Sulaimani, The Cultural Capital of Kurdistan

Photo by Ranj Sarraj


The City's History:

The city of Sulaimani, or Al-Sulaymaniyah as known in Arabic and some formal correspondence, was founded by prince Ibrahim from the Baban tribe, known locally as Ibrahim Pasha Baban, in 1784. The story goes that Ibrahim Pasha was out hunting in the area when he ended up in the Sharazour plain, where the city is located now. He immediately fell in love with the spot and decided to build a city there, and named the city after his father, Sulaiman Pasha Baban. Unlike other cities in the region that grew from villages, Sulaimani was founded and established as a city from day one.

Sulaimani is located northeast of Iraq and southeast of Kurdistan. It is west of the Iranian border, which is the closest neighboring country to the city, and south from the Turkish border. Historically, it has functioned as a hub for trading between the two neighboring counties of Iraq and Iran. It has also influenced political and military movements of the two countries, especially in that region.

Sulaimani has not only influenced trading and politics of the region, but also has given birth to many famous Kurdish poets such as Nali, Mawlawi, Piramerd, Bekas, and most recently Sherko Bekas to name a few. It is known for naming its main streets after some of these poets. Because of its active and continuous contribution to the society’s art culture it is known and was named the Cultural Capital of Kurdistan by the Kurdish people and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The scenery and beauty of the city have inspired many artists and poets throughout history.  It is surrounded by beautiful and long ranges of mountains that add unique natural scenery to it, especially during the winter when the mountains are covered in snow. It is a tourism destination for tourists from inside and outside the country. In addition to the destinations that the city offers, it is close to many other famous tourist destinations in the area such as Dukan, Ahmawa, and Zewe. Additionally, the famous Halgurd mountain peak at 3607 m height is in the vicinity of the city.

The city houses a population of 800,000 people as of 2016, two public universities, and five private universities including the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS).

Photo By Ranj Abdulah

What AUIS staff say about Sulaimani:

My two favorite things about Suliamani is the bazaar and the mountains.  I love to spend Saturdays there, not just for shopping, but to experience the city.  For me, the bazaar is the heat of Suliamani. The mountains surrounding Sulimani are incredible.  My husband and I love to drive up in the mountains for picnics, hiking, and long drives.  In the Spring, when everything is in bloom and green, there is no better place on Earth. - Rachel Gresk (APP)

Slemani has been a very pleasant surprise! I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, the hospitality of the Kurdish people, and the peaceful lifestyle. I hope to spend much more time here in the future. - Casey Poe (APP)

I love autumn in Sulaimani, it’s so nice to see the crunchy orange leaves on the floor, especially in the pathway of Baxi Gshty which is lined with statues of Kurdish poets. It is generally a very peaceful place, and because it is a small city, you always run into people you know. - Lana Jabbar (Communications Department)

Photo by Sarah Mathieu

Parki Gshti

View of the City taken from Azmer Mountain during sunset. Photo Taken by Korak Agha. 


Another photo by Korak Agha, a view of the Sulaimani Sign on top Azmer Mountain  


View of Sulaimani mountains during winter. Photo taken by Korak Agha.  


View of Sulaimani city during fall. Photo Taken by Korak Agha