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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kurdish: ھەولێر Hewl�r Arabic: أربيل Aramaic: ܐܪܒܝܠ
Erbil is located in Iraq
Erbil in Iraq
Coordinates: 36�11′28″N 44�0′33″ECoordinates: 36�11′28″N 44�0′33″E
Country  Iraq
Autonomous region  Kurdistan[1]
Province Arbil Province
Settled 9000 BC
 � Governor Nawzad Hadi
Population (2013 est.)
 � Total 1,5 million

Erbil also written Arbil, or Irbil ( Kurdish: ھەولێر Hewl�r; Arabic: اربيل‎, Turkish: Erbil; Syriac-Aramaic: ܐܪܒܝܠ Arbaelo) is, with a population of approximately 1.3 million (2009), the fourth largest city in Iraq after Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.[2] It is located 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of Mosul, and is the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The mayor of Erbil is Nihad Latif Qoja.

Urban life at Erbil (Hewl�r) can be dated back to at least 6000 BC,[3][4] and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.[3][4] At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Arbil. In the early part of the 3rd Millennium BC, the Hurrians from Asia Minor were the first to establish Urbilum and expand their rule to parts of northern Mesopotamia. The city became an integral part of Assyria from the 25th century BC to the 7th century AD, but after it lost its independence at the end of the 7th century BC, both Assyria and the city of Erbil was under the rule of many regional powers, including; the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and Greeks. Following the Arab Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia, the Arabs dissolved Assyria (then known as Assuristan/Athura) as a geo-political entity in the mid-7th century AD, and during Medieval times the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks.[5]

Erbil's archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artifacts, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area.[6]


The name Erbil was mentioned in Sumerian holy writings of third millennium BC as Urbilum, Urbelum or Urbillum,[7] which appears to originate from Hurrian[8] Arbilum, who inhbited the area.[9] Later, the Akkadians and Assyrians by a folk etymology rendered the name as arba'ū ilū to mean four gods.[8] The city became a centre for the worship of the Assyro-Babylonian goddess Ishtar. In classical times the city became known by its Aramaic name, Arbela. In Old Persian the city was called Arbairā.[10]

Today, the modern Kurdish name of the city, Hewl�r, appears to be a corruption of the name Arbel by a series of metatheses of consonants.[8]


The ancient city wall still dominates the center of Erbil.
Old Minaret, Erbil
Siege of Erbil by the Ilkhanid Mongols in 1258-59 depicted in the Jami' al-tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani Biblioth�que Nationale de France, D�partement des Manuscrits, Division Orientale.
Arbil Wall
Citadel of Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan
Assyrian Christian Church, Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

Ancient history

It has been claimed that Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history.[11] The Neo-Sumerian ruler of Ur, Amar-Sin sacked Urbilum in his second year, c. 1975 BC)[7]

Erbil was an integral part of Assyria from around 2500 BC until 605 BC, and it remained part of Assyria under Persian, Greek, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid rule.

Under the Median Empire, Cyaxares might have settled a number of people from the Ancient Iranian tribe of Sagarthians in Arbela and Kirkuk, probably as a reward for their help in the capture of Nineveh.[12] The Persian emperor Cyrus the Great occupied Assyria in 547 BC, and established is as an Achaemenid satrapy called in Old Persian Aθurā (Athura), with Arbela as the capital.[13]

The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC, took place approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Erbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to the city, and, somewhat inaccurately, the confrontation is sometimes known as the "Battle of Arbela".

