The media depiction of Iraq is of a place where humanity is found at its most ugly; a land of violent insurgency, kidnappings and religious intolerance and extremism. Yet this is also where humanity at its most tremendous once lived.
The core of modern Iraq was Mesopotamia, at the heart of the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires between the seventh century BC and AD100. Many great civilisations were cradled in often verdant arms here - amidst huge and unforgiving desert terrain snakes stupendous rivers such as the Euphrates andTigris. This country supposedly contained the glorious Garden of Eden and Babylon's bountiful Hanging Gardens.
Ancient Baghdad was a focal point of learning, a major stop along the Silk Road. The museums of Iraq were once testament to these cultural learnings, crammed with astonishing artefacts and relics, but sadly many of these were damaged or looted following the conflict.
However, Iraq has been blighted by resurgent conflict: from the Arab Caliphate to Mongols, and from the Timur Empire to the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, the Hashemite Amir Faisal ibn Hussain was proclaimed king; independence came in 1932. In 1958, the Hashemite Dynasty disintegrated via murder and coup. Iraq’s final coup in recent history came in 1968, bringing the Ba’ath Party to power.