The original city of Basra was founded by the caliph Omar in A.D. 636 about 8 m. S.W. of its present site, on the edge of the stony and pebbly Arabian plateau, on an ancient canal now dry. The modern town of Zobeir, a sort of health suburb, occupied by the villas of well-to-do inhabitants of Basra, lies near the ruin mounds which mark the situation of the ancient city. In the days of its prosperity it rivalled Kufa and Wasit in wealth and size, and its fame is in the tales of the Arabian Nights. With the decay of the power of the Abbasid caliphate its importance declined. The canals were neglected, communication with the Persian Gulf was cut off and finally the place was abandoned altogether. The present city was conquered by the Turks in 1668, and since that period has been the scene of many revolutions. It was taken in 1777 after a siege of eight months by the Persians under Sadik Khan. In about a year it fell again into the hands of the Turks, who were again deprived of it by the sheikh of the Montefik (Montafiq) Arabs. The town was in the October following recovered by Suleiman Pasha, who encountered the sheikh on the banks of the Euphrates and put him to flight; it has since remained in the hands of the Turks.
(J. P. Pe.)