Erbil became part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sasanids. The ancient Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene (the Greek form of Ḥadyab) had its center at Erbil, and the town and kingdom are known in Jewish Middle Eastern history for the conversion of the royal family to Judaism.[14] Its populace then converted from Mesopotamian Religion during the 1st and 2nd century to Church of the East Christianity, with Pkidha becoming traditionally its first bishop around 104 AD.[15][16] The metropolitanate of Ḥadyab in Arbela became a centre of eastern Syriac Christianity until late in the Middle Ages.[17]

Medieval history

Arbela was an early center of the Syriac Christianity. By 100 AD there was a bishop seated in the city. As many Assyrians adapted Biblical (including Jewish) names, most of the early bishops had Eastern Aramaic or Jewish/Biblical names, which does not suggest that many of the early Christians in this city were converts from Judaism.[18] It served as the seat of a Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East. From the city's Christian period come many church fathers and well-known authors in Syriac.

When the Mongols invaded the Near East in the 13th century, they attacked Arbil for the first time in 1237. They plundered the lower town but had to retreat before an approaching Caliphate army and had to put off the capture of the citadel.[19] After the fall of Baghdad to H�leg� and the Mongols in 1258, they returned to Arbil and were able to capture the citadel after a siege lasting six months.[20] H�leg� then appointed an Assyrian Christian governor to the town and there was an influx of Jacobites, who were allowed to build a church.

As time passed, sustained and horrible persecutions of Christians, Jews and Buddhists throughout the Ilkhanate began in earnest in 1295 under the dictatorship of the ferocious and fanatical Muslim O�rat amir Nauruz.[21] This manifested early on in the reign of the Ilkhan Ghazan. In 1297, after Ghazan had felt strong enough to overcome Nauruz' influence, he put a stop to the persecutions.

An unfortunate chapter in the history of this area took place during the reign of the Ilkhan �ljeit�. Muslim mobs felt emboldened to harass the Christians. The Assyrians had but one stronghold, the citadel itself. In the Spring of 1310, the Malek (governor) of the region attempted to seize it from them with the help of the Kurds. Despite Mar Yahballaha's best efforts to avert the impending doom, the Christians strongly resisted. The citadel was at last taken by Ilkhanate troops and Kurdish tribesmen on July 1, 1310, and all the defenders were massacred, including all the Christian inhabitants of the lower town.[22][23]

The city's Aramaic-speaking Assyrian population remained significant in size until the destruction of the city by the forces of Timur in 1397.[24]

In the Middle Ages, Erbil was ruled successively by the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Buwayhids, the Seljuks and then by the Atabegs of Erbil (1131�1232), under whom it was a Turkmen state; they were in turn followed by the Ilkhanids, the Jalayirids, the Kara Koyunlu, the Timurids, and the Ak Koyunlu. Erbil was the birthplace of the famous 13th-century Muslim historian and writer Ibn Khallikan. Erbil and all of Iraq in the 16th century passed into the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Erbil was part of the Musul Vilayet in Ottoman Empire for 400 years until 1918.

Modern history

The modern town of Erbil stands on a tell topped by an Ottoman fort. During the Middle Ages, Erbil became a major trading centre on the route between Baghdad and Mosul, a role which it still plays today with important road links to the outside world.

Today, the largest ethnic group in the city are Kurds, with smaller numbers of Arabs, Assyrians, Turcoman, Armenians, Yezidi, Shabaks and Mandeans extant also.

The parliament of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region was established in Erbil in 1970 after negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Mustafa Barzani, but was effectively controlled by Saddam Hussein until the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The legislature ceased to function effectively in the mid-1990s when fighting broke out between the two main Kurdish factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The city was captured by the KDP in 1996 with the assistance of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The PUK then established an alternative Kurdish government in Sulaimaniyah. KDP claimed that on March 1996 PUK asked for Iran's help to fight KDP. Considering this as a foreign attack on Iraq's soil, the KDP asked the Iraqi government for help.

US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (2nd from right) has dinner with the Commander of the Republic of Korea Division Maj. Gen. Hwang Ui-don in Irbil, Iraq, on October 10, 2004

The Kurdish Parliament in Erbil reconvened after a peace agreement was signed between the Kurdish parties in 1997, but had no real power. The Kurdish government in Erbil had control only in the western and northern parts of the autonomous region. During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, a United States special forces task force was headquartered just outside of Erbil. The city was the scene of rapturous celebrations on April 10, 2003 after the fall of the Ba'ath regime.

