Bakhdida (Syriac: ܒܓܕܝܕܐ, Arabic:بخديدا or قره قوش), also known as Al-Hamdaniya Municipality, is an Assyrian town in the northern Iraq Ninawa Governorate, located about 32 km southeast of the city of Mosul amid agricultural lands, close to the ruins of Nimrud and Nineveh. It is connected to the main city of Mosul by two main roads. The first runs through the towns of Bartella and Karamles which connects to the city of Arbil as well. The second which was gravel until the 1990s when it was paved, is direct to Mosul.


The name Bakhdida is of an Aramaic origin from "Beth Khodida" (ܒܝܬ ܟܘܕܝܕܐ), meaning House of Youth. Some also believe that Bakhdida is from the Aramaic "Beth Deta", meaning House of the Kite. During the Ottoman Turks rule, the Turkish name Kara Kuş (Qara Qosh) (Turkish for black bird) came into use. Finally, and as part of the Arabization policy campaign, the Iraqi baath government changed the village name to Hamdaniya, naming it after the Arab tribe of Banu Hamdan, who settled in the district.

ituation of the town

Agriculture was the main source of living for the people of Bakhdida, It also prospered on handicrafts such as weaving and producing leather coats which are locally known as Farawee made of sheepskin.

Today, Bakhdida has become a center of trade and business with many roads, shops, houses, buildings and lots of government employees but still agriculture and farming are one of the main sources of living as since the eighties many people own and run chicken farms with modern facilities.

96% of the inhabitants are Assyrians. The population of 30,000 is mainly Syriacs, members of either the Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox.

As of now, the Al-Hamdaniya Municipality also includes towns of Bertella and Karamlis and tens of small other villages.

The city shares the name Al Hamdaniya with an unrelated small Sunni village a few dozen kilometers west of Baghdad where an Iraqi civilian was killed by US Marines in April 2006, an event known as the Hamdania incident.


The Assyrians of Bakhdida became Christians during early Christianity. With the Christological disputes of the 4th century, they followed the Nestorian teaching but switched to the Jacobite (Orthodox Assyrian) rite through Shapur al-Baghdida in the 7th century. Worth mentioning that Bartella was Nestorian village as well; however, the efforts of Bishop Gabriel al-Sinjari, in early 7 th century, switched it to Jacobite as he held a special place at the Sassanid Persian royal court and King Khosrow II and his queen Sherin. Gabriel was a Jacobite; however, he switched to Nestorianism when he married a Nestorian woman. He then married two additional Magian wives that led to his excommunication by the Nestorian patriarch; thus, he joined the Jacobite Church for the second time. Gabriel was influential at the court of the king and his wife because he has cured the queen and she had a child after years of unsuccessful pregnancy. His influence was so great that he prevented the Nestorians from electing a patriarch for 20 years.

Bakhdida's population is indigenous to the village; however, Assyrian Christians from other regions of Assyria have moved to and settled in Bakhdida. In 1089, the Church of Mar Ahodama in Tikrit (built before 10th century) was looted and taxes on its Jacobite population became so unbearable that most of the Assyrian Christians left the city and the Jacobite Mapharian, Youhanna IV Saliba, followed suit and moved to Mosul. Of course, Mapharian is a title given around the 12th century to the head of the Jacobite Church in the east as the representative of the Antiochean patriarch. Many of these Tikriti Christians moved to Baghdeda and later few Mapharians settled in it as well. Still, the town would be a great anthropological study with many rooted family names such as Assu, Ashu, Annu, Ausu, Ballu, Battu, Tammu, Toolu, Daddu, Rammu, Ritu, Shinnu, Shammu, Shnatu, Samdu, Saifu, Kasbu, Kannu, Mattu, Miru, Nooru, Noodu, Garmu, Lasu, and many other names that reflect Assyrian Akkadian influence.

