Babel Tours, IRAQ tours, Mesopotamia: the birthplace of history

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 Nasiriyah.

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.