Arbil: Wikis


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ھەولێر / Hewlêr/Hawler (Kurdish)
اربيل (Arabic)
ܐܪܒܝܠ (Syriac)
Arbil is located in Iraq
Arbil in the Republic of Iraq.
Coordinates: 36°10′0″N 44°1′0″E / 36.166667°N 44.016667°E / 36.166667; 44.016667Coordinates: 36°10′0″N 44°1′0″E / 36.166667°N 44.016667°E / 36.166667; 44.016667
Country  Iraq
Governorate Erbil
Settled 23rd century BC
 - Governor Nawzad Hadi
Population (2009 Est.)
 - Total 1 293 839 World Gazetteer
Time zone GMT +3
 - Summer (DST) GMT +4 (UTC)

Arbil (also written Erbil or Irbil or Arbela) (Kurdish: ھەولێر, Hewlêr, anglicized Hawler; Arabic: اربيل‎, Syriac: ܐܪܒܝܠ, Arbel) is the third-largest city in Iraq after Baghdad and Mosul.[1] The city lies eighty kilometres (fifty miles) east of Mosul, and is the capital of Kurdistan Autonomous Region and the Kurdistan Regional Government and the biggest Kurdish city in the world.

Urban life at Arbil can be dated back to at least the twenty-third century BC. The city has been under the rule of many regional powers during that time, such as the Assyrians, the Persians, Sasanians, Arabs, and Ottomans. The city's archaeological museum contains only pre-Islamic objects.



The name of Arbil or Arbela appears to be Semitic origin. The initial ar element is a feature of a number of Hurrian place names. The name Arbil was mentioned in the Sumerian holy writings (about 2000 BC) as Arbilum, Orbelum or Urbilum and it may also be Sumerian in origin.

Later, Akkadians and Assyrians based on similarity and folk etymology rendered the name to mean four gods (arba'ū ilū).[2] The city was a centre for the worship of the goddess Ishtar.

In classical times, the city was known by its Assyrian Aramaic name, Arbela. Another opinion states that the name of Arbela is composed from Sumerian language UR (town) + BELA (high) which means the City that located in the upper area; in Kurdistan there are some locations that have the same appelation: Akra (or Aqra, عقرة) (upper village: old Hilinic language), Dei bala (high village/ده بالا ) (the old name of the Kurdish city of Ilam (Iran))

The Kurdish name for the city is Hawler meaning the place where sun is worshipped. The name is thought to derive from the Greek helio (sun).[3]


The ancient city wall still dominates the center of Arbil.

Ancient history

Under the Median Empire Cyaxares settled a number of Sagarthian tribes of Zagros in Arbela and Kirkuk, probably as a reward for their help in the capture of Nineveh. After revolts of Medes led by Phraortes king of Media (522-521 BC) were put down by Darius I of Persia, the Sagartians of Arbela rebelled against Darius continuing the Median revolts. Darius sent an army led by a Median general named Takhmaspâda, and in the summer of 521 BC defeated Sagartians, led by Tritantaechmes (in Old Persian Ciçataxma), who claimed to be a descendant of the Great Median King Cyaxares. According to Darius, the rebellion of Arbela was the last revolt of Media which he put down. These incidents are carved on the Behistun Inscription.

The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC, took place about one hundred kilometres (sixty miles) west of Arbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to the city, and, somewhat inaccurately, the confrontation is sometimes known as the Battle of Arbela.

The name Hewlêr, that is also used for this historic town of Mesopotamia by Kurdish inhabitants derives from Horlêr, meaning "Temple of the Sun" in the Kurdish language. This may have originated from the religions of Mithraism, Yazdanism and Zoroastrianism practiced by Kurds in which the sun and fire play a significant role (see also: Helios).

