The booming city of Erbil (ancient Arbela) encircles the ancient citadel where evidence of more than six millennia of human habitation is just beginning to be uncovered.
The 100-foot-high, oval-shaped citadel of Erbil, also written Irbil, and known as Hawler (Kurdish: ھەولێر Hewlêr; Syriac: ܐܪܒܝܠ Arbel, Arabic: أربيل Arbīl ) the largest city and capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, towers high above the northern Mesopotamian plain, within sight of the Zagros Mountains that lead to the Iranian plateau.
The massive mound, with its vertiginous man-made slope, built up by its inhabitants over at least the last 6,000 years, is the heart of what may be the world’s oldest continuously occupied settlement. At various times over its long history, the city has been a pilgrimage site dedicated to a great goddess, a prosperous trading center, a town on the frontier of several empires, and a rebel stronghold.
Urban life at Erbil (Hewlêr) can be dated back to at least 6000 BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Arbil. In the early part of the 3rd millennium BC, the Hurrians (Armenians) from Asia Minor were the first to establish Urbilum and expand their rule to parts of northern Mesopotamia.
The city became an integral part of Assyria from the 25th century BC to the 7th century BC, but after it lost its independence at the end of the 7th century BC, both Assyria and the city of Erbil were under the rule of many regional powers in turn, including the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and Greeks.
Following the Arab Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia, the Arabs dissolved Assyria (then known as Assuristan/Athura) as a geo-political entity in the mid-7th century AD, and during medieval times the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks.
Erbil’s archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artifacts, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area. The city officially has been appointed Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014 it was appointed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.