Basra, in southern Iraq, was once known as the Venice of the Middle East for its canals and river-ways. Iraq’s second largest city and an important Gulf port, it was part of the ancient civilisation of Sumer and is also thought to be home of the famous legend, Sinbad the Sailor.
Explorer Ibn Battuta spent time in Basra as well during his global naval expeditions, but now, most people travel to the city via flights to Basra, which arrive into Basra International Airport.
One of the first mosques outside of the Arabian Peninsula can be found here, the Great Friday Mosque, while busy bazaars continue to trade as they have done throughout time at the Indian Market and the Hanna-Sheikh bazaar. (For spices, gold and other valuables, remember to barter.)
Basra has its fair share of coffee shops and restaurants, serving everything from Middle Eastern mezze to pizzas and fries. While luxury dining might be a little hard to find, there’s a good standard in general to be found with warm, welcoming hospitality.
And there are places to stretch your legs. Sinbad Island sits just off the city’s coast and was recently redeveloped as a park where visitors can sit and take in the sea views. The Corniche Al Basra, which stretches along the Shatt Al Arab shore, is a pleasant place to take in an evening stroll.
Basra International Hotel is the hotel of choice for many international visitors, with its own pool and five restaurants. As one of the hottest cities on earth all year round, this destination is best explored in taxis.