Ageless Iraq

Basra – The Venice of the Middle East

For the last few decades, holidaying in Iraq has, sadly, been almost impossible. The country has been synonymous with war, violence and oppression for such a long time that the idea of visiting seems very fanciful for anyone born after the 1960s. 40 years ago, Iraq was in fact a popular destination for tourists. But for now, we can only travel there through the medium of film.

We posted an article, “Iraq Before Saddam“, a few days ago, featuring ten films from the history of Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. But one of them deserves special attention.

The Pathé documentary unit shot a two reel documentary called Ageless Iraq back in the 1950s. If you disregard that the film was probably made for propaganda reasons (the notes say the film was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co.) and instead just view it as a travelogue, it paints a fascinating and extremely appealing picture of this ancient land.

Afternoon sailing trip

It is easy to forget that Iraq is in fact a country steeped in rich history and culture and as the first reel tells us, the very beginnings of civilisation started here. This is a country where writing was conceived and where man began cultivating the land. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq, fertilising the plains and during the 1950s agriculture production was thriving and self-sufficient. Iraq is also home to the ancient walls of Babylon and is the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.

Baghdad – this could be a resort in any other holiday hot spot

Both reels show images of a landscape, culture and society that we just don’t associate with Iraq anymore: art, horseracing, music, cuisine and boats leisurely sailing down a canal in Basra otherwise known as “The Venice of the Middle East”.

The narrator states at the end: “Ageless Iraq, a new country but one that hasn’t forgotten the glories of its history. A country that is now emerging from the shadows of it past to a future bright with promise.” Let’s hope that this will soon be true again and that perhaps, one day, we will be able to book a flight to explore this fascinating land.

View both reels of Ageless Iraq below:

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Iraq Before Saddam

During this time of turmoil in Iraq, it is interesting to look back at that country and its history prior to Saddam Hussein coming to power. In the British Pathé archive, there are some fascinating stories and images from that beautiful, if troubled, state. This selection of 10 films includes footage of King Feisal, the construction of Iraqi oil fields, and vintage looks at Iraqi culture.

For those wanting more recent footage from Iraq’s history, these short overviews by John Humphrys document Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, Operation Desert Storm, the fall of Iraq during the 2003 invasion, and the capture of Saddam Hussein by US troops.

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1.  BAGHDAD AND BEYOND (c.1932)


The British mandate in Iraq came to an end in 1932 after twelve years. This film presents an intriguing picture of life in Iraq at around that time, including footage of the Iraqi army.

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2.  A ROYAL WELCOME (1933)


Full title reads: “Dover & London. A Royal Welcome. The King and Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester, Prime Minister and Officers of State, greet King Feisal of Irak on State visit for first time.”

There is an interesting outdated spelling of Iraq used in the title card.

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3.  IRAQ (1942)


This short little film provides a glimpse of life in Baghdad during the 1940s.

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4.  BOY KING OF IRAQ (1943)


Six-year-old King Feisal II tours a British military camp in Baghdad, Iraq with his uncle and regent Emir Abdul Illah. From the Second World War.

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5.  NEW OIL WEALTH FOR IRAQ (1952)


This newsreel concerns the opening of a new desert oil field near Basra by the Iraq Petroleum Company. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Pasha al-Said, can be seen in the film.

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6.  AGELESS IRAQ – PARTS ONE AND TWO (1954)


This longer film, split across two reels, was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co. in the 1950s and documents life in Iraq – its political history, traditions, industry, and its religious life.

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7.  KING FEISAL ENTHRONED (1953)


The Duke of Gloucester attends the enthronement of Iraq’s young King Feisal in Baghdad, 1953.

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8.  IRAQ BOMBSHELL (1958)


A revolution in Iraq sweeps away King Feisal and his Prime Minister. This newsreel takes a quick look at the life of the monarch, including his state visit to England and the inaugurating of an oil well at Kirkuk.

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9.  BRITISH TROOPS DEFEND KUWAIT (1961)

Threatened by neighbouring Iraq, Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah of Kuwait seeks protection from British forces. News story with an American commentary.

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10.  FIRST PICTURES – REVOLT IN IRAQ (1963)

Prime Minister Kassem of Iraq is killed during a brief revolution in 1963. American commentary.

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Further Viewing
There are simply too many interesting films to list here. Additional films can be found by searching our YouTube channel or our website. But we’ve selected this “bonus” film. It features Ernest Bevin and the Iraqi Prime Minister Sayyid Salih Jabr in Portsmouth, England at the signing of a new treaty between Iraq and the United Kingdom in 1948.

