I want to share my experience from my trip to Baghdad and the story of Baghdad (Iraq) which was very inspiring. My intension was to visit different shrines and islamic schools specially Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani ‘s shrine which was built by muslim caliphs . e.g Jami’ya Abu Hanifa bagdad cited Imam Musa Kazim’s shrine in kazmian. Baghdad is one of the oldest cities in the world and was known as “The Babylon City“
My students and I were already planning to visit Baghdad for spiritual knowledge and to meet different sufis & saints and to see cultural of sufism. And especially to meet with His-holiness Shaykh Najeeb Abdul Baqi who’s currently in-charge of Sufis Halqa in mausoleum of Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani (R.A) in Baghdad. Actually, he invited all of us at a grand sufi event held annually in Baghdad, which is regarding Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani.
Visa from Pakistan for pilgrims (Zairean) is under a group visa policy which is based over minimum of 5 people. Process starts from approvals which are granted by Iraqi embassy and later visas are issued. This is the most simplest process, pilgrim groups are also arranged by tourism companies which is recommended method. Average group package per person include everything e.g. Air Ticket, Hotel/mausoleum’s guest House, transportation and food package available around $750- $900.
Allama Iqbal International Airport
We were five travellers and approached the airport on time. This airport is not very busy but most public comes to see the Aeroplanes. Our group leader Omer was waiting for us, maybe we were the last group. Check-in was so easy because of Qatar Airways cooperation. After immigration we all felt like bachelors and happy. After some time we boarded onto the Dreamliner 787 which was my first experience of it. It was very amazing, our route was Lahore to Doha (Transit) and finally to Baghdad. The flight took-off and after 3hrs approx we reached Hamad International Airport Doha. Runway is attached to the beach side, which looked beautiful and felt scary sometimes.
Hamad International Airport
This airport is maybe one of the biggest airports in the world with metro trains and golf carts. I was surprised at the time that government keeps the airport clean and up-to date. There are huge food courts and credit card facility is available everywhere. Duty free was crowded at the time against my expectations to see less people as of the U.S sanctions over Qatar with support of Arab League. Actually I expected Qatar’s condition similar to Iraq or worst. But I think I found a new world at that time. Our transit in doha was only for 3 hr. These happy hours passed fast and our flight was announced for Baghdad and we got in.
Bagdad International Airport
We reached in 2hr 40min approx, after landing my eyes opened and the scene was scary because I saw the airport with no aeroplanes rather all I saw were old buildings and aviation machinery. We reached the immigration counter quickly, the immigration lounge was very small. Our group leader went for visa and list counter for clearance and the staff was uncooperative. After this process we approached the counter for entry. Queue was so long that two men were placed over one computer. One is for entry and stamp and the other was for security check over him, after 7-10 min immigration system was locked automatically and second man comes to help, Its ridiculous for visitors. After immigration we came over to the luggage belt where airport security snatched mangos from Pakistanis because they like mangos :). Those people behaved like thieves, the group leader used our extra luggage weight without permission, and it was a bribe or demanded thing for his fellows. The bus was waiting for us and the moment I saw it, I thanked God for this last step. We sat in the bus but after 5 minutes bus was parked in and group leader asked us to leave the bus in 55 C temperature, we had to leave the bus in this heat and apparently the bus was only used to get passengers out from airport radius and then there were large number of taxis and private buses waiting. This was hell for us, there was no water, washroom or even a shed over us. Another bus was ready and we shifted to it.
Mansoor Million Hotel
Distance from airport to hotel was approx 35-45 min. There are many hotels in Baghdad which cost $50-$250 per day. Al Mansoor charged us approx USD 170- USD 200 for double bed which was paid through group fare. Hotel was very secure and good, and the location was very convenient (tigris river )
The hotel was very clean and staff was cooperative. Kitchen’s Menu was good looking but not the food though. There are small grocery stores in the hotel and currency exchange is also available for foreigners.
The Iraqi Dinar (Local Currency)
I dont know how but maybe due to war and un-established situation, there is high poverty in Iraq. Neihbouring country Iran is dominant over local market and there are many sanctions over Iraq from U.N. literacy rate is better but jobs opportunity is like a blue moon. Currency conversion rate is: 1 U.S.D = 1190 IQD. I had millions in my pocket :).
