Mesopotamia: the birthplace of history
Day 1: Your City – Baghdad
Transfer from airport to Hotel. Dinner and night in Baghdad.
Day 2: Baghdad – Nasiriyah
Departure in the morning for the road to the South. Just after Baghdad, visit of
Ctesiphon. Dinner and night in Nasiriyah.
Day 3: Nasiriyah – Ur – Nasiriyah
Day devoted to visiting Ur, which is very close to Nasiriyah. Morning departure
to this most symbolic of cities: it was already inhabited in the year 4000 BC and
remained so until the Hellenistic period. This timeless city saw the rise and fall
of prestigious dynasties, but owes its fame primarily to the biblical tradition
which claims it as the home of the patriarch Abraham. Ur was protected by the Euphrates
to the west and by a channel to the east which led to two ports because at that
time the city was on the edge of the waters of the Persian Gulf. The infrastructures
bear witness to an extremely busy port which enabled traders to enjoy successful
business arrangements with Dilmun (today's Bahrain) and Magan (today's Oman). Caravans
laden with the most precious products also left Ur for the rest of the Orient. Mid-way
between the two ports lay the official zone of Ur built around the sanctuary of
the God Nanna / Sin – the Moon god. It was in the courtyard of the temple dedicated
to this god that the imposing ziggurat, called É-Temen-NiGur, was built. Its name
literally means "house whose foundation creates terror" and its first level can
still be admired today. The exceptional wealth of Ur was confirmed by the discovery
of 1800 tombs, some of which are referred to as "royal tombs" owing to the riches
they contained. The discovery of the private residential quarter enabled researchers
to piece together the town planning arrangements in the 19th and 18th centuries
BC. Houses were separated by the narrow streets that are still visible. Lunch in
Nasiriyah. Dinner and night in Nasiriyah.
Day 4: Nasiriyah - Lagash – Ash Shatra – Tello (Ngirsu) - Nasiriyah
In the morning, drive to Lagash, the ancient Sumerian city. We will take the time
to visit this major site, which is striking despite its starkness. The Sumerian
kings of the country of Lagash ruled over a territory of some 300 km² which comprised
three major cities built on the banks of an important channel fed by the waters
of the Euphrates: to the North-West Ngirsu, home of the god Ningirsu; in the centre
of the State was the city of Lagash itself and to the South was Nigin, home of the
goddess Nanshe, sister of Ningirsu. Lagash prospered in Sumer as the power of Uruk
and Kish declined. It was to retain a major role until the end of the 3rd millennium
BC. The city was famous for its oval temple dedicated to Inanna / Ishtar, and for
its temple dedicated to Ningirsu. Lunch in Ash Shatra and meeting with the population.
Relaxation on the banks of the Shaat Al Gharouf river. In the afternoon, visit to
the nearby site of Ngirsu (today Tello), former capital of the State of Lagash.
The city developed mainly between the archaic dynastic period and the end of the
Ur III dynasty (that is at the end of the 3rd millennium BC). The major interest
of the city is not the architectural remains, but rather the important archives
and the objects discovered on the site. For example, the 2,000 tablets from the
archives of the domain of the goddess Ba‘U and above all the Stele of the Vultures
evoking the conflict between the State of Lagash and Umma. Return for dinner and
night in Nasiriyah.
Day 5: Nasiriyah - Larsa – Uruk – Nasiriyah
This day will be a special opportunity to penetrate deep into the heart of the Mesopotamian
desert. We will drive to Larsa and then visit this particularly arid archaeological
site on foot. Occupancy of this site goes back to the 3rd millennium BC. It was
the capital of the province of Ur III, and reached its apogee at the beginning of
the Old Babylonian period, before being incorporated into the Kingdom of Hammurabi.