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WWW.BRITISHPATHE.COM

WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/BRITISHPATHE

Days That Shook The World – 21st Century Pathé

A few years ago, what was then called “British Pathé News” began a production with the BBC called A Day That Shook The World. Two series were eventually made, the first narrated by John Humphrys, and they are available on our website to view (for free) in our programmes section. The last Pathé newsreel was released in February 1970, so this series and the associated series 20th Century Hall of Fame bring the archive beyond the twentieth century.

Topics covered by the series include September 11th, the Iraq War and the Capture of Saddam Hussein, the collapse of Enron, the Asian Tsunami, and the London Bombings. From this period, the series also covers the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla – not quite an event that “shook the world” but certainly an interesting one.

From the latter part of the twentieth century, the series documents the impeachment of President Clinton, the death of Diana, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, Chernobyl, and the Falklands Crisis. Prior to that we are in classic Pathe territory, with episodes succinctly summarising key events using Pathe footage that was captured at the time – the Somme, Hiroshima, Queen Victoria’s funeral, to name but a few. The series therefore acts as a useful entry point into an archive of 90,000 clips to wade through.

Martin Luther King is the subject of an episode. Click the still to watch the film.
The moon landings are covered in an episode. Click the still to view it.

You can view the entire A Day That Shook The World series by clicking http://www.britishpathe.com/programmes/day-that-shook-the-world or selecting the link below that you want:

Episode Title Date
1 Queen   Victorias Funeral 1901
2 The   Wright Brothers First Flight 1903
3 Emily   Davison Throws Herself Under The Kings Derby Horse 1913
4 Battle   Of The Somme 1916
5 Abdication   Of The Tsar Nikolas 1917
6 Irish   Free State Treaty Signed 1921
7 Suzanne   Lenglen Breaks Wimbledon Record 1925
8 Start   Of UK General Strike 1926
9 Charles   Lindbergh Flies The Atlantic Solo 1927
10 American   Golfer Bobby Jones Wins Grand Slam 1930
11 Hitler   Becomes German Chancellor 1933
12 Edward   VIII Abdicates 1936
13 Hindenburg   Airship Crash 1937
14 Hitler   Annexes Austria 1938
15 Germany   Invades Poland 1939
16 Evacuation   Of Dunkirk 1940
17 London   Blitz Begins On Civilian Targets 1940
18 Pearl   Harbour Attacked 1941
19 Battle   Of El Alamein Begins 1942
20 Fall   Of Stalingrad – German Army Surrenders 1943
21 D-Day   Landings 1944
22 Liberation   Of Paris 1944
23 Big   Three Meet At Yalta To Carve Up Post-War World 1945
24 Germans   Surrender To Montgomery 1945
25 VE   Day Celebrations 1945
26 First   Atomic Bomb Test In New Mexico 1945
27 Labours   Landslide Election Win 1945
28 Atomic   Bomb Dropped On Hiroshima 1945
29 India   And Pakistan Gain Independence 1947
30 Berlin   Airlift Begins 1948
31 Maos   Communists Take Over In China 1949
32 Korean   War Starts 1950
33 Britain   Explodes First Atomic Bomb 1952
34 Launch   Of First Nuclear Submarine 1954
35 Roger   Bannister Breaks Four Minute Mile 1954
36 French   Surrender At Dien Bien Phu 1954
37 Le   Mans 24 Race Disaster 1955
38 Khrushchev   Denounces Stalin 1956
39 First   Nuclear Power Station 1956
40 Soviets   Crush Hungarian Revolt 1956
41 Suez   Invasion 1956
42 Manchester   United Players Die In Munich Air Crash 1958
43 Peles   World Cup Final Performance Thrills Crowds 1958
44 First   Hovercraft Run 1959
45 Kennedy   Inauguration 1961
46 Yuri   Gagarin Becomes The First Man In Space 1961
47 Erection   Of The Berlin Wall 1961
48 Cuban   Missile Crisis 1962
49 Martin   Luther King Delivers His “I Have A Dream” Speech 1962
50 Kennedy   Assassinated 1963
51 Beatles   Return From States In Triumph 1964
52 Aberfan   Slag Heap Buries School 1966
53 Donald   Campbell Dies In Bluebird Crash 1967
54 Six-Day   War Begins 1967
55 Grosvenor   Square Anti-Vietnam Riots 1968
56 Paris   Riots – France Comes Close To Revolution 1968
57 Soviets   Put Down Prague Spring 1968
58 Concorde   Flies For First Time 1969
59 Armstrong   Sets Foot On The Moon 1969
60 Bloody   Sunday In Northern Ireland 1972
61 Nixon   First Us President To Resign 1974
62 Ayatollah   Khomeini Returns From Exile 1979
63 Lord   Mountbatten Assassinated By IRA 1979
64 British   Sas Storm Iranian Embassy In London 1980
65 British   Task Force To Sail For Falklands 1982
66 HMS   Sheffield Sunk In Falklands War 1982
67 IRA   Bombs British Cabinet At Brighton 1984
68 Ethiopian   Famine – BBC Reports Spark Huge Response 1984
69 Heysel   Stadium Riots 1985
70 Challenger   Spacecraft Explodes 1986
71 America   Attacks Libya 1986
72 Chernobyl   Disaster 1986
73 Zeebrugge   Ferry Disaster 1987
74 Lockerbie   Pan-Am Jet Explosion 1988
75 Exxon   Valdez- Worlds Worst Oil Spill 1989
76 Hillsborough   Football Stadium Disaster 1989
77 Tiananmen   Square Massacre 1989
78 Berlin   Wall Comes Down 1989
79 Official   End Of The Cold War – Bush/gorbachev Agree To Deal 1989
80 Ceausescu   Overthrown 1989
81 Nelson   Mandela Released 1990
82 Iraq   Invade Kuwait 1990
83 Thatcher   Falls From Power 1990
84 Desert   Storm – Gulf War 1990
85 Soviet   Coup Failed 1991
86 Maastricht   Treaty 1991
87 Los   Angeles Race Riots 1992
88 British   Royal Family In Crisis 1992
89 Windsor   Castle Damaged By Fire 1992
90 The   Prince And Princess Separate 1992
91 Arab   Israeli Peace Agreement 1993
92 Yeltsin   Crushes Political Rebels 1993
93 Bosnian   Crisis 1994
94 Barings   Bank Collapses 1995
95 150   Die In Oklahoma Terrorist Attack 1995
96 Dolly   The Sheep Clone Unveiled 1997
97 Princess   Of Wales Dies In Paris Car Crash 1997
98 Death   Of Mother Teresa 1997
99 Funeral   Of Diana, Princess Of Wales 1997
100 Hurricane   Mitch 1998
101 President   Clintons Impeachment 1998
102 NATO   Bombing Of Chinese Embassy, Belgrade 1999
103 The   Millennium 2000
104 Deciphering   Of The Human Genome 2000
105 Concorde   Crash 2000
106 September   11th 2001
107 Ipod 2001
108 Battle   Of Tora Bora 2001
109 Fall   Of Iraq 2003
110 Saddam   Capture 2003
111 Beslan   School Siege 2004
112 Orange   Revolution (Ukraine) 2004
113 Asian   Tsunami 2004
114 Kyoto   Agreement 2005
115 Pope   John Paul II Dies 2005
116 Charles   And Camilla 2005
117 Super   Jumbo Airbus 2005
118 London   Awarded 2012 Olympics 2005
119 London   Bombings 2005
120 Hurricane   Katrina 2005
121 Israeli   Invasion Of Lebanon 2006
122 Collapse   Of Enron 2006

