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 civilization of Sumer and is also thought to be the home of the legendary Sinbad the Sailor.
Explorer Ibn Battuta spent time in Basra during his global naval expeditions, as well, but now most people travel to the city via flights to Basra, which land at Basra International Airport.
One of the first mosques outside of the Arabian Peninsula, the Great Friday Mosque, can be found here, and 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, just off the city’s coast, 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 an evening stroll.
Basra International Hotel, with its own pool and five restaurants, is the hotel of choice for many international visitors. As one of the hottest cities on earth all year round, this destination is best explored by taxi.