• Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    Bahrain
    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    Laos
    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

Culture & Identity of Iraq

WARNING: Iraq is currently unstable, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction

For most foreigners, the way of life in Iraq is pictured as a bleak existence where the people are hidden inside to avoid violence and war. However, much of violence in the country is now subdued and when that violence does erupt, it often does as a political statement, which means it is not directed as the overwhelming majority of the people. For this majority, life in Iraq is getting back to normal as people go to work or school during the days, spent time with family or friends evenings, and religion contributes to the culture and way of life.

Despite the returning normalcy in Iraq, the country remains fairly diverse in ethnicity, geography, jobs, politics, and the degree of religious observance. About two thirds of the population is urbanized, while many of the remaining third hold jobs in agriculture. There is also a significant Kurdish population in the country, which has a different culture and lifestyle from that of the ethnically Arab Iraqis.

For most Iraqis the lifestyle begins with religion and community. The people's Islamic faith greatly dictates working hours and culture. Friday is the holy day in Islam so Fridays are off of work as are Thursday afternoons. Many people also participate in the five daily prayers required by Islam, giving more structure to their daily schedule.

Communities tend to be close in the country; many evenings it is not uncommon to find men socializing out in public and women together in the home. This becomes more accurate in smaller towns and villages where community is the center of life for many people.

Today freedoms are improving in Iraq as many women are highly educated and the separation between the sexes is shrinking. For some western-styled clothing is more common and some of the more conservative Islamic laws are being ignored; for example, today alcohol is legal, although still rarely consumed. Iraq is ever changing and while many may imagine the country as a military fortress, for many of the locals in Baghdad and other areas near military bases, a military convoy is simple ignored as it is a common sight. Life in Iraq for the locals is getting back to normal, although few foreigners see this side of their lives.

Identity

Iraq is a country that is and has been divided by the people's refusal to identify in a similar manner. National identity and other large ways to unite have been rejected by the people as they don't view themselves as one in the same, but as individual ethnic groups or as adherents to a particular religious branch. Although primarily Muslim, the people are very divided by Shi'a and Sunni Muslims as this is a major source of how the people identify. The people also tend to identify with their ethnic group, which includes the Arab, Kurds, and other smaller groups. This disunity in identity has prevented much unification among the people and has caused great discontent and accusations among the people who find themselves as citizens of the same country, but citizens of a country with no strong unifying identity.

This page was last updated: December, 2013