Welcome to Baghdad Madame!

Welcome to Baghdad Madame

Anyone up for a holiday in Iraq? It does seem a fairly fanciful idea when Iraq has been synonymous with war, violence and oppression for such a long time and for anyone born after the 1960s the idea of Iraq ever having been a holiday destination seems fantastically peculiar.  However, wind back 40 years and Iraq was in fact a popular destination for tourists and now there are signs, indeed very small, that international tour operators could be taking visitors back there one day.

The Pathé documentary unit shot a two reel documentary called Ageless Iraq back in the 1950s. If you disregard that the films were probably made for propaganda reasons (the notes say the film was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co.) and instead just view them as travelogue films; they paint a fascinating and extremely appealing picture of this ancient land.

Afternoon sailing trip

It is easy to forget that Iraq is in fact a country steeped in rich history and culture and as the first film tells us, the very beginnings of civilisation started here. This is a country where writing was conceived and where man began cultivating the land. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq, fertilising the plains and during the 1950s agriculture production was thriving and self-sufficient. Iraq is also home to the ancient walls of Bablyon and is the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.

Baghdad – this could be a resort in any other holiday hot spot

Both films show images of a landscape, culture and society that we just don’t associate with Iraq: art, horseracing, music, cuisine and boats leisurely sailing down a canal in Basra otherwise known as “The Venice of the Middle East”.  

The narrator states at the end: “Ageless Iraq, a new country but one that hasn’t forgotten the glories of its history. A country that is now emerging from the shadows of it past to a future bright with promise.” Let’s hope that this time it is true and perhaps one day we will be able to book a flight to explore this fascinating land.

Ageless Iraq Reel 1

Ageless Iraq Reel 2

Basra - The Venice of the Middle East