Erbil became, like Amida (Diyarbekr), part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sassanians. Under Emperor Trajan it was named the Roman province of Assyria, and after a century of independence was reoccupied by Rome. The Neo Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene (Greek form for Hadyab) had its center at Arbil, and the town and kingdom are known in Jewish Middle Eastern history for the conversion of the royal family to Judaism, although the general population remained eclectic but with a very strong Assyrian Christian presence.

Christianity in Arbela

Arbela was an early center of Assyrian Christianity. By AD 100 there was a bishop seated in the city. Most of the early bishops had Jewish names, suggesting that most of the early Christians in this city were converts from Judaism.[4] The conversions worked both ways, with some early Assyrian Pagans and Christians converting to Judaism then back again.

The queen of Adiabene (which was a Neo Assyrian kingdom) adopted Judaism, however the majority population were ethnic Assyrians who began to adopt Christianity from the 1st Century AD, and the area became a Christian stronghold. It served as the seat of a Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East.

From its Christian period come many church fathers and well-known authors in Syriac, the classical language off-shoot of Aramaic. The 13th century Syriac writer Gewargis Warda Arbillaya [from Arbil] identifies the Christian population of Arbil and neighboring areas as Assyrian in a prayer dedicated to the Rogation of the Ninevites.

Medieval history

Great Mosque

Until the 10th century Arbil was mainly populated by Assyrians and Hadhabani (Adiabeni) Kurds who gradually migrated northward.[citation needed] In 1310 the Christian Assyrian population suffered a massacre by the Moslem Arabs;[5] with the help of Kurds.[6] Its Aramaic-speaking Assyrian population remained significant in size until destruction of the city by the forces of Timur in 1397.[7] In the wake of Timur's raids, Arbil increasingly became a Muslim-dominated town. As is attested in the region in general, those who converted to Islam became enfolded into the ethnic Muslim culture of the region, whether Turkish, Arab, Persian or Kurdish. However Assyrian Christianity remained in the area, and the Assyrians retained their distinct culture and Aramaic language. Arbil is also the birthplace of the famous Muslim historian and writer of 13th century, Ibn Khallikan. In the Middle Ages, Arbil 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 fowlloed by the Ilkhanids, the Jalayirids, the Karakoyun and the Akkoyun.

Modern history

The modern town of Arbil stands on a tell topped by an Ottoman fort. During the Middle Ages, Arbil 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. A population of Assyrian Christians (about 20,000) live mostly in suburbs such as Ankawa. There are also a number of Assyrian villages in the surrounding area.

Remains of a mountain-top villa once used by Saddam Hussein, located just outside of Arbil

The parliament of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region was established in Erbil in 1970 after negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party 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 (KDP) 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, KDP asked the central Iraqi government for help.

While the forces of Saddam Hussein ransacked Arbil, many NGO's and international organizations fled. These same organizations were able, with the assistance of the United States and other countries, to accept many Kurds as refugees. Many bound for the US were first taken to Guam.

The Kurdish Parliament in Arbil reconvened after a peace agreement was signed between the Kurdish parties in 1997, but had no real power. The Kurdish government in Arbil 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 Arbil. The city was the scene of rapturous celebrations on April 10, 2003 after the fall of Baghdad.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, only isolated, sporadic violence has hit Arbil, unlike many other areas of Iraq. Parallel bomb attacks against Eid celebrations (those celebrations were arranged by the PUK and KDP) 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. Another bombing on May 4, 2005 killed 60 civilians. Despite these bombings the population generally feels safe.

The new Iraqi constitution of 2005, explicitly recognizes the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the two parallel administrations, in January 2006, signed an agreement to unify the administration of the entire Kurdish region under a new multi-party government in Arbil. In May 2006 the unitary government of the Kurdistan region was formally presented.[8]


Erbil has been a center of communications for many centuries. It was a major stop on the Silk Road.

