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Iraq, known in classical antiquity as Mesopotamia, was home to the oldest civilizations in the world, with a cultural history of over 10,000 years, hence its common epithet, the Cradle of Civilization. Mesopotamia, as part of the larger Fertile Crescent, was a significant part of the Ancient Near East throughout the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Successively ruled by the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Medo-Persian, Seleucid and Parthian empires during the Iron Age and Classical Antiquity, Iraq was conquered by the Arab Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century, and became a center of the Islamic Golden Age during the medieval Abbasid Caliphate. After a series of invasions and conquest by the Mongols and Turks, Iraq fell under Ottoman rule in the 16th century, intermittently falling under Mamluk and Safavid control.
MusicIraq is known primarily for its rich maqam heritage which has been passed down orally by the masters of the maqam in an unbroken chain of transmission leading up to the present. The maqam al-Iraqi is considered to be the most noble and perfect form of maqam. Al-maqam al-Iraqi is the collection of sung poems written either in one of the sixteen meters of classical Arabic or in Iraqi dialect (Zuhayri). This form of art is recognized by UNESCO as “an intangible heritage of humanity”.
Art and ArchitectureSome important cultural institutions in the capital include the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra – rehearsals and performances were briefly interrupted during the Occupation of Iraq but have since returned to normal. The National Theatre of Iraq was looted during the 2003 invasion, but efforts are underway to restore it. The live theatre scene received a boost during the 1990s when UN sanctions limited the import of foreign films. As many as 30 movie theatres were reported to have been converted to live stages, producing a wide range of comedies and dramatic productions.
CuisineIraqi cuisine has a long history going back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Ancient Persians. Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world. Ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was home to many sophisticated and highly advanced civilizations, in all fields of knowledge – including the culinary arts.