World’s Largest Cemetery The Resting Place for Millions

by K-Berens
aerial view of Wadi Al-Salaam oldest cemetery in world

An aerial view of Wadi Al-Salaam one of the oldest cemeteries in history and reportedly the largest in the world.

Estimated at being over 1400 years old, Wadi Al-Salaam, meaning the Valley of Peace, is not only one of the oldest cemeteries in history, it is also reportedly the largest in the world.

This Islamic cemetery is located in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. Situated about 100 miles south of Baghdad, this city is regarded as the third holiest city in Shi’a Islam. The cemetery is the final resting place for kings, prophets, princes and sultans, making it the most desirable place for many Shi’as in Iraq. There are an estimated half a million people buried every year within the 6 km2 area.

The grave markers themselves share many similar traits. Beige in color, the markers are constructed with baked bricks and plaster. These rectangular markers vary in size, with some towering at over ten feet tall. These grave markers, built in the 1930s and 1940s, were designed that way in order to be spotted easily amongst the millions of other markers.

In recent history, the cemetery was the site of many military clashes during the Iraq war of 2003. Soldiers would hide behind the markers, making detection nearly impossible.

Pictures of the area show a sea of detailed taupe markers stretching far into the distance, criss-crossed with a few roads wide enough for a vehicle to pass through, with smaller walking paths creating an uneven grid across the area. Detailed pictures of the markers show splashes of green, shapes made with different shades of brick and text, listing the name of the person or family buried there.

close up of tombs at Wadi Al-Salaam cemetery in Iray

The Wadi Al-Salaam cemetery contains millions of tombs including underground vaults and a labyrinth of paths throughout its area.

In the center point of the cemetery is the tomb of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, one of the most important figures within the history of Islam. He was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and the first male convert to Islam.

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