In 1580, certain Jacobites of Bakhdida began to build relations with Rome through the Monastery of Mar Bihnam, but it was not until the 18th century that these Jacobites began to join the Vatican and became known as Syrian Catholics. Recently, the Dominicans celebrated 250 years of their presence in north of Iraq. There was much unrest between the new Catholics and the originally Jacobite Christians. It is reported that when a Catholic bishop Essa Mahfoodh went to see the Jacobite Patriarch Elias II Hindi al-Mosulli (1837 – 1847) in order to secure the division of properties between the two groups, he was received with insulting remarks. The patriarch told the Catholic bishop: "French (Papists), isn't it enough that you divided my people in Mardin and now you come here to Mosul as well to do the same thing here?" Backed by the French, the bishop went to Mohammad pasha, the Turkish governor, and presented his complaint to him. In 1837, the properties (churches and monasteries), manuscripts, and furniture were divided in a special manner between the two Assyrian denominations.

In early 18th century, the Persians invaded the Mosul region and most of the inhabitants of Baghdida escaped to Mosul with all their valuables, in accordance to the governor's orders. Mosul was harassed and then sieged for months. However, the Christians defended it and after months of blockade, the Persians finally signed a peace agreement with Mosul's governor Hasan Pasha al-Jalili, from the Nestorian Jalili family, and withdrew in 1743. To reward the Christians for their bravery, the Jalili governor permitted many churches in the Mosul region to be restored.

Next, the governor sent his son to Constantinople (Istanbul) to meet with the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I. The purpose for the visit was to ask the sultan for a reward for saving Mosul. The sultan issued an official firman in 1778 and paid Hussein Pasha al-Jalili 800 Qirsh to buy the village of Baghdeda. The people of Baghdida were very upset about what had happened. They met and decided after long deliberation to abandon the village. When al-Jalili heard the story, he felt guilty and decided to return the ownership of the village to its rightful owners. He issued a decree in 1778, in which he relinquished his ownership to Baghdida, however, he kept his rights to receive the tenth of its produce in taxes. This continued until Ayyoub al-Jalili headed the Jalili family. He tried to enforce the Sultan's original firman; however, the people of Qara Qosh, as it was known at this time, fought with the help of Bihnam Bounni, who won the case in Mosul courts in 1920 and traveled to Istanbul and won the case there in 1923. Nevertheless, Ayyoub al-Jalili and the Jalili family returned again and tried to claim ownership of Qara Qosh. On November 21, 1949 , judge Moslih al-Den al-Salhani rewarded Qara Qosh to the Jalili family. The people of Qara Qosh applied a petition to the Iraqi government in which they explained the whole history of their village and ended the petition with permission to leave Iraq if the government did not return ownership of the village to them. The courts looked into the matter one last time and on March 15, 1954 , rewarded the village to the rightful owners, the people of Bakhdida.

In their literature and writings, the Assyrians of Baghdida remember vividly the raids of the Persians and Kurds on their village and churches. In 1171, according to Abdal, while the governors of Mosul and Damascus were fighting each other, the Kurds used the opportunity and attacked Mar Mattai. According the 12th century writer Ibn al-'Abri (Bar Hebraeus), in 1261, the Kurds came down to Mosul and killed many Christians who refused to follow Islam and looted their homes and churches. The Kurds then occupied the monastery of Deir al-Rahibat and killed many of the nuns and others who have sought refuge in the monastery. In 1288, a battle took place between the Kurds and Tatars near Baghdida. In 1324, Baghdida was attacked by the Kurds again and many homes and four churches were burned. In 1742, the Persians and Nadir Shah plundered and looted the whole region of Mosul wilayet, including many Christian villages. More recently, town lost around 6,000 people during the Ba'ath regime's conflict with the Kurds. The town was hit hard with events such as The Persian Gulf War and the Anfal operations of 1988.