Construction of the new EIA terminal as of Nov 14, 2007. The Kurdistan Regional Government is putting $325 million in the expansion of the Erbil International Airport


The new Erbil International Airport was opened in autumn of 2005. It has scheduled flights to a number of airports in the Middle East and to Vienna via Austrian Airlines 5 flights weekly to more than 130 destinations world wide. Royal Jordanian flies in from Amman and Kurdistan Airlines flies to many locations across the Middle East. On 16 September 2009 weekly flights will open between Erbil and Oslo, Norway.

Moreover, the KRG is building a new $325 million airport adjacent to the existing terminal, which will have the capacity to accept the largest aircraft in the world, including the Russian Antonov 225 cargo plane and the American C-5 Galaxy. It is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Main sights

Famous people

*Jamal Dawod Hasan

  • Rasheed Al-Waisi Agha
  • Ramzi Nafie Al-Rasheed Agha
  • Ihsan Dogramaci, Turkish pediatric physician
  • Ibn Khallikan (1211–1282)
  • Abdulla Pashew (1946–)
  • Zubeir Billal Ismail (1938 - 1998)
  • Muhammad al-Khatib Arbili
  • Ali Mahmoud Kakakhan Dizayee
  • Mukhtar Afandi
  • Jabar saber agha


  • Zanko
  • Kuran
  • Badawa
  • Rzgari

Villages and towns

  • Sidekan
  • Azadi
  • Armota
  • Geitl (Sheikhani) in the road of gweir
  • xalan, haji omaran, shaqlawa, hasnan, sidakan, qushtapa


See also


  1. ^ "Largest Cities in Iraq". 2002-01-01. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  2. ^ Geoffrey Khan, A Grammar of Neo-Aramaic: The Dialect of the Jews of Arbel, (Leiden:Brill) 1999, p.2,
  3. ^ The Iraq War & Archaeology Archive 65
  4. ^ Gillman, Ian and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. Christians in Asia before 1500. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1999) p. 33
  5. ^ Budge, E.A. Wallis. The Monk of Kublai Khan, [1]
  6. ^ E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936, M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel eds., p. 1141, 1993 ISBN 9004097961
  7. ^ Edwin Munsell Bliss, Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities, (Chicago 1896) p. 153
  8. ^ BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Single government for Iraqi Kurds

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Arbil article)

From Wikitravel

Arbil (Hawlêr in Kurdish) is a city in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Before, Kurdistan had 2 capital cities; but after an agreement on August 1, 2006, Kurdistan now is a whole part, with Arbil as capital.

  • Komari Where the stadium and Hawler Plaza Hotel are located
  • Ankawa Christian suburb to the north of the city.

Get in

Northern Iraq is served by Erbil International Airport [1] with a growing number of international airlines serving Erbil.

Austrian Airlines launched flights between Vienna and Arbil (Erbil) (Irbil) twice weekly in December 2006. As of July 2007, Austrian is operating four flights a week to/from Vienna. Regular flights to Arbil are also available weekly from Dubai, Amman, Istanbul and very recently, Tehran.

Americans and Citizens of the EU may enter freely and receive a 10 day stamp. After that you must visit the residency office to extend your visa. Other nationalities, as of July 2007, must have an Iraqi visa before arrival. This includes all Arab neighboring countries.

The security situation in the Kurdish area is very safe compared to the area south of the green line (no fly zone). However one should not travel to Iraq unless there is a specific mission or business. In May 2007, a suicide truck bomber detonated his bomb in front of the Interior Ministry. Local people are welcoming all visitors who are investing money or bringing technology to the area.

Get around

Public transportation is available in the form of taxis and some bus routes, however at this point, if you don't know your way around or have a guide with local knowledge it is inadvisable to try it alone. Chances are if you are coming to Erbil you will have your trip pre-arranged with someone at this point in time.

