Coordinates: 36°43′55.6″N 43°5′42.6″E / 36.732111°N 43.095167°E / 36.732111; 43.095167Coordinates: 36°43′55.6″N 43°5′42.6″E / 36.732111°N 43.095167°E / 36.732111; 43.095167
Country  Iraq
Governorate Ninawa
Founded 1500 BC
Population [1]
  Total 11,000-15,000
Time zone GMT +3
  Summer (DST) GMT +4 (UTC)

Alqōsh (Syriac: ܐܲܠܩܘ̣ܫ, Judeo-Aramaic: אלקוש, Arabic: ألقوش), alternatively spelled Kar Aqosh, Al-qosh or Alqush, is a Assyrian Christian town in northern Iraq. It is located 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Mosul.

Alqosh has adorned the Bayhidhra mountains for more than 25 centuries. The town glowingly reigns over Nineveh's northern plateau known for its fertile soil and extends southward across the other Chaldean towns, such as, Bartella, Telassqopa (Tel Skuf), Baqofah, Sharafiya, Batnaya, and Tel Keppe.

Alqosh traces its history back into the ancient Assyrian Empire and perhaps even further. The earliest mentioning of Alqosh appears in Sennacherib's era 750 BC as evidenced by the mural inside Sennacherib's palace that was discovered in Tel Kuyunjik/Qüyüjik (Sheep Hill in Turkoman) in Mosul. Behind this mural, the phrase "This rock was brought from Alqosh’s Mountain" is carved.

Alqosh is divided into four quarters: Sainna quarter to the west, Qasha quarter to the east, O’do quarter to the north, and Khatetha quarter to the south.

Alqosh is primarily inhabited by Assyrian followers of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and one of the few places where Aramaic is still spoken.[2]


The Iraqi city of Alqosh, in Ninewa

Conflicting opinions appear pertaining to the name Alqosh. Some believe it derives from the Aramaic language and the word Alqoshtti, which means "My god is my arrow". Others interpret it as Alqoshtta, the god of justice. Yet some others believe it comes from Turkish Alkuş ; the red bird. Some contend it belongs to the name AalQoun, father of Nahum the Alqoshian, one of the Old Testament prophets whose tomb still rests in Alqosh today.

The name "Alqosh" could also have originated from the Aramaic "Eil Qushti", which means "The God of the Bow". Here, an association could be drawn in conjunction with the winged disk symbol of the Assyrian national God Ashur holding a bow. Meanwhile, in Aramaic language, rainbow is referred to as "Qeshta d' Maran", therefore, the meaning of the "Bow of Our Lord", is possible as well. Alqosh is known also as Yimma d' Mathwatha (Mother of all Villages).

A number of sites within Alqosh still carry ancient Assyrian names, for example, Sainna Neighborhood means the Moon Neighborhood and Bee Sinnat is a plain area south of Alqosh. Within approximately 2 miles (3 km), to the west of Alqosh, lies the well known ruin of Shayro Meliktha which is marked in the Iraqi ruins Map as a temple carrying a carving of Sennacherib aiming an arrow from his bow.

Sites in Alqosh

Alqosh's stone dwellings are spread along its mountainous slopes up to the tip of its plateau. They share similar decorations with all other colonies within the Nineveh plains, except for the construction that recently swamped its borders, especially in the southern part of the colony to reflect the contemporary nature of building applications in the form of cement, bricks and other materials.

A number of sites remain important to Alqoshnayes.

The Iraqi city of Alqosh, in Ninewa

Since its establishment, Alqosh was a place for worshiping weather for the Assyrian god El-Qustu or Judaism when various Hebrew peoples were brought by the Assyrian army during the eighth and ninth century BC.

Christianity and Alqosh

Since its establishment, Alqosh was a place for worship. either for the Sumerian/Assyrian god Sin, who was also worshiped at Ur as the Sumerian equivalent Nanna, or for the god El-Qustu.

