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The Mesopotamian Marshlands


All images ©Bnar Sardar/Metrography

The Mesopotamian Marshlands, often referred to as the cradle of civilization, are located between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. The marshes are mentioned in The Epic of Gilgamesh around 2700 BCE. Some Biblical scholars believe it to be the site of the Garden of Eden and where Noah’s arc landed. The current marsh-dwellers are descendants of the ancient Sumerians, a civilization that dates back 5000 years. As in the past, those living on the marshes survive predominantly by fishing and farming with water buffalo.

The ancient marshes covering over 20,000 square kilometers of interconnected lakes, mudflats, and wetlands within modern-day Iraq and Iran, have largely disappeared. In the late eighties, Saddam Hussein drained large areas in order to force Shia Arabs from the marshes. Since the fall of Saddam, the marshes have been partially recovered. However, the construction of dams upstream, especially in Syria and Turkey and downstream drainage projects, once again threaten the livelihoods of the marsh Arabs.

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