Baghdad

Baghdad is one of the largest cities in the Middle East with 7 million residents and is the capital of Iraq. For years it has been a centre of cultural life in the Arab world.

One of the most important institutions operating in the city is the Museum of Iraq, established in 1923, which houses archeological remains of a great historical significance, dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. The National Museum of Modern Arts, established in 1962 has a permanent collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics created by Iraqi artists. Some of the most important mosques and sanctuaries are also located in Baghdad, including Mūsā al-Kāẓim and Muḥammad al-Jawād. Every single one of those buildings has a large library and is visited by many pilgrims. The Iraqi National Theatre is also located in the city. Until 1990 it had a richer cultural offer with performances, regular concerts and meetings, but since then it became a place where mostly dance theatre and Iraqi folklore is presented. The International Baghdad Fair is organised annually in October, covering film screenings, theatrical plays and other cultural activities.

Apart from the museums and theatres, the city is also home to a network of libraries. They were created as a part of sanctuaries and mosques and the most important of them is the National Library. Another important institution is the independent Children’s National Library. In addition to housing a large number of books, the libraries in Baghdad serve the role of meeting places, lecture halls and auditorium halls for symposiums and academic conferences.

The first and perhaps the most important Arab academies – Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) was also built here in 830. It was the most important translation centre in the Middle East in the 9th and 10th centuries. It contained translations from many languages (Syrian, Greek, Persian), and the House itself was the largest library in the 11th century. In 1258 the city was captured by the Mongols and the academy was destroyed.

In 2010, Arabic was selected to be one of the languages of the United Nations. Since then, Arabic Language Day is celebrated every year. The International Translation Conference was also brought to life.

One of the most prominent Iraqi writers was Abu Tajjib Al-Mutanabbi, who lived in the 10th century. He is famous for being a representative of Neoclassicism in Arab poetry, as well as for his beautiful style, full of Arabic archaisms and poetic comparisons. His works were translated into Polish by Adam Mickiewicz. Another important figure was Nazik al-Mala’ika, born in the 1920s. She debuted with a collection of poems titled Ashiqat al-Layl (Night’s Lover) in 1947. She was born into a liberal family in Baghdad and spend a part of her life in the USA. She died in 2007. Jamil Sidqi alZahawi, Abdul Ghani bin Ma’ruf al Rusafi and Muhammad Mahdi AlJawahiri are contemporary writers who contributed to the dissemination of the Iraqi culture and were known for their efforts to promote women’s rights and freedom of speech.