It was then to play only a secondary role but remained one of the holy cities of
the country until the Seleuco-Parthian period. The excavations have revealed an
abundance of essentially epigraphic material, dating from the reign of Hammurabi,
such as fragments of the eponymous code. We will drive to Uruk and begin the visit
of the site, one of the most impressive of all Mesopotamia through the quality and
beauty of the remains. This was where the first forms of writing appeared. Picnic
lunch on the site. The city is identified as the biblical Erech but Uruk was above
all the city of the legendary Gilgamesh, builder of its walls and central character
of the famous epic. As early as the 4th millennium BC, Uruk was an important city
resulting from the amalgamation of several towns and extended to area of 400 hectares
in the 3rd millennium BC. As the main city in the country of Sumer and most certainly
the oldest City-State, its prospered under the aegis of its goddess Inanna / Ishtar
– the goddess of love and war. In the Hellenistic period, under the name of Orchoï,
it once again enjoyed a period of success and was the capital of Southern Mesopotamia.
Uruk retained this important role under the Parthians and then declined before being
finally abandoned under the first Sassanid kings. Return for dinner and night in
Day 6: The Tigris and the Marshes
Day-long excursion to the Tigris and canoe excursion (to be confirmed) into the
Marshes. Legend claims this place to be the Earthly paradise. It is one of the largest
ecosystems in the world and one of its strangest aquatic environments, where man
lives alongside animals, birds and fish. The region is currently being rehabilitated
after the dramatic and aggressive drainage policy conducted under the regime of
Saddam Hussein. This immense body of water at the entrance to the Shatt-el-Arab,
covered with reeds and dotted with lake-dweller villages, is home to the Marsh Arabs.
This region was already inhabited 5,000 years ago, as witnessed by the Sumerian
bas-reliefs. Since then, the population has retained a lifestyle built essentially
around fishing, buffalo breeding and reed weaving. During this journey, we will
meet the "Madan", considered to be the oldest inhabitants of the marshlands and
the heirs to the most ancient local traditions. Return for dinner and night in Nasiriyah.
Day 7: Nasiriyah – Babylon
The day will be entirely devoted to visiting the legendary city of Babylon, with
a long drive but on very good roads both there and back. The existence of Babylon
is mentioned for the first time in about 2340 BC, a time at which the city was just
one town among many. It was only at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC that
Babylon was to occupy a position of importance, with the arrival in power of a dynasty
of Amorite origin. They were to found the 1st Babylon dynasty, marked by the reign
of King Hammurabi who managed to reunify Mesopotamia and who is still famous today
for his code of laws. Babylon then experienced troubled times interspersed with
periods of domination, including by the Kassites and later on by the Assyrians.
But for a while, the city was restored to its former glory during the neo-Babylonian
period, famous mainly for the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (604 – 562). He was to
make his mark on history by building and restoring the edifices you will be seeing
during the visit. The city then gradually declined until Seleucos 1 abandoned it
for Seleucia, the new capital founded in 300 BC. Although a powerful political centre,
Babylon also played an important religious role, becoming a holy place, respected
even by the Assyrian enemy. One of the clearest signs of this was the temple dedicated
to Marduk, the patron deity of Babylon, alongside the Etemenanki ziggurat, literally
meaning "temple of the foundation of heaven and earth". Nothing today remains of
these constructions but eloquent vestiges still illustrate the history of the city.
You will begin the visit by passing through the famous rebuilt Gate of Ishtar. It
opens onto the Processional Way, 250 metres long and 20 to 24 metres wide. At one
time it was flanked by one hundred and twenty life-sized enamelled brick lions,
representing the goddess Ishtar. This leads to the Lion of Babylon, a magnificent
basalt sculpture. Dinner and night in Hillah.
Day 8: Hillah – Karbala - Baghdad
Visit of the Holy Shrine of Karbala in the morning. Visiting Imam Mahdi place, Zainabi
hill ( the place where Zainab, sister of Imam Hussain, was standing and observing
the battle of karbala).. continue to visit the site where Imam Abass hands were
cut, Imam Hussain camp and halt in karbala markets. Road to Baghdad. Dinner and
night in Baghdad.
Day 9: Baghdad - Your City
Transfer to Baghdad International airport and flight to your country.