old house Basra in Iraq

Inside a traditional house in the old part of the city.

beautiful latticework windows in Iraq

Beautiful latticework windows in a traditional house, in the old part of town.

old Basra art gallery in Iraq

One of the old houses is now turned into an art gallery by young local artists.

Visit The Remains From Imam Ali Mosque (Old Mosque Basra) The Oldest Mosque in Islam that was built outside the Arabian Peninsula.

On the outskirts of Basra is Iman Ali Mosque, which is the first mosque built in Iraq and among the oldest mosques in the history of Islam.
The mosque was built here around the year 635AD during the era of the second Caliph Umar, today only remains of the original Minaret still stands, and there´s a new Mosque built on the site.

MAM ALI MOSQUE (OLD MOSQUE BASRA) the oldest mosque in Iraq

The only remaining structure from the Old Mosque, the oldest Mosque in Iraq.

Watch A Football Match At The Biggest Football Stadium In Iraq.

If your a football fan is there no better place to watch a football game in Iraq, then here at Basra Sports City, the biggest football stadium in the whole of Iraq with a capacity of 65.000.

I had big plans to watch a football match here, but I arrived one day after I originally planned and missed the match I was planning to watch. The stadium is home to the two local teams Naft Al-Junoob SC and Al-Mina’a SC.

Basra football stadium largest football stadium in Iraq

Basra football stadium is the biggest stadium in Iraq with a capacity of 65 000.

Take A Day Trip To The Tree of Knowledge/the site of the Garden of Eden.

74Km/46miles Northwest of Basra is the small town of Al-Qurnah where the two great Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet and join and form the Shatt al-Arab river.
Tigris and Euphrates are two of the four “rivers of paradise” that flowed out of the Garden of Eden, as named in Genesis 2:10-14. 

Right by where the two rivers join together are a dead Jujube tree, this tree is, according to local legend, the Tree of the Knowledge, and the one that Eve ate the apple from.
A small park with local plants was built around the Tree in the 1950s, to protect it.

TREE OF KNOWLEDGE in iRAQ

The supposedly Tree of Knowledge.

The supposedly Tree of Knowledge in Iraq

A small information sign with the history of the tree.

Additional Information About Basra.

To visit Basra and southern Iraq will you need a visa, which is difficult and time-consuming, click here to read a guide about what you need and how to get it.

Getting To Basra:

Basra located 530km south of the capital Baghdad and connected through Highway 1, while the road quality is good while it takes long do to all the military checkpoints along the way.

Train Between Basra and Baghdad:

There is at least one overnight train from Baghdad every day, and sometimes a second one. The slower taking 12 hours and one express train with a journey time of 6-7 hours. However, delays and cancellation are common. Click here to read my guide from taking the local train between Basra and Baghdad.

Basra Railway Station in Iraq

Railway Station.

My train in the early hours at Basra railway station in south Iraq

My train in the early hours at Basra railway station.

Flights To Basra:

Basra International Airport is the second busiest airport in the country with flights to most of the neighbouring countries.

The most important flights from Basra International Airport are:
Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines to Istanbul. 
Qatar Airways to Doha. 
Emirates and FlyDubai to Dubai. 
Royal Jordan to Amman.
Middle East Airlines to Beirut
The national airline Iraqi Airways flys to the neighbouring countries and additional New Delhi and Cario.
FlyDams, Fly Bagdhad and Cham Wings Airlines all operate flights to Damascus.

Iraqi Airways offers Domestic flights to all major cities around Iraq.

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