Although it might not seem like it, Baghdad, Iraq is a blossoming tourist destination welcoming casual groups interested in history, art, and a city that’s been off limits until recently. Adventurers are also making their way to this exciting new destination in the Middle East but you don’t have to be one to visit Baghdad, a remarkably modern and welcoming city.
Logistics And Accommodation
Flying into Baghdad is straightforward and there are direct flights from several destinations, including Istanbul. Iraq recently implemented an online e-visa program for a number of countries, removing some of the logistical barriers that once existed. Hotels are plentiful though they tend to range from dirt cheap or semi-luxurious, without many options – or prices – in between.
Getting to Baghdad is mostly normal. Flights land as they would anywhere else but upon arrival you’ll want to have your hotel pickup, Baghdad tour company, or other transportation arranged in advance. Unauthorized cars are not allowed up to the terminals at Baghdad International Airport for security reasons (more on that in a bit) so you won’t be able to just grab a cab once you step outside.
Baghdad is a city that has been experiencing recent periods of normality in between waves of local instability, including recent clashes and curfews. It’s best to have local contacts (e.g. guides) who can advise you of the situation on the ground during such waves. Otherwise, as locals will tell you, traveling to Baghdad isn’t dangerous but it is risk(ier) than many other places. Occasionally there are random attacks, mainly on the outskirts of town and they rarely target foreigners. Everyone has a different risk tolerance but when you’re in Baghdad, a bustling, vibrant city of over 7 million, it doesn’t feel much unlike most other developed capital cities.
Baghdadis are by and large friendly, welcoming, and aside from the ruthless traffic, getting around town by car or on foot isn’t extraordinary.
Why You Should Visit
Baghdad is a modern city with its Starbucks, hip restaurants, and a young and open-minded population who will be deciding what they want their country to be. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, there’s history (Babylon anyone?), cultural events in public squares, and some of the best cuisine you’ll find not just in Iraq, but anywhere.
Perhaps the untold story of Baghdad is that its not only a crossroads of time and peoples, but with that comes the unique mix of foods you can find here. Dishes with a range of fresh ingredients you might not have expected from Iraq but remember, you’re in the heart of the Fertile Crescent. There’s masgouf, traditional carp that’s farmed in the nearby marshes or absolutely one of the best falafels in the world (and a nice vegetarian option).
You’ll be welcomed in Baghdad as a guest – the locals will make sure of that – and you’ll be getting a peak into the fragile state of tourism here. It may be the beginning or a temporary end. Only time will tell so if you’ve been considering a trip to Iraq’s capital, now may be the time.