Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq after the capital Baghdad.
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.
Basra also lately hit the news again do the water crisis, which saw 118,000 people hospitalized 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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.