Sunday, November 2, 2008

Geography of Iraq

Here is an article about the Geography of Iraq that I recently wrote for another website. I realized I should probably post it here as well as it is, of course, about geography! So, here you go:

"Iraq is a country in Southwest Asia ("Middle East") that is bordered by Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and the Persian Gulf. Iraq has obviously been featured heavily in the world's news media for many years now for a variety of reasons, mainly the United States' involvement in the country. However, despite all this attention and involvement by the U.S., very few people seem to actually know about Iraq's Geography. Geography, after all, sets the stage and foundation for everything else that occurs on the landscape. Therefore, this article is here to help you learn a little bit about the geography of Iraq.

Major Geographic Facts About Iraq: 
-Official Name = Republic of Iraq, Jumhūriyat Al-ʿIrāq (Arabic), Komarê Iraq (Kurdish) 
-Population (2007 estimate) = 29,267,0004 (39th) 
-Capital (and largest city) = Baghdad (with 2006 population of around 7 million and metro population of around 9 million). 
-Official Languages = Arabic, Kurdish 
-Government = Developing Parliamentary Republic 
-Independence from the Ottoman Empire on October 1, 1919; from the United Kingdom on October 3, 1932. 
-GDP (PPP 2007 estimate) = Total $102.3 billion (61st); Per capita $3,600 (129th) 
-Currency = Iraqi Dinar -Time Zone = GMT+3

Physical Geography and Major Geographic Features of Iraq: In general, Iraq is comprised of four main geographical regions. (1) The desert in the west and southwest area of the country (part of the larger Syrian Desert) is sparsely populated by nomads. Wadis, which carry floodwaters during winter rains but remain dry during much of the year, run from the border to the Euphrates River through this region. (2) The rolling upland between the upper Tigris and Euphrates rivers (known as "Al Jazira", "The Island") is part of a larger geographic area that extends north into Turkey and west into Syria. Parts of this region may also be classified as desert due to low amounts of rainfall. (3) The highlands in the north and northeast region of the country extend from an area between Kirkuk and Mosul across to the mountainous borders with Iran and Turkey. In this region, broad steppes submit to mountain ranges towering from 3,300 ft. to 13,100 ft. This region supports some cultivation as well as grazing, but is also home to the majority of Iraq's Kurdish population and several of the great oil fields. (4) The alluvial plain through which the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow, begins north of Baghdad and extends southward all the way into the Persian Gulf. The two rivers carry large quantities of silt, which they deposit at a significant rate each year helping to continually build up the delta area, which is characterized by widespread marshland. Although the area in the alluvial plain between the two rivers is highly irrigated, the salinity of the soil (due to high than average salt contents of the two rivers) significantly decreases the amount of cultivation possible in this region.

Tigris River, Iraq

Climate: The Climate of Iraq is overwhelmingly characterized by desert or desert-like, arid conditions. The average temperatures in Iraq range from greater than 120 °F in July and August to well below freezing in January. Most rainfall and precipitation occurs from December through April and averages between 4 to 7 inches annually (A desert is an area characterized as having less than 10 inches of precipitation each year). The mountains in the northern area of Iraq are where above average rates of rainfall occur each year relative to the rest of the country. Around 90 percent of the annual rainfall occurs mostly in the winter months between December and March. Much of the remainder of the year is quite dry with little to no rainfall.

Baghdad, capital of Iraq, on the Tigris River

Human Geography and Settlement Patterns of Iraq: Obviously, the majority of human settlement in Iraq is clustered along the two major waterways of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, as well as other water sources. Since Iraq is dominated by an arid environment, these water sources are essential to sustaining life and agriculture. Because the Tigris/Euphrates valley is easily irrigated, it has been important to agriculture since times of early civilization. As Iraq is part of what was once known as the "Fertile Crescent" in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq was home to such civilizations as the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Parthian cultures. Today, in fact, the economy of Iraq is largely based on agriculture, in addition to petroleum. Except for Baghdad, Iraq's capital and primate city, most Iraqis live in small villages. Additionally, several hundred thousand Iraqis are nomadic. Regarding religion, greater than 90 percent of Iraqis are followers of Islam (with the majority of Muslims in Iraq adhering to the Shiite branch of Islam). Iraq's human geography has undergone significant impact since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003 by U.S. and coalition forces and the subsequent transitional government."

Original article by Paul McDaniel is located at:

Relevant Links:


Places to See

Refresh page to see a new picture!

World Travel Gallery

World Geography RSS Audio Feeds

Click on any of the feeds below to listen to the program. Updated regularly.

PRI's The World: from BBC/PRI/WGBH

PRI's The World: Geo Quiz