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Nineveh, Iraq

The ancient city of Nineveh is situated just outside Mosul on the east bank of the River Tigris. Nobody knows exactly when it was inhabited for the first time, but it was a cultural settlement in the 6th millennium BC, right through Sumerian and Babylonian periods. In fact, the name of Nineveh is of Sumerian origin.

Nineveh City Walls (Al-Masqa Gate)

Nineveh was the 3rd capital of Assyria Empire after Assur and Nimrud, dating from the reign of the great King Sennacherib (704-681 BC) and was one of the most powerful cities of the Middle East: the hub of the civilized ancient World. Its downfall came in 612 BC, when it was sacked by the Medes of Northern Persia whom killed the last great king of Nineveh, Ashurbanipal (669-624 BC).

This city, a beloved of the goddess Ishtar, was ruled by a number of great Assyrian Kings, such as Sargon II (721-705 BC), before he moved to Khorsabad, succeeded by his son Sennacherib who abandoned his father's new capital and went back to Nineveh, and Esarhaddon (681-669 BC) and Ashurbanipal, all of whom enlarged and built up the city turning it into a beautiful 700 hectares large city of wide boulevards, large squares, parks, and gardens.

Sennacherib, statesman and soldier, built bridges and the city wall, dug canals, and planted gardens. Armies of workers constructed his Palace without a rival: A 42,000 km2 large palace with 27 entrances and at least 80 chambers, halls, and rooms, lavishly and expensively adorned with massive sculptures, relief-carvings, glazed brick paneling, winged bulls, and lions of bronze.

Assyrian Relief, NinevehThe entrances were guarded by animals and genii, and stone slabs recorded in elaborate strip cartoons of extreme aesthetic skill memorable events or simply scenes of day-to-day life at this very center of the World.

The city wall was 12 km in circumference and had long series of bas-reliefs most of which were taken to the British Museum. It was set with 15 gates, each gate was named after an Assyrian god. Some are guarded with pairs of winged bulls still standing in their original places nowadays. And few have been reconstructed recently, notably the Shamash, Nergal, Maski, and Adad gates.

Nineveh is noted for its colossal palace, its library with thousands of clay tablets which were collected by King Ashurbanipal from various cities preserving much of the lore and knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia, its statuary, and its prehistoric pottery. A small museum at the Nergal gate displays some gorgeous Assyrian relief-carvings.

Mosque of Nebi Younis "Jonah" (pbuh)

On one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins, rises the Mosque of Prophet Younis "Biblical Jonah" (pbuh), the son of Amittai, from the 8th century BC which is believed to be the burial place of him, and where King Esarhaddon had once built a palace.

This old shrine standing on the site of a Christian church is a mere stone's throw from the built-up walls and gates of Nineveh.

In the middle of the Mosque stood a Sepulcher, covered with a Persian carpet of silk and silver, and at the four corners, great copper candlesticks with wax tapers, besides several lamps and ostridge shells that hung down from the roof. A whale's tooth, appropriate to Jonah's well-known adventure at sea, is said to be preserved there.

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