The city of Erbil is located in northern Iraq at the foothills of the Western Azerbaijan Mountains. The capital of the Erbil Governorate, the city has a diverse Christian, Kurdish, and Sunni Muslim population. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world, Erbil stands atop a thirty meter tall mound, formed through the accumulation of centuries of construction and rebuilding.
Founded by the Sumerians around 2300 BCE, Erbil was, in its earliest days, referred to as Urbillum or Arbaillow, and rapidly developed as an important stop on caravan routes. During the third century CE, Erbil became a major Christian center, along with Mosul
, located to its west.
In 1190, the Begtiginid ruler, Muzaffar al-Din (1168-1233), chose Erbil to be his kingdom's capital. The city gained economic and administrative importance under his rule until 1233, when the power was transferred to Abbasid
Caliph al-Mustansir (1226-1242).
In 1517, Erbil was added to the Ottoman Empire
, as part of the Mosul province. The city became part of the established nation state of Iraq after World War I, after gaining independence from Britain in 1932. Following a pact between Kurdish leaders and the government of Iraq, the Kurdish Autonomous Region was established in northern Iraq in 1970, with Erbil as its capital. The contemporary city has benefitted from a strategic location along trade routes between Sulaimaniya, Duhok and Kirkuk, and its fertile agricultural lands. In terms of industry, it has also gained prominence as a center of oil production, as well as textile, carpet, food and cigarette manufacture. Erbil has also become a home for prominent schools and universities, in addition to many offices of international non-governmental organizations serving the region, lending to Erbil's involvement in the education sector, and political activity.
Bosworth, Clifford Edmond. The New Islamic Dynasties. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Sami ibn al-Sayyid Khammas. Imarat Irbil fi al-'Asr al-'Abbasi wa-mu'arrikhuha Ibn al-Mustawfi. Al-Riya': Dar al-Shawwaf, 1992.