There is a lot of interest in the archaeology of Baghdida today. It has many Assyrian archaeological remains, like those of Tell Bashmoni (Beth Shmoni), tell Mqortaya, tell Karamles, tell Mar Bihnam and others. These mounds must be fortresses, temples, or buildings that belonged to the Assyrian capital of Nimrod. Throughout 1922, 1927, and 1935, excavators found gold pieces, cylinder seals, and they found an Assyrian statue in a well in the church of Mar Zina, which is displayed in Mosul Museum. In 1942, an Assyrian bathroom and several graves were found near the church of Bashmoni. Furthermore, during the 1980s excavations in the grounds of the Church of Mar Youhanna ( Saint John ), archaeologists found human remains inside graves in the eastern side and at a depth of one and a half meters. These graves were built with typical Assyrian large sized rectangular shaped bricks.

Additionally, references to Athur (Assyria) continued in texts from Baghdeda. Mapharian Athanasius Ibrahim II of Tur Abdin visited Tikrit, Baghdad , and Arbil to attend to his congregation. According to Afram Abdal al-Khouri and his book "al-Lu'lu' al-Nadheed fi Tareekh Deir Mar Bihnam al-Shaheed (The Layers of Pearls in the History of the Monastery of Martyred Mar Bihnam), 1951, p. 219, Sony writes: "in 1365, the mapharian came to Athur or Mosul and was welcomed by Nour al-Din the Chief of Baghdeda …" (Sony 1998, 699). Lastly but not least, according to Mar Bihnam monastery archives, Sony writes that in 1294 – 1295, a certain king "came to Lower Athur, the city of Saint Mar Bihnam …" (Sony 1998, 95).


Syriac Catholic Churches
* Church of Virgin MaryThis church was mentioned by Mapheryan Denosyos Mosa (1112-1142) who visited the church in 1129. It was also mentioned also by Mapheryan Egnateyos La'azer (1143-1164). In this church is the remain of Mapheryan Deosqoros Behnam II who was buried there in 1417, and that of Mapheryan Baselos Aziz who was buried there in 1487. Several attempts were made to reconstruct it. The first was in 1745 to rebuild what was destroyed by Nader Shah in 1743. It was rebuilt again 1847. The last reconstruction for this church was conducted in 1964.

* The New Church of ImmaculateThis is the largest church in Bakhdeda and Iraq. Building of this church started in 1932. Phase one was completed in 1939, and final phase was completed by 1948.
* Church of Mar JacobHistorically this church was called Church of Mar Andrawes. It was overtaken by the Catholic at the order of Hassan Pasha Al-Jalely in 1770 and renamed Mar Jacob. It was reinvigorated in 1970.

* Church of John the BaptistThis church was built prior to 1748 when its name was mentioned by the priest Habash bin Joma’a.

* Church of Martyr Mar GewargisThis church was standing prior to 1269 when in it was mentioned in an inscription written by Joseph bin Khames Al-Senjari.

* Church of Mar Zina

thumb|150ppx|1st: Church of Sarkis and Bakos2nd: Church of Mart Shmony3rd: Church of Mar KorkisThis church was first mentioned in 1589 by the priest Jacob bin Eliya bin Hirmis who was referring to the reconstruction being done on it, which indicates that this church was built many years before that. It was also reconstructed in 1744 and recently in 1964.

Syriac Orthodox Churches
* Church of Sarkis and BakosThis is the oldest church in Bakhdida. Possibly this church was built in the sixth or the seventh century. It was burned by Nader Shah in 1743 and reconstructed in 1744.

* Church of Mart ShmonyThis church was built prior to the eight century, since its records indicate that it was reinvigorated in 791. It is a famous among syriac from other parts of the region. Once a year, thousands of believers from around Bakhdeda come to visit the church and celebrate Mart Shmony's and her children's martyrdom.

* Church of Mar GorguisThis is an old church in Bakhdida. Not much information is known about it.



On Christmas Eve people in Bakhdida enjoy the Fire that is lit in the yard of the church of immaculate locally known Tahra. Wild plants are collected ahead of the big celebration, a known family is devoted to gather the plants and anybody can volunteer for this task too. Big mass is held on Christmas Eve and all children and crowds of people sing Christmas carols.

On Christmas day people visit each other and have special meals with their relatives and friends. Most people sacrifice animals, prepare Christmas cookies locally known Klecha; very special treat stuffed with walnut, coconut or dates.