Alqosh became an important town for Assyrian Church of the East Christianity after the Assyrian monk Hirmiz who carved out a monastery out of the mountains of Alqosh. This abbey is called "Rabban Hormizd Monastery" and which was crafted in 640 AD at the outskirts of the Mountains of Alqosh. It was used as the Seat for many patriarchs of the Assyrian Church of the East. From this monastery came Yohannan Sulaqa, who decided to unite with the Catholic Church in 1553 AD and established the Church of Assyria and Mosul, which by the 18th century had become renamed the Chaldean Catholic Church by Rome.

Before that, all of the inhabitants of Alqosh, like their brothers in other Assyrian towns, followed what is erroneously called the Nestorian faith, but were in actuality a part of the Assyrian Church of the East. From 1610 to 1617, the Patriarchate of Alqosh, under Mar Eliyya VIII, entered in Full Communion with Rome. the union was reinstated later in 1771 when the patriarch Eliya Denkha signed a Catholic confession of faith, although no formal union resulted till the reign of patriarch Yohannan VIII (Eliya) Hormizd (1760–1838).[3]

By 1780, most of the inhabitants of Alqosh accepted the union with the Catholic Church. There are also people in Alqosh who adhere to their original Assyrian Church of the East faith.

Monastery of Rabban Hormizd

The monastery of Rabban Hormizd is in the mountains about 2 miles (3 km) from Alqosh. It was founded in the seventh century, and has been the See of the Patriarch of the Eliya line of the Church of the East from 1551 and 1804. Revived in 1808 by Gabriel Dambo, in the 19th century it was the main monastery of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

In 1859 a new monastery (Notre-Dame des Semences) was erected south of the Mountain monastery in the plain near Alqosh, but the ancient building is still in use.

The collection of manuscripts of this monastery is of very great importance for the study of Syriac literature, and manuscripts from it feature in almost every discussion of Syriac texts.

Jewish history

The claimed tomb of the Prophet Nahum

Alqosh was also a site of worship for the Hebrew peoples when they were brought by the Assyrian army during the eighth and ninth century BCE. For centuries, Christians and Jews lived together in Alqosh until the Jews were expelled in 1948.

The Alqosh synagogue is one of the few standing synagogues left in Iraq.

Prophet Nahum and Alqosh

The ancient synagogue in Alqosh reportedly contains the tomb of the prophet Nahum, who correctly prophesied the end of the Assyrian Empire, although Nahum's bones have been relocated to a nearby church. It was common for Iraqi Jews to make a pilgrimage to Alqosh during Shavuot. “He who has not made the pilgrimage to Nahum’s tomb has not yet known real pleasure,” was a common saying.[4]

AalQoun, father of Nahum, was the son of a Hebrew family among thousands whom the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V, who reigned between 727 and 722 BC, brought to Alqosh. These Hebrews lived in peace with the Alqoshniye. The interpretation that seems most logical relies on Marotha, the Alqoshian wise man from three centuries ago who asserted that the name Alqosh is derived from Sîn, the god known as Siin, meaning "the greatest god." It was located at Shweetha D’Gannaweh, a hill north of Alqosh. In this respect, Marotha relays what his ancestors have stated that those living in Nineveh would visit Alqosh every Akitu (the Assyrian and Babylonian New Year) to replay the Enuma Elish which is the Sumerian Epic of Creation. They then would have a religious ceremony in honor of the moon god Sin and the image or icon of the god would be carried in a procession on their way back to Nineveh passing through the old Nineveh Alqosh road.

To its south, an agricultural area known as Bee Siinnat is clearly derived from the word Siin. Forty days later the inhabitants of Nineveh would return the statue or icon of the god to its original place in Alqosh. Based on the foregoing, we believe that the name Alqosh is taken from the Assyrian or earlier Sumerian name for god Siin/Alqosh. Some Sumerologists claim that Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war, was also the offspring of the moon god Sin or as he was originally known Nanna. Alqoshniye are still awaiting the day when excavations of Shweetha D’Gannaweh, will hopefully reveal new cultural artifacts from its Assyrian or possibly even Pre-Assyrian history.