In terms of taxis there are essentially two choices:

  • Hello Taxi,, which is Erbil's branded taxi company and has English speaking drivers, but at highly inflated rates. USD is accepted. From the Airport to Erbil center the rate is $25, to Ankawa $20.
  • "Street Taxis", which are generic independent taxis and will take you most places in Erbil and Ankawa. Rates are negotiable, however, for a drive across town (15-25 minutes) expect anywhere from $5-$10.
  • The Erbil Citadel, City Center. The Citadel sits in the middle of Erbil City. It is a round structure, 30 meters high which dominates the old city and has been built upon seven layers of civilization. The total area of the Citadel is 110,000 square meters. The history of its building dates back to 6000 years and has been continuously inhabited since its founding. The citadel has seen the reign of many historic civilizations including Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Other ancient powers including the Achaemenian, Seljuks, and Sassanians also dominated the Citadel before being finally conquered by the Muslims. The Citadel of Erbil consists of three main quarters: Topkhana, Saray, and Taki, with a total of 605 houses in the areas.  edit
  • Kurdish Textile Museum, Citadel.  edit
  • The Minaret, Minaret Park.  edit


Stroll around in the deserted city inside the hilltop castle (kale)in the centre of Arbil. Hundreds of houses that appears to have been abandoned in a hurry. Walk into the court yards, sleeping rooms and bed rooms or up to the rooftop terraces to enjoy an spectacular panorama of Arbil or ponder what life might have been in this place before the inhabitants were repopulated.

  • Arbil has many supermarkets and malls, like Nazamall located on Kirkuk Erbil road, which is the bigger one in the city.
  • NewCity supermarket on 60th road, which is very good but most of the staff are Philippines and Arabs so people can't understand them very well.
  • Reihnmall in the Eskan Neighborhood.
  • Shopping Center Nishtman(national) Mall.
  • Majidi Mall, [2]. Western style shopping mall opened in November 2009, with stores such as Mango, Adidas, and Levis. Also has a very large hypermarket in the basement of the mall.  edit


A good many restaurants exist in Erbil just none with any variety of cuisine. Your choices now is unlimited the food is great and fresh especially at Fairuz Two.

  • At the Erbil International Hotel, an Asian cuisine restaurant serves curry.
  • Saj Al Reef restaurant on Kirkuk Baghdad Road.
  • erza restaurant on ainkawa
  • tarin restaurant on saladeen road
  • piano bar restaurant
  • bakery and more restaurant on shoresh street
  • akito restaurant on ainkawa
  • Erbil Rest on Ankawa Road.
  • Khan al Dejaj.
  • Al Mahar (Sea Food)on 60th Street.
  • Fairuz Lebanese Restaurant Erbil 60th 0750-4804440 Free Delivery.
  • Abu Shahab restaurant on 60th street.

If German food is your liking then in the Erbil suburb of Ainkawa, you'll find a new German restaurant. Also in Ainkawa you will find Happy Time restaurant which serves a version of western style foods including nice pizzas.

Many sandwich shops may be found in the bazaar.


You can buy a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor at pretty reasonable prices in Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of Irbil. Just look for any of the local liquor stores. A liter of Jack Daniels for about $22 (US) is cheaper than back in Virginia where it is bottled!

  • Marina. Great food! Pretty expensive.  edit
  • Deutscher Hof, [3]. For German draft beer and food  edit
  • Erbil International Hotel aka Sheraton is a great place to stay, if you can afford the rates. In November 2008, the rate for a single room (double bed) was around $200 USD (including service charges). Payment is in cash only, no credit card. In November 2008, there were ATMs in the hotel, but it is not clear whether they allow cash withdrawals using international credit cards. The hotel has excellent food and internet service. There is a dry cleaner and laundry and several relatively good restaurants in the hotel (including East Asian and Indian food).
  • Ankawa Palace, [4]. It is nice and clean, the staff is very helpful. USD 150.  edit
  • Hotel below the main gate to the Citadel. One of the cheapest options in town. Beds on tarrace start from 5000 Dinaris ($4 USD)  edit
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Alternative spellings

  • Erbil

Proper noun


  1. a city in northeast Iraq




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