Law and Order
Law and order situation was better and controlled. Visitors were warmly welcomed and honoured by locals. Now a days the situation has become a bit worst because of fraud of government’s body who promised jobs but result are as same as democratic. “No Jobs, in near future Iraq will become an established state. Local establishments are in action every time for any situation. There are hundreds of security checks in city and mausoleums.
The Markets and Food Restaurants
There are many markets in the city and luxury restaurants with different menus. Electronics and other things are not cheap in Baghdad but traders’ shops are still full of various varieties. Markets were crowded and there are very delicious Cultural food in the restaurants specially Iraqi Kabab & Gozi (Lamb with rice and Nuts) are recomended. Visitors must go in area of Azamiya for better markets and taste, people are courteousagain!
The City Of Saints
There are many saints buried in Baghdad, the big names of Islamic history. After refreshment we had a chance to go the most well known saint and scholar Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani‘s mausoleum, which is near to Tigris river. This was our first destination in journey of Sufism. It was very important for me, I met one of my Shaykh who is the only pure descendant of Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani and his forefather served mausoleum and preachings for Shaykh as servant from last 550 years and now he is 70+ years old. He is Shaykh ul Halqa Al- Shaykh Muhammad Najeeb Abdul Baqi Al Gillani. We attended his sufi gathering which is called halqa.
This was a blessed time in Baghdad, after halqa (The sufi gathering) he distributed food in audience including us. He is one of the best teachers of mine. There are also free food which is organised by custodians (Shaykh Khalid Al Gillani & Shaykh Hashim uddin Al Gillani). During my whole stay I visited him on daily bases for blessings.
Our group visits many mausoleums and we felt blessed every time. Then we moved towards Abu Hanifa R.a’s mosoulem which is in azammiya. In Baghdad 40% mausoleum has Islamic University/school in it which was started by saint/sufis who are buried there. During my trip I visited these shrines in Baghdad and its surroundings…
1.Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi
2.Hazrat Siri Saqakti
3.Hazrat Yoosha bin Noon(Messenger)
4.Hazrat Behlol Dana
5.Hazrat Abu Al-Hassan Noori
6.Hazrat Maroof Kurkhi
7.Hazrat Imam Ahmed bin Hamble
8.Hazrat Imam Gazali
9.Hazrat Mansoor Hallaj
10.Hazrat Habib Ajami
11.Hazrat Dawood Tai
12.Hazrat Imam Musa Kazim
13.Hazrat Imam Baqir
14.Hazrat Salam Farsi
(Near Baghdad )
15.Hazrat Jabir Bin Abdullah
(Near Baghdad )
There are many mausoleums in Baghdad and nearby. We were in a group but we had a choice to move freely with our passports and visa copy. All the transport and refreshment were included in our package, the language barier was a big hurdle for most in our group but not for us because we already knew Arabic, local people are not rich in other language only Arabic.
The Event Of Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani ‘s Birth
11th Rabi’ul’thani (Islamic month) is one of the biggest sufi event in Islam, which is related to birth of Shaykh Abdul Qadri Gillani. Every year on this date, many sufis, scholars and foreigner groups attend this event with respect to their cultural sufism. This event is well organised and the security measures are well cordinated. People from around the world attend this, specially from Sub-continent. Event’s management is done by custodians of Shaykh’s mausoleum. Local public also participate in this event with peace in their minds and faith in their hearts. The Kurd’s from Kurdistan have a very special role in this event through their cultural sufi practices. Sufi dance of Kurds are very impressive and enlightening for visitors. During the event, food is free or feesabil for all visitors from custodians and their contributors. Arabs are very good in hospitality.
Return to Pakistan
After 10 blessed days, trip came to an end, we were sad at that time because of spiritual thirst and historical moments of sufism within the sufis environment of Baghdad. I think environment is a major participant of your character and thought building.
These are some observations and experiences of mine as a visitor. But I suggest that you should visit Baghdad for its historical significance of world and of Islam. These kind of places preserve History and realities in it. You should read full history of Baghdad for more information.