During the US occupation of Iraq, sporadic terrorist attacks have hit Erbil. Parallel bomb attacks against Eid celebrations killed 109 people on February 1, 2004. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamist group Ansar al-Sunnah, and stated to be in solidarity with the Kurdish Islamist faction Ansar al-Islam.[citation needed] Another bombing on May 4, 2005 killed 60 civilians.[citation needed]

The Erbil International Airport opened in the city in 2005.


[hide]Climate data for Erbil
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high �C (�F) 12.4
Daily mean �C (�F) 7.4
Average low �C (�F) 2.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 111
Source #1:[25]
Source #2: My Forecast,[26] What's the Weather,[27] and Erbilia[28]

Erbil's climate is dry-summer subtropical (Csa), according to K�ppen climate classification, with extremely hot summers and mild wet winters. Most precipitation falls in January.[25]

Main sights

Citadel of Erbil

The Citadel of Arbil is a tell or occupied mound in the historical heart of Erbil, rising between 25 and 32 metres (82 and 105 ft) from the surrounding plain. The buildings on top of the tell stretch over a roughly oval area of 430 by 340 metres (1,410 � 1,120 ft) occupying 102,000 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft). It has been claimed that the site is the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world.[4] The earliest evidence for occupation of the citadel mound dates to the 5th millennium BC, and possibly earlier. It appears for the first time in historical sources during the Ur III period, and gained particular importance during the Neo-Assyrian period. West of the citadel at Ary Kon quarter, a chamber tomb dating to the Neo-Assyrian period has been excavated.[6] During the Sassanian period and the Abbasid Caliphate, Erbil was an important center for Christianity and the Assyrians. After the Mongols captured the citadel in 1258, Erbil's importance began to decline.

During the 20th century, the urban structure was significantly modified, as a result of which a number of houses and public buildings were destroyed. In 2007, the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) was established to oversee the restoration of the citadel. In the same year, all inhabitants, except one family, were evicted from the citadel as part of a large restoration project. Since then, archaeological research and restoration works have been carried out at and around the tell by various international teams and in cooperation with local specialists, and many areas remain off-limits to visitors due to the danger of unstable walls and infrastructure. The government plans to have 50 families live in the citadel once it is renovated.

The only religious structure that currently survives in the citadel is the Mulla Afandi Mosque. When it was fully occupied, the citadel was divided in three districts or mahallas: from east to west the Serai, the Takya and the Topkhana. The Serai was occupied by notable families; the Takya district was named after the homes of dervishes, which are called takyas; and the Topkhana district housed craftsmen and farmers. Other sights to visit in the citadel include the bathing rooms (hammam) built in 1775 located near the mosque and the Textile Museum.[29]

Other sights

  • The covered Erbil Qaysari Bazaars, lying below the main entrance to the citadel and stocking mainly household goods and tools.
  • The 36 m high Mudhafaria Minaret, situated in Minaret Park several blocks from the citadel, dates back to the late 12th century AD and the reign of Erbil king Muzaffar Al-Din Abu Sa�eed Al-Kawkaboori. It has an octagonal base decorated with two tiers of niches, which is separated from the main shaft by a small balcony, also decorated. Another historical minaret with turquoise glazed tiles is nearby.
  • Sami Rahman Park
  • Franso Hariri Stadium
  • The Mound of Qalich Agha lies within the grounds of the Museum of Civilization, 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the citadel. An excavation in 1996 found tools from the Halaf, Ubaid and Uruk periods.[6]
  • Kurdish Textile Museum



The local major football team is Arbil SC which plays its football matches at Franso Hariri Stadium (named after the assassinated Assyrian politician Franso Hariri) which is based in the south part of central Erbil. Erbil SC were the first Kurdish team to make it to the AFC Champions league.

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