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Iraq Geography


Present-day Iraq, comprising an area of 437,072 sq km (168,754 sq mi), corresponds roughly to the former Turkish provinces of Baghdad, Mosul (Al-Mawsil), and Basra (Al-Basrah). Comparatively, the area occupied by Iraq is slightly more than twice the size of the state of Idaho. It extends 984 km (611 mi) south-southeast to north-northwest, and 730 km (454 mi) east-northeast to west-southwest.

Iraq is bordered on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iran, on the southeast by the Persian Gulf and Kuwait, on the south by Saudi Arabia, on the west by Jordan, and on the northwest by Syria, with a total land boundary length of 3,650 km (2,268 mi) and a coastline of 58 km (36 mi). Iraq's capital city, Baghdad, is located in the east central part of the country.

Iraq is divided into three distinct zones: the desert in the west and southwest; the plains; and the highlands in the northeast, which rise to 3,000 m (10,000 ft) or more.

The desert is an upland region with altitudes of 600 to 900 m (2,000-3,000 ft) between Damascus in Syria and Ar-Rutbah in Iraq, but declines gently toward the Euphrates (Al-Furat) River. The water supply comes from wells and wadis that at times carry torrential floods and that retain the winter rains.

Dominated by the river systems of the Tigris (Dijlah) and Euphrates, the plains area is composed of two regions divided by a ridge, some 75 m (250 ft) above the flood plain, between Ar-Ramadi and a point south of Baghdad that marks the prehistoric coastline of the Persian Gulf. The lower valley, built up by the silt the two rivers carry, consists of marshland, crisscrossed by drainage channels. At Qarmat 'Ali, just above Basra, the two rivers combine and form the Shatt al Arab, a broad waterway separating Iraq and Iran. The sources of the Euphrates and Tigris are in the Armenian Plateau. The Euphrates receives its main tributaries before entering Iraq, while the Tigris receives several streams on the eastern bank within the country.

Under the influence of the monsoons, Iraq in summer has a constant northwesterly wind (shamal), while in winter a strong southeasterly air current (sharqi) develops. The intensely hot and dry summers last from May to October, and during the hottest time of the day - often reaching 49°C (120°F) in the shade - people take refuge in underground shelters. Winters, lasting from December to March, are damp and comparatively cold, with temperatures averaging about 10°C (50°F). Spring and autumn are brief transition periods. Normally, no rain falls from the end of May to the end of September. With annual rainfall of less than 38 cm (15 in), agriculture is dependent on irrigation.


Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait

Geographic coordinates
33 00 N, 44 00 E

Map references
Middle East

total: 437,072 sq km
land: 432,162 sq km
water: 4,910 sq km

Area - comparative
slightly more than twice the size of Idaho

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