Bagdad, or Baghdad, the capital of the Turkish vilayet of the same name. It is the headquarters of the VI. Army Corps, which garrisons also the Basra and Mosul vilayets. It lies on both sides of the river Tigris, in an extensive desert plain which has scarcely a tree or village throughout its whole extent, in latitude 33° 20′ N., longitude 44° 24′ E. At this point the Tigris and the Euphrates approach each other most nearly, the distance between them being little more than 25 m. At this point also the two rivers are connected by a canal, the northernmost of a series of canals which formerly united the two great waterways, and at the same time irrigated the intervening plain. This canal, the Sakhlawieh (formerly Isa), leaves the Euphrates a few miles above Feluja and the bridge of boats, near the ruins of the ancient Anbar. As it approaches Bagdad it spreads out in a great marsh, and finally, through the Masudi canal, which encircles western Bagdad, enters the Tigris below the town. At the time of Chesney's survey of the Euphrates in 1838 this canal was still navigable for craft of some size.
At present it serves no other purpose than to increase the floods which periodically turn Bagdad into an island city, and sometimes threaten to overwhelm the dikes which protect it and to submerge it entirely.
The original city of Bagdad was built on the western bank of the Tigris, but this is now, and has been for centuries, little more than a suburb of the larger and more important city on the eastern shore, the former containing an area of only 146 acres within the walls, while the latter extends over 591 acres. Both the eastern and the western part of the city were formerly enclosed by brick walls, with large round towers at the principal angles and smaller towers intervening at shorter distances, the whole surrounded by a deep fosse. There were three gates in the western city and four in the eastern; one of the latter, however, on the north side, called "Gate of the Talisman" from an Arabic inscription bearing the date A.D. 1220, has remained closed since the capture of the city by Murad IV. in 1638. These walls all fell into decay long since; at places they were used as brick quarries, and finally the great reforming governor, (1868-1872), Midhat Pasha, following the example set by many European cities, undertook to destroy them altogether and utilize the free space thus obtained as a public park and esplanade. His plans were only partially carried out.
At present fragments of the walls exist here and there, with the great ditch about them, while elsewhere a line of mounds marks their course. A great portion of the ground within the wall lines is not occupied by buildings, especially in the north-western quarter; and even in the more populous parts of the city, near the river, a considerable space between the houses is occupied by gardens, where pomegranates, figs, oranges, lemons and date-palms grow in great abundance, so that the city, when seen at a distance, has the appearance of rising out of the midst of trees.
Along the Tigris the city spreads out into suburbs, the most important of which is Kazemain, on the western side of the river northward, opposite which on the eastern side lies Muazzam. The former of these is connected with western Bagdad by a very primitive horse-tramway, also a relic of Midhat Pasha's reforms. The two parts of the city are joined by pontoon bridges, one in the suburbs and one in the main city. The Tigris is at this point some 275 yds. wide and very deep. Its banks are of mud, with no other retaining walls than those formed by the foundations of the houses, which are consequently always liable to be undermined by the action of the water. The western part of the city, which is very irregular in shape, is occupied entirely by Shi‛as. It has its own shops, bazaars, mosques, etc., and constitutes a quarter by itself. Beyond the wall line on that side vestiges of ancient buildings are visible in various directions, and the plain is strewn with fragments of bricks, tiles and rubbish. A burying-ground has also extended itself over a large tract of land, formerly occupied by the streets of the city. The form of the new or eastern city is that of an irregular oblong, about 1500 paces in length by 800 in breadth.
The town has been built without the slightest regard to regularity; the streets are even more intricate and winding than those in most other Eastern towns, and with the exception of the bazaars and some open squares, the interior is little else than a labyrinth of alleys and passages. The streets are unpaved and in many places so narrow that two horsemen can scarcely pass each other; as it is seldom that the houses have windows facing the thoroughfares, and the doors are small and mean, they present on both sides the gloomy appearance of dead walls. All the buildings, both public and private, are constructed of furnace-burnt bricks of a yellowish-red colour, principally derived from the ruins of other places, chiefly Madain (Ctesiphon), Wasit and Babylon, which have been plundered at various times to furnish materials for the construction of Bagdad.
The houses of the richer classes are regularly built about an interior court. The ground floor, except for the serdab, is given up to kitchens, store-rooms, servants' quarters, stables, etc. The principal rooms are on the first floor and open directly from a covered veranda, which is reached by an open staircase from the court. These constitute the winter residence of the family, reception rooms, etc. The roofs of the houses are all flat, surrounded by parapets of sufficient height to protect them from the observation of the dwellers opposite, and separate them from their neighbours. In the summer the population sleeps and dines upon the roofs, which thus constitute to all intents a third storey. The remainder of the day, so far as family life is concerned, is spent in the serdab, a cellar sunk somewhat below the level of the courtyard, damp from frequent wettings, with its half windows covered with hurdles thatched with camel thorn and kept dripping with water. Occasionally the serdabs are provided with punkahs.