Mar Keryakos

Mar Karyakos is actually ruins of a monastery located about a kilometer east of Bakhdida and lies amid agricultural fields. The monastery consists of three caves that are carved naturally in a hilly rock formed geologically of hardened pebbles. In the middle cave which is the largest stands what looks like an altar formed of piled stones. The altar is lit with candles by believers who visit it once a year on the Sunday before Palm Sunday. Offers are given for the needy people of Bakhdida, after prayers families picnic in the fields that surround the monastery.

Very special treat is prepared ahead of this day from wheat. The wheat is washed, soaked in salt water for three days and then dried in the direct sunlight. After it is completely dry the grains are roasted in special pan locally known SACH on the stove. Melon seeds are washed, salted, dried and roasted the same way as the wheat then mixed with the roasted wheat.

The final treat is called (KITIKELIE) that has very delicious taste.

Palm Sunday

The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday or "Oshana". It is the beginning of Holy Week and celebrates Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Great crowds of people parade the streets of Bakhdida waving olive branches to welcome him. The procession starts at the church of immaculate and ends at the church of John. The people shout "Oshana to the son of David”.

Holy Thursday

In Bakhdida big mass is held at the church of immaculate to commemorate what Jesus did with his disciples. It starts as an ordinary mass but includes a dramatic ritual of the washing and kissing the feet of twelve children.

The Triumph of the Cross

The feast of The Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Traditionally, people attend mass and in the evening they lit fires in the streets of Bakhdida and decorate the exterior of their houses with outdoor lights.

Good Friday

Traditionally, in Bakhdida, the church of immaculate where the good Friday prayers are held all Virgin Mary’s pictures are covered with black cloth as a symbol of her sorrow as well as a bitter drink is prepared from boiling local tree twigs and flowers. Later, on this morning the bell rings for inviting people to drink it as a symbol of the bitter drink that was offered for Jesus while on the cross.The cross is then wrapped in white fabric and kept in a coffin , and in the afternoon burial prayers are held


All Bakhdida marriages were mostly arranged marriage. The parents of the groom first inquire about the girl and her family, if satisfied they request a neighbour or a close friend of the girl’s family to ask for her hand. The girl’s family too inquires about the boy and his family. If interested they send a yes answer and the two families start to prepare for the wedding day.Upon acceptance, boy’s family then chooses a date to meet with the girl’s family. During their get together they agree on dowry, gold, and clothes. Most of these expenses are paid by the boy and his family.The dowry nowadays is mostly cash given by the boy to the girl’s family, gold and clothes are bought for the girl. Extra gifts especially fabric pieces are also bought for relatives. Each of them buys for their relatives from their own money.At engagement party the boy’s family and relatives celebrate at the girl’s house, food and drink. From the date of the engagement to the date of marriage boy’s family pay visits to the girl’s family on Sundays and holidays carrying gifts for the bride.Before marriage the boy’s family, relatives and friends have lunch at the girl’s house. She is then invited to each of her friend’s house to have meal and a receive gifts. This tradition is similar to bride shower in the west.Bakhdida marriages took place on Sundays. On the Friday evening of the week of marriage the bride invites her friends over at her house to have a meal or essentially sandwich with them. Each friend is given a little amount of henna dye wrapped in paper for coloring their hands the next day.At the groom's house on this week they sing and dance local songs using drums and other instruments. On Saturday, in the evening the groom’s family, friends and relatives accompanied by drummer and trumpeter dance to the bride's home dying her hand with henna locally known SWATA. All children enjoy this night dying their hands and wrapping it with cloth until the next morning. The bride and groom had to confess and get Holy Communion before their marriage.On Sunday evening groom’s family again accompanied by the musicians, friends and relatives dance to get the bride from her house to the church for the wedding ceremony locally known BARAKHTA. After the ceremony the newly weds board a car to go around the whole town for three times then to the groom's house. In the olden days before cars were introduced the newly weds rode horses if the groom could afford it and the less fortunate rode donkeys. A close relative has the honor to carry the bride on the animal’s back; bride’s head was fully covered with a bright scarf (known as "Habria").Back to the groom’s house at the front door an animal is slain in front of the couple, stepping on it into the house and showered from the terrace of the house with coins, sweets and nuts. The festivities start and everyone enjoy food, drink and lots of nuts. The groom is showered with especially cash gifts. On this night people hesitate to sleep fearing their faces be painted while asleep with black ashes. The black ashes were collected from the outer bottom of the cooking pans that were used for cooking large amounts of meat, chick peas, broad beans and other stuff on bonfire.The next day bride’s family, friends and relatives have lunch at groom’s house and in the evening it is the other way around the groom’s family enjoy a meal at the bride’s home. The bride stays with her family for few days. Again festivities start when the groom and his friends bring the bride back to her in law’s house locally known "Dara".For economical reasons and the wars that Iraq endured most of these traditions are not in practice anymore.


