Iraq has long reflected cultural diversity. Although Iraqis generally are a religious and conservative people, there are strong secular tendencies in the country.
Iraq is a Muslim nation with Arabic and Kurdish as its official languages. As such, Islamic holidays are celebrated. Other holidays include the Newroz, the Iraqi Army Day, and the International Workers’ holiday. Weekends in Iraq are Friday and Saturday, as opposed to the Western version of Saturday and Sunday.
There are many values that are honored in the Iraqi culture, including generosity and humility. Men commonly hold hands or kiss when greeting each other, but this is typically not the case for men and women. Respect is given to the elderly and women, especially those with children.
Many markets reflect local culture and economy such as the famous Al-Safafeer market in Baghdad which is one of the oldest markets in the city established during the Abbasid Caliphate and remains famous for various copper collectables and exhibits.
History of Iraq:
Mesopotamia – the core of modern Iraq – was at the heart of the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires between the 7th century BC and 100 AD. After brief spells under the rule of the Romans and the Sassanids, Iraq was subject to the Arab conquest in 633 AD.
Later, the Arab Caliphate took control of the territory during the late 12th and early 13th centuries before being dislodged by the Mongols. At the end of the 14th century, Iraq was conquered and subsumed into the empire ruled by Timur (also known as Tamerlane). The Turks were the next imperial invaders, ruling from the early 16th century until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1920, Iraq was placed under a League of Nations mandate administered by the UK, whose forces had occupied most of the country. The country achieved independence in 1932, but British forces intervened once again in 1941 to combat a pro-Nazi coup.
In 1958, the ruling Hashemite Dynasty was overthrown by a group of radical army officers inspired by the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, and led by Brigadier Abdul al-Karim Kassem. The new regime failed to consolidate its position, however, and relied on a precarious coalition of forces, which quickly disintegrated. Kassem was killed in 1963 during another coup.
Iraqi cuisine mirrors that of Syria and Lebanon, with strong influences from the culinary traditions of Turkey and Iran. Popular dishes include kebab (skewered meat, typically beef), falafel (fried chickpea balls), kofta (Iraqi meatballs) and masgouf (open-air-grilled carp). Meals typically begin with mezza, appetizers or salads similar to Spanish tapas. Mezza includes dips like baba ghanoush (baked eggplant) and hummus (chickpea) as well as small portions like dolma (grape leaves stuffed with vegetables, rice and sometimes meat). Long-grain rice is a staple in Iraq and is served with most dishes.
Renowned Iraqi composers include Abbas Jamil, NazimNaeem, Mohammed Noshi, Reza Ali, Kamal Al Sayid, Kawkab Hamza, Talib Ghali, Hameed Al Basri, Tariq Al Shibli, Mufeed Al Nasih, Jaffer Al Khafaf, Talib Al Qaraghouli and many others.Iraqi music has its historic roots in ancient traditions but has continued to evolve through various eras. From creation of the oldest guitar in the world and the invention of the lute, to adding a fifth string to the rhythms and the various Iraqi maqams, Iraqi music proves to be an important part of the country's culture.
Popular Iraqi singers in the twentieth century include Nazem Al-Ghazali, Dakhil Hassan, Zohoor Hussein, Fuad Salem, Hussein Nema, Riaz Ahmed, Qahtan Al Attar, Maida Nuzhat, Anwar Abdul Wahab, SattarJabbar, Kazem Al Saher amongst others.
The majority of Iraqis are Muslims regardless of ethnicity. Its position in Iraq went through a transition during Saddam Hussein’s regime as the state moved from a secular one to one needing Islam to prop up their actions. At this stage the words “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest) was added to the flag. During Saddam’s regime only Sunnis held real power.
With the overthrow of Saddam’s regime the Shia majority now hold more power and influence than in the past. As well as the power shift people have also been able to express their religious identities a lot more freely.
The Shia and Sunnis are similar in over 95% of ways. The differences are not as acute as one would think.
Essentially the split occurred to the political question of who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad as the leader of the community. Major differences between the two occur in jurisprudence (i.e. how to pray, how to marry, inheritance) and minor elements of faith.
Regardless of orientation Islam prescribes a way of life and it governs political, legal, and social behaviour. It organises one’s daily life and provides moral guidance for both society and the individual. The rules of Islam come from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (known as “hadith”.