Throughout history, Alqosh has fallen victim to many calamities, most due to their oppressive Muslim neighbors and various overlords. Many attacks occurred after Alqosh started to house the abbey of Rabban Hirmizd, which was used as the Seat for several patriarchs of the Chaldean Church, as it attracted the attention of several Muslims looking to harass their Christian neighbors.

In 1743, Alqosh became a victim to the destructive acts of their Persian overlord Nader Shah.[5]

According to the testimony, written in a letter by the Qasha Habash Bin Jomaa from 1746, he describes; "... first they attacked Karamles and stole its peoples valuables and kidnapped many of its children and women. They then did the same to the inhabitants of Bartella they killed many of her men, stole their valuables, and also kidnapped its children and women. They did the same to the people of Tel Keppe and Alqosh, however, many of those two neighboring villages took refuge at the Monastery of Rabban Hirmizd. There they were surrounded by the soldiers of Nader Shah who attacked them and then massacred them. There they committed horrendous crimes that I just don't have the stomach to describe!"

In 1828, Alqosh was attacked by the army of Mosa Pasha, the governor of Amadeya, who was instigated by some of his Muslim subjects to attack the Rabban Hirmizd Monastery which he did. His army arrested and imprisoned several monks and priests and caused tremendous damage to the monastery.

In 1832, Alqosh was attacked by the Kurdish Governor of Rowanduz, nicknamed "Merkor" whose hatred for Assyrians is well known. He killed over 400 of its inhabitants. Merkor attacked Alqosh again on 15 March 1833 and killed another 172 of its men, not counting children, women, and strangers (according to church records).

In 1840, Alqosh was attacked by the brother of Merkor, Rasoul Beg, who surrounded it for several months after which he set on fire the Rabban Hirmizd Monastery and stole over 500 of its valuable books.

Other attacks

Alqosh through history has fought many times for its existence, such as:

Old farming methods in Alqosh

Besides all these incidents, a number of natural catastrophes forced hundreds of families to immigrate due to hunger and disease:

As a result of these painful incidents, many families left for Karamles, Tel Keppe, Bartella, Mosul, Baghdad, and some left for Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon and established themselves in those regions.


Party in Alqosh

Many have immigrated outside of the country in huge numbers since the 1970s. It is estimated that at least 40,000 "Alqushnaye" immigrants and their 2nd and 3rd generations now live in the cities of Detroit, Michigan and San Diego, California.

In February 2010, The attacks against Assyrians in Mosul forced 4,300 Assyrians to flee from Mosul to the Nineveh plains where there is an Assyrian majority population. A report by the United Nations stated that 504 Assyrians at once migrated to Alqosh. Many Assyrians from Mosul and Baghdad since the post-2003 Iraq war have fled to Alqosh for safety. There is no actual official census for Alqosh, but many estimate the population between 2,500 and 20,180.[8]

"Alqoshniye" speak Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.

The popular clothing for men is identical to that of the Kurdish peoples. It is believed that the men of Alqosh adopted this clothing at the end of the 19th century as they gradually abandoned their historic clothing which was long pants and "zaboon". Instead of the turban, they would throw braids. Their features and clothing brings them close to their Assyrian practices.

Traditional clothing for women in Alqosh

As for women, their clothing originality extends to the history of Mesopotamia. Some signs of the Hatra's kingdom clearly appear in the posheya (Assyrian headscarf) that adorns the head and in the Mazer worn by the women. The Assyrian signs in the Alqoshian female would appear in the long braids made of wool that extend to her ankle after connecting it to the woman's original braids. The Alqoshian women exaggerated wearing golden and silver ornaments around their neck and ear and in her Poosheya that used to cover her head, that was decorated with colorful beads. The forehead was surrounded with a golden belt that skirts this posheya front the front side whereas black strings dangle from both sides. The skirted part of various colors and decorations would cover the woman's body from the front after it hangs from the shoulder to extend to the two knees. Popular alqoshi last names are Rayes, Toma, Chicka and many more.