At the end of summer people of Bakhdida start fertilizing their fields by using manure. Donkey carts were used for transporting the fertilizer from the town to the fields; spades are used to scatter it. The season of farming starts in October when people begin to plough their lands. The main Bakhdida crops are wheat, barely and lentil, other pulses are grown too such as chick pea and kidney beans.

Ploughing in old days was done by using simple plough which was essentially a wooden bar with a metal blade pulled by donkeys to loosen the soil known locally as "Ojar". Then the seeds are cultivated by scattering it manually.

Watering the fields is completely dependable on rain water. Reaping or harvesting the crops starts in the month of May. Every morning flocks of people leave the town either walking or riding donkeys to harvest their own crop with the help of families and friends or by hiring workers. Sickles are used locally known-MAGLA-which is essentially a curved blade with wooden handle. People stoop to mow the crop, the bundles then are gathered to make big piles or shocks known as "Bodra".

Threshing in Bakhdida is done on the floor by using the sled like threshing machine powered by donkeys locally known as "Garegra". This separates the grains from straws is done through the process of winnowing.

Winnowing is done by tossing the threshed crop in the air by using wooden fanners locally called locally "Malkhawa". The remaining straws are then cleared by using sieves.

The sieve-SARADA-is filled with crop then shaken to get clearer product. The left chaff is threshed again by using wooden flails. Most houses in Bakhdida have a cellar for storing their crops.

The hay or straw is stored and used either as food for the animals or as fuel for baking bread in a traditional mud oven known as "Tanorta".


After harvest people start to store their crops for winter. Before grinding the wheat would be first washed to get rid of the soil and the extra hay stalks. The wet wheat is then dried in the sun on the terrace of the house. After drying, the sorting process comes next when all family members gather around a tray to take away the weed seeds and stones.

Grinding is done when the wheat is completely clean and in early days this process was the most difficult because millstone-GARASTA-was used, it required a lot of physical labor and a very little amount of wheat was ground at a time moreover the flour contained bits of stones that broke while grinding.

Sieving had to be done after to get rid of bran and large pieces of broken wheat.The millstone is essentially two disks of stones mounted on top of each other. Not long ago the millstones were still in use for grinding lentils as shown in the picture below.

A more sophisticated kind of millstones were used for getting rid of the outer shell of the wheat. The stones were powered by animals, the lower stone was laid horizontally on the ground and the upper one lay vertically on top of it like a spindle attached to the donkeys with a log locally known-DANEG-. The final product is known-BASOSTA-or pearled wheat, cooked either alone or with chick pea as shown in the picture below.

Mortar and pestle is another common way of grinding, in the olden days these were made of wood or stone. Nowadays metal mortar and pestle sets are available in a variety of different sizes. These two methods are used for preparing a very special dish called "Kobebe".

When diesel powered mills were introduced people started to mill large amounts of wheat flour and cracked wheat ("Gurgur") for the whole winter until the next harvesting season.


Bread Making

Most if not all Bakhdida women excelled in home made bread. Many kinds of bread are made, leavened and unleavened. For the unleavened bread large amounts of wheat flour is sieved first as shown in the picture above then kneaded into a fine, smooth, and easy to roll dough, Few ladies share the making of the bread; dough is shaped into small portions.

