Samawah or As Samawah (Arabic language:??????? ) is a city in Iraq, 280 kilometres (174 mi) southeast of Baghdad.
The city of Samawah is the modern capital of the Al Muthanna Governorate. The city is located midway between Baghdad and Basra, at the northern edge of the governorate. The province was established in 1975; prior to that date it was a unified province along with Qadissiya (Diwaniya) and Najaf.
The city was settled by the Himyarite tribe of Banu Qudaa around the 3rd century AD. It is built on both sides of the Euphrates river; there are four bridges in the centre of town for crossing between the two sides. The west bank of the city contains the commercial heart of the city, and includes the old town and the Jewish quarter, agd al yahood. The west bank is the site of the covered market Suq Al Masgoof, which dates to the Ottoman period. The area surrounding the market is the old city with its Byzantine maze of crowded markets and streets.
The eastern side of the city including Qushla has a more modern feel and contains a number of estates of apartment blocks built during the 1970s and 1980s, As Samawah Stadium, which is home to the local Muthanna football team Samawa FC, as well as technical colleges and the polytechnic. There too is Al Qushla, the historic "Ottoman Barracks".
The most famous attraction of Samawah is the ruins of the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk which dates to 4000 BC. This was the largest city in Sumer, extending over 2 km². Uruk was not only the largest conurbation of the first urban civilisation on earth, but it is also the place where the first written script was discovered, the oldest dating back to 3300 BC.
Samawah is built on both sides of the Euphrates and is surrounded by hundreds of palm groves that give it a tropical feel, especially in the southern and northern suburbs. These groves provide cool respite from the scorching heat of Mesopotamia and were the inspiration for the famous Iraqi folk song "The Palm of Samawah".
Samawah has a large salt lake called Lake Sawa, which once had a tourist village that has since fallen into disrepair. The lake is located 25 km (15 mi) to the north of the city centre and is accessible by road. The lake has no obvious source, neither river nor ancient link to a sea. The water is extremely salty due to heavy evaporation in the searing heat of Mesopotamia and supports no marine life. A unique feature of the lake is that the water is above ground level surrounded by natural levees. Due to the high levels of salt in the lake, the levees heal themselves if a break is made in the levee, stopping the water from flowing down to ground level. The salt levels also improve buoyancy, and many migratory birds walk on the lake.
Al Muthanna province contains one of the most notorious prisons in Iraq, which has been used since the time of the monarchy (1921–1958). Nigret Al Salman, located in the small town of Al-Salman 200 km (124 mi) south of Samawah, is a desert prison camp built in the style of a fortress where thousands have perished over the decades. It was used to house the prisoners from the Dujail Massacre before their execution as well as Kurdish prisoners since the first Kurdish revolts of the 1950s.
In 1964, the people of Samawah gained popular fame for rescuing over 1,000 political prisoners of the Iraqi Communist Party who were sent in a "Train of Death" (qutar al maut) in metal cargo rolling stock from Baghdad to Samawah en route to the Nigret Al Salman prison in 50°C (122°F) heat. The train was attacked by the citys people at the railway station, and the dehydrated prisoners were watered and fed. Over 100 of the prisoners had already perished.
The Saray on the east bank of Samawah is the historical seat of authority and authoritarianism in Samawah. It dates from the period of the Ottoman Turkish Occupation. It has been the focus of revolts and popular uprisings by the local population for the past century, most recently in 1991 when hundreds of prisoners, including women and children, as well as Kuwaiti hostages kidnapped by the Iraqi occupation forces in 1990, were freed from their captors by the people of Samawah.
Samawahs medical facilities have improved greatly since 2003. The renovation of the central hospital with the aid of Japanese development funds has resulted in an improvement in medical provision for the residents of the province. New facilities, such as an MRI scanner, have been added to the existing medical units.
The residents of Samawah have used some simple and low-cost means to brighten up the appearance of the grey concrete walls surrounding official buildings and sch????ion was started in the early 1970s, but was cut off during the period of Saddam Husseins rule (1979–2003). The wall paintings put up since 2003 depict the new life achieved since the liberation.