Rising out of an artificial Baghdad lake like some kind of surreal relic from a bygone civilization, Iraq’s Al-Shaheed Monument is an unforgettable reminder of the lives lost in the Iran-Iraq War.
The Al-Shaheed Monument was built under the regime of Saddam Hussein, during his push to fill Baghdad with lasting monuments during the 1970s and 80s, so in retrospect it may strike some as a troubling artifact from a despot’s rule, but it is hard to deny that it is a stunning work.
The towering memorial was completed in 1983, designed by Iraqi sculptor, Ismail Fatah Al Turk. It consists of a 132-foot tall arabesque dome, covered in teal-colored ceramic tiles. The huge bulb is split down the middle, with an eternal flame in between the hollow insides. The whole thing sits on a large, circular square that is itself held in an artificial lake.
Beneath the monument are a library, a museum, and other facilities, all centered around the memory of the Iraqi soldiers who died during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq. There are also playgrounds and lawns surrounding the strange central monument, making the whole thing a sort of oasis.
It may have been the product of a despicable Iraq ruler’s demands, but the Al-Shaheed Monument seems almost all the more amazing for it.