The first lady (or a little girl is usually given this chore) rolls the portion of dough while sitting around a board made of wood or a more traditional stone board locally known FARSHA using a thick roller GAROMA with a special motion until the dough gets flatter, then it is flipped to the next lady who uses a thin rolling pin locally known GIRA to continue the process of thinning the loaf of bread until it is as thin as the writing paper as shown in the pictures above and below.

The round loaves are collected on a wooden board known TABAK until a good number is collected to be ready for baking. The third lady gets the mud oven ready for baking by using hey and sawdust. The uncooked loaves are slapped on the hot walls of the oven by using special tool known MANZAK; cooked loaves are left flat or folded into four layers for easier handling and storing. This kind of bread can be stored for about two to three weeks and can be eaten as it is or by sprinkling it with water to soften it.

More sophisticated bread is prepared by brushing oil on the unleavened thin bread and folded it into many layers to form a thick loaf that is topped with cheese.

Leavened bread is prepared by using mostly dry yeast for fermentation. This kind of bread is thicker and softer than the thin bread, sesame seeds are sprinkled on top of it for flavor and decoration, warm water is used for kneading.

Oil is used while kneading for preparing another kind of leavened bread which is thick and topped with cheese or sesame seeds and brushed with plain yogurt for shining. This kind of bread is very similar to the modern pizza.

A very special treat is prepared by using- GURGUR -or as it is known for the west people-BULGOR-other ingredients are used along with it such as meat, onions, spices and tomato paste.

Meat is excluded for preparing a plain treat from BULGOR used mostly during the fasting season of lent when no meat is used for food.

After the process of bread baking is over, the stew making starts, different kinds of stews are prepared over night in the hot ashes of the mud oven. The ingredients of the stew are washed and kept in a mud pot locally known BOROMTHA. Special long wooden ladle-ARTANEETHA- is used for stirring the stew during the night to prevent it from sticking on the bottom of the pot.

Examples of the stews are;
* Shopatee: brown lentil with meat, salt and water
* Harisa: pearled wheat, meat, oil, salt and water
* Shorba: chick pea, meat, onions, water and salt

All Bakhdida people used mud ovens for baking their own daily bread but nowadays iron ovens are most commonly used.

Food Preservation

Before refrigeration and freezing technologies people of Bakhdida used many ways to preserve their foodstuffs. The most common procedure was drying vegetables. For example, okra was selected then threaded and hung in the direct sun to get rid of the moisture; when it is completely dry the vegetable is kept in a cool dry place. Wild plants were also dried, most commonly chamomile, which is used as a traditional remedy for colds. The flowers are plucked in Spring when they are in full bloom, then spread on a cloth in a single layer that is laid on the floor in the direct sun. The dried flowers are then packaged and stored in a cool dry place.

Salting is another well known way of preserving food. Leftovers of sacrificed meat during Christmas are usually preserved in this way for few months. The meat is cut into big chunks and alternately layered with big amount of salt in a stoneware crock ("sindana") as shown in the picture above. The preserved meat is known as "pisra kwesha", which has a very distinctive smell and flavor, no salt is needed while cooking it.

Cheese is usually bought in huge chunks before preservation. People would slice it, melt it in hot water and then shape it into small portions. These small portions are salted and cooled down then arranged in a stone vessel filled with brine (salted water) and used for the months to come.

Another way of preservation is pickling. The most common fruit that is pickled in large quantities is the olive. Most families of Bakhdida have olive trees in their home gardens. Vegetables are used too, such as turnip, beetroot and many others. Local wild plants are collected in Spring and pickled like mustard commonly known as "khardela", which is the most delicious. Red wine vinegar is used along with salted water for this process, spices are added for enhancement.

Election results of 2005

The people of Bakhdida, like their fellow Iraqis, got the chance to vote for the first time on December 15, 2005. The secular Ayad Allawi led the votes in the town. The election results also revealed the migration of Kurds to the town in the past 10 years as well.

ee also

*List of Assyrian villages


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