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World Heritage Site

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Ahwar of Southern Iraq

Ahwar of Southern Iraq

The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: refuge of biodiversity and the relict landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities covers the marshy delta that was home to the early Sumerian civilization.

This mixed site consists of 7 locations: three archaeological sites (Ur, Uruk and Tell Eridu) and four wetland marsh areas. The latter are the Huwaizah Marshes, Central Marshes, East Hammar and West Hammar Marshes - important for bird migration and fish species.

The area lies in the joint delta of the Tigris and Euphrates River, the river providing arable fields via the use of irrigation. Due to draining of large portions of the marshes, the marshes were diminshed to 10% of their original size by 2003.

Map of Ahwar of Southern Iraq


  • Mixed

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Site Info

Full name: The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: refuge of biodiversity and the relict landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities

Unesco ID: 1481

Inscribed: 2016

Type: Mixed

Criteria: 3   5   9   10  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2016 - Advisory Body overruled ICOMOS & IUCN proposed deferral
  • 2016 - Revision Merger of 2 TWHS: The Marshlands of Mesopotamia & Ur
  • 2016 - Inscribed 
  • 2015 - Postponed evaluation postponed at the request of the State Party – letter dated 24/08/2014


The site has 7 locations.

  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Tell Eridu Archaeological Site
  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: The Central Marshes
  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: The East Hammar Marshes
  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: The Iraqi side of Huwaizah Marshes
  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: The West Hammar Marshes
  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Ur Archaeological City
  • Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Uruk Archaeological City


The site has 43 connections.



  • Tell: Tell Eridu Archaeological Site
  • Ziggurat: Each of the 3 ruined cities contains remains of Ziggurats. Tel Eridu: " Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the site underlie the unfinished Ziggurat of Amar-Sin(c. 2047 – 2039 BC)." (Wiki) Uruk: "the Anu district consists of a single massive terrace, the Anu Ziggurat,dedicated to the Sumerian sky god, An" (Wiki). Ur: see link Link
  • Tombs: 16 collective royal tombs in Ur
  • Canals: Uruk
  • Mosaic art: Mosaic Temple in Uruk


  • Otters: Smooth-coated Otter
  • Lagoons: Eridu was originally located in a lagoon
  • Endemic Bird Species: Basra Reed Warbler and Iraq Babbler
  • Bird Migrations: ... comprise the last stopover area for millions of migrating birds before entering the vast Arabian Desert. (Nom file)


  • River deltas: joint delta of the Tigris and Euphrates River


  • Oldest Buildings: 5000-3000 BC "The archaeological cities of Uruk and Ur and the Tell Eridu archaeological site 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."
  • Babylonian Empire: ... offer a complete testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of southern Mesopotamian urban centers and societies from the Ubaid and Sumerian periods until the Babylonian and Hellenistic periods. (Nom file)
  • Achaemenid Empire: Esagila Temple in Uruk
  • Parthian Empire: Temple of Charyos in Uruk
  • Assyrian Empire: Uruk went into a steep decline until about 850 BC when the Neo-Assyrian Empire annexed it as a provincial capital. Under the Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians, Uruk regained much of its former glory (wiki)
  • Mesopotamia

Human Activity

  • Sea Ports: Ur was a port at the Persian Gulf
  • Language isolate: Sumerian (Ur)
  • Writing systems: the centralized control of resources and surplus which gave rise to the first writing system and administrative archives (nom file). The earliest texts known were found in Uruk.
  • Irrigation and drainage: draining the marshes and the building of dams and irrigation canals were major technological breakthrough first introduced under the Ubaid period and further perfected by the Sumerians who later built dams on the Tigris and Euphrates to expand agriculture far inland. (nom file))
  • Astronomy and Astrology: Bit Resh in Uruk

Individual People

  • Ibn Battuta: Possible: "But I set out for al-Basrah... Our way lay alongside the Euphrates [probably an error, since Ibn Battuta stops at Wasit en route to Basra, and Wasit is on the Tigris River] by the place known as al-Idhar, which is a water-logged jungle of reeds, inhabited by nomad Arabs called al-Ma'adi."

Religion and Belief

  • Mentioned in the Bible: Ur is considered by many to be the city of Ur Kasdim mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the birthplace of the Hebrew and Arab patriarch Abram ... There are however conflicting traditions and scholarly opinions identifying Ur Kasdim with the sites of Sanliurfa, Urkesh, Urartu or Kutha. Ur is mentioned four times in the Torah or Old Testament, with the distinction "of the Kasdim/Kasdin"—traditionally rendered in English as "Ur of the Chaldees". The Chaldeans were already settled in the vicinity by around 850 BC, but were not the rulers of Ur until the late 7th century BC, around 550 BC. The name is found in Genesis 11:28, Genesis 11:31, and Genesis 15:7. In Nehemiah 9:7, a single passage mentioning Ur is a paraphrase of Genesis. (Nehemiah 9:7) (wiki)
  • Goddesses: Eanna, the temple of the Goddess Inanna at Uruk
  • Legends and Folk Myths: The Gilgamesh Epic originated from Uruk likely as a "reflection of the city's power and influence" (nom file)


  • Built in the 4th millennium BC: The cities flourished between 4th and 2nd millennium BC (AB ev)
  • Holocene: The natural components ... as we know them today were formed 3000 years ago. (Nom file)


WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process


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