As home to one of the world’s oldest, continuous civilizations, Iraqi culture is a rich mix of arts, cuisine, and sport. One of the world’s oldest examples of architecture, the Great Ziggurat of Ur, still stands in Iraq.
The Iraqi music scene of today has both more traditional musical forms and more modern, western ones. Iraq is known for three unique musical instruments: the santur, oud, and joza. These are all string instruments, but deliver very different sounds due to the unique shape each one has. The santur has strings wrapped around a pyramid-like structure. The oud looks like a small guitar with a very deep bowl and short, bent handle. The joza more resembles a banjo. It has a small, flat, round head with a long handle.
These instruments, along with others, helped develop a highly melodic musical style, that also incorporates strong percussion and detailed vocals. Much of the traditional lyrical content is based on Iraq’s rich collection of poetry.
With the West the newest culture to reach Iraq in the twentieth century, more western styles of music are starting to appear. From Iraqi style pop and rap music to the Iraqi National Orchestra.
There are a number of Iraqi folk dances. The chobi is a popular dance at weddings. It’s performed in a long line (or circle) holding hands. Dabke is another popular line dance. “Dabke” means “foot stomping” in Arabic, which is an accurate description of the dance. Like the chobi, which also has foot stomping, the dabke is often done at weddings and other celebrations. The women aren’t left out of Iraqi dance styles. Kawlyia and Raqs Sharqi are different styles of Iraqi style belly dancing. Both are characterized by energetic hair tossing of the performer.
The Iraqi National Folklore Group is a dance troupe performing traditional Iraqi dances in over 60 countries.
Iraqi cuisine draws on traditional Middle Eastern ingredients like olive oil, lamb, figs, eggplant, feta cheese, and lentils, just to name a few. The great, local tradition of hospitality contributed to the development of the mezza style of eating. Mezza are small dishes, which can be served in a seemingly endless stream. Since the dishes are small, the variety of mezza that can be served at a single meal also seems infinite.
Tabbouleh is local salad style that uses bulgur, parsley, mint, scallion, and any preferred vegetables. A mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and other seasonings make the typical dressing. Masgouf, a way of spicing and slow roasting local fish, is another traditional Iraqi dish.
Sports are also an important part of Iraqi culture. As in many countries, football (or soccer) is the most popular sport. Iraq has been participating in the Olympics since 1948.