CITY OF ERBIL
Here are some important details about this historic city.
Erbil, also known as Hewler, is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is located northwest of Baghdad, and its governorate has a permanent population of approximately 1.61 million as of 2011.
Erbil, also known as Hewler (Kurdish: Hewlêr, Central Kurdish: ھەولێر; Arabic: أربيل Arbīl), is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is located northwest of Baghdad, and its governorate has a permanent population of approximately 1.61 million as of 2011.
Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5000 BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Arbil.
The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Ur III dynasty of Sumer, when king Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum – the ancient name of modern-day Arbil. The city became an integral part of Assyria from the 25th century BC to the 7th century BC.
Erbil was under the rule of many regional powers in turn, including the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and Greeks. Following the Muslim conquest of Persia, the Arabs dissolved Assyria (then known as Assuristan/Athura) as a geo-political entity in the mid-7th century AD, and during medieval times the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks.
Erbil's archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artifacts, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area.
The city was designated as Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014, Erbil Citadel was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history. The first mention of Erbil in literary sources' comes from the archives of Ebla. They record two journeys to Erbil (Irbilum) by a messenger from Ebla around 2300 BC. Later, Erridupizir, king of Gutium, captured the city in 2200 BC.
The Neo-Sumerian ruler of Ur, Amar-Sin, sacked Urbilum in his second year, c. 1975 BC) Erbil was an integral part of Assyria from around 1900 BC until 605 BC, and it remained part of Assyria under Persian, Greek, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid rule.
Under the Median Empire, Cyaxares might have settled a number of people from the Ancient Iranian tribe of Sagartians in Arbela and Kirkuk, probably as a reward for their help in the capture of Nineveh. The Persian emperor Cyrus the Great occupied Assyria in 547 BC, and established it as an Achaemenid satrapy called in Old Persian Aθurā (Athura), with Arbela as the capital.
The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC, took place approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Erbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to the city, and, somewhat inaccurately, the confrontation is sometimes known as the "Battle of Arbela".
Erbil became part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sasanids. The ancient Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene (the Greek form of Ḥadyab) had its center at Erbil, and the town and kingdom are known in Jewish Middle Eastern history for the conversion of the royal family to Judaism. Its populace then converted from the Mesopotamian Religion during the 1st and 2nd centuries to Church of the East Christianity, with Pkidhatraditionally becoming its first bishop around 104 AD. The metropolitanate of Ḥadyab in Arbela (Syriac: Arbel) became a centre of eastern Syriac Christianity until late in the Middle Ages.
The modern town of Erbil stands on a tell topped by an Ottoman fort. During the Middle Ages, Erbil became a major trading centre on the route between Baghdad and Mosul, a role which it still plays today with important road links to the outside world.
Today, the Kurds form the largest ethnic group in the city, with smaller numbers of Arabs, Assyrians, Turcoman, Armenians and Mandeans also extant.
The parliament of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region was established in Erbil in 1970 after negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Mustafa Barzani, but was effectively controlled by Saddam Hussein until the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The legislature ceased to function effectively in the mid-1990s when fighting broke out between the two main Kurdish factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The city was captured by the KDP in 1996 with the assistance of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The PUK then established an alternative Kurdish government in Sulaimaniyah. KDP claimed that on March 1996 PUK asked for Iran's help to fight KDP. Considering this as a foreign attack on Iraq's soil, the KDP asked the Iraqi government for help.
The Kurdish Parliament in Erbil reconvened after a peace agreement was signed between the Kurdish parties in 1997, but had no real power. The Kurdish government in Erbil had control only in the western and northern parts of the autonomous region. During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, a United States special forces task force was headquartered just outside of Erbil. The city was the scene of celebrations on April 10, 2003 after the fall of the Ba'ath regime.
During the US occupation of Iraq, sporadic attacks hit Erbil. Parallel bomb attacks against Eid celebrations killed 109 people on February 1, 2004. Responsibility was claimed by the Ansar al-Sunnah, and stated to be in solidarity with Ansar al-Islam. A suicide bombing on May 4, 2005 killed 60 civilians and injured 150 more outside a police recruiting center.
The Erbil International Airport opened in the city in 2005.
Weather: 36°F (2°C),
Wind E at 0 mph (0 km/h),
Hotels: 3-star averaging $90, 5-star averaging $140.
Getting there: 13 h 50 min flight, around $1,535.
Province: Erbil Governorate
Population: 485,968 (1987)
Number of airports: 1
THINGS TO SEE
CENTRAL SQUARE - The central square in Erbil is, as in many other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cities, the centre of urban life. Bounded by the citadel to the north and the Qaysari Bazaar to the east, the open spaces and the fountain in the centre of the square allow it to act as a natural gathering place for shoppers and strollers, as well as workers from the surrounding shops, stores, offices and mosques. In the afternoon the place really comes to life with men having tea and smoking waterpipes, children and families playing in the square, and dozens of vendors selling snacks and small goods to passers-by. The fountain in the centre is certainly a focal point, but it is neither ostentatious nor artistically daring, providing more of a bourgeois backdrop than any sort of artistic or creative expression of the energy of the city. This is a wonderful place to spend some time once you’ve trudged around to the city’s various sites, especially if you are much enamoured of people-watching.
QAYSARI BAZAAR - A must when visiting Erbil is a wander through Qaysari Bazaar in the downtown area, which has been recently reconstructed using traditional architecture, You will find everything from stalls selling fresh fruit, organic Kurdish cheese or honey, shoes, electronics, clothes and also a chance to buy souvenirs such as kalash (hand-made white Kurdish shoes).
ERBIL CITADEL & MOSQUE - The Citadel also houses a mosque, which was, presumably, the main site for religious devotion among the Citadel’s Muslim families. It is the Mulla Afandi Mosque, named after Mulla Afandi, a prominent Kurdish cleric from the city who lived around the turn of the last century. I did not have the opporutity to visit the mosque, but I’m sure that its restoration is part of the wider restoration of the citadel. Nearby the mosque are public baths in the traditional hammam style.
MUDHAFARIA MINARET - The Mudhafaria Minaret is located in what is known as Minaret Park, which was, unfortunately, closed when I came by on a cold February morning. The Minaret is noticeable because it is only a half-minaret – the upper part was obviously blasted off during a war or skirmish at some point through the turbulent history of this part of the world. The Mudhafaria Minaret was constructed in the 12th century and it provides an ideal spot for the sort of photographs that allow you to highlight interesting places you’ve visited while also showcasing an interesting architecture structure.