The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities

IRAQ (Basra, Al Nasiriya, Hilla)
Location: N31 33 44 E47 39 28
Date of Inscription: 2016
iii. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
v. to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
ix. to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
x. to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Property : 211,544 ha
Buffer zone: 209,321 ha
Ref: 1481

The Ahwar is made up of seven components: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq. The archaeological sites form part of the remains of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the 4th and the 3rd millennium BCE in the marshy delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The cities and archaeological site are:

  • Uruk.
  • Ur. It is said to be the birthplace of Biblical patriarch Abraham.
  • Tell Eridu.

The Ahwar of Southern Iraq – also known as the Iraqi Marshlands – are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment. It’s abundant with animal and plant life. The area is a key spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, and is home to over 40 bird species. Migrating birds between Siberia and Africa also use the marshes as a waystation.

Dubbed by some as the “Biblical Garden of Eden”, these marshlands have a colourful yet beautiful history that dates back a thousand years. Civilizations have been known to rise, fall, and fluorish on the Ahwar’s banks. As they cover some 20,000 square kilometres, and have played a key role in the development of not only people and culture in the region but also wildlife.


Mar 30 2017 – Iraq’s Mythical Marshes, New UNESCO Site, See Increase In Tourism; Haider al-Husseini; Niqash

Feb 01 2017 – Iraq’s ‘Marsh Arabs’ look to restore once-lost culture with help from US scientists; Andrew O’Reilly; Fox News

Nov 15 2016 – Jellyfish species sighted for first time in Iraq; Laith Ali Al-Obeidi & Majd Abu Zaghlan; Bird Life International


  • The first thing I do when I visit the marshes is to eat the bread the locals make there and eat the fish they catch. The marshes are still extremely beautiful.


  • There are people who go to the mountains or to cities but the marshes have a special magic. They are so natural and untouched. That’s why I came.


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