Cultural and religious situation

Traditional Christian Ceremony of "Oshaana"
Traditional Ceremony during Christmas

Alqosh, like so many other Iraqi cities which depended on its own economy and resources, had a high percentage of illiteracy, but that does not prevent having a long-standing educational movement represented by Mar Mikha Al Nuhedri School at the beginning of the fifth century. The efforts of priests and deacons who stressed teaching the Aramaic language and its literature and many of them left their writings. Some of those names are:

A number of Alqoshian men have their names planted in the conscious of the people of Alqosh among them are:

After World War I and after establishing the kingdom rule in Iraq, the first elementary school was founded. The school taught topics in Arabic till the fourth grade and it gradually improved to offer six-year education. The Alqoshian graduates of the elementary school were forced to pursue their education for the intermediate and secondary school in Baghdad, Mosul, Dehuk, and even Telkeppeh. After the national revolution of 1958, the first intermediate school in Alqosh was established. Currently, Alqosh houses the following schools:

The residents of Alqosh are Assyrians belonging to the Chaldean Catholic Church. Alqosh of course also houses many individuals who adhere to their own philosophies. Alqosh was a Patriarch center for the Eliya line of the Nestorian and later Chaldean church for hundreds of years since the fall of Ashur in the 1400s. A number of Alqoshians became Patriarchs themselves when it became hereditary in Abouna's family (Aamokka). Eleven Patriarchs consecutively were from this family to head the Church of East. Their tombs are still in Rabban Hermizd Monastery:

Also, Alqosh is honored with another five of her sons to head the Chaldean Catholic Church as Patriarchs:


Most of Alqosh's inhabitants have practiced dry agriculture since ancient times and rely on the fertile plains to the south, growing agricultural products like grain, wheat, beans and in the summer products such as cantaloupe and cucumber. Farmers followed old non-technological methods in their farming for several centuries, and their livelihood was always threatened due to nature's betrayal in situations of drought or plant epidemics such as soona and grasshoppers.

Towards the beginning of the 1960s, Alqosh was introduced to modern agricultural machinery such as tractors, harvester-threshers (reapers), along with new methods of treating and curing plant epidemics. However, irrigation are still a problem in the area, and farming still relies on rain. Currently, many farms now belong to the government and are deputized to their owners to use them, as most were taken during Saddams control.

Besides farmlands, other agriculture also occurs in grape vineyards. grapevines spread all over the village and produce various types of grapes, among which are the black grapes that are well known in northern Iraq. Many of those who know about Alqosh's history believe that there were more than 200 vineyards in the village.

The Iraqi city of Alqosh, in Ninewa

Up until recently, Alqosh enjoyed being an important trade center for the various Kurdish, Yazidi, and Arab villages in the region and it houses a large market that receiving agricultural and animal products from across the region. Its market has many stores and shops containing all types of commodities for shoppers. Many local specialists manufacture goods sold and used by residents in the city and surrounding areas:

The Iraqi city of Alqosh, in Ninewa

In addition to that, the residents of Alqosh raised cattle, sheep, and bees. It is important to note that Alqosh has no river, it once relied on spring and well water, but It also has ravines with water from the mountains. Some of these water wells and water fountains are:

Following are some of the wells:

Many influential and wealthy families in Alqosh are the Raies, Chika, Koja, Boudagh, Shikwana, Shahara, Zoree, Tomas, Aboona, Shushani, Kakka, Khubeir, and Tomika. Some remnants of these families remain in Alqosh, but many have established themselves elsewhere, like in Detroit, Toronto, San Diego, San Francisco and Calgary. The main rulers were the Raies also known as Al Rayes or Rayes family. They were wealthy and most people you see in Alqosh will have the last name Rayes.

Modern services

In 2009, the Assyrian Democratic Movement installed a new sewage system for the town. In late 2011 CSAPC supported an electricity tower for the town, which is now fully installed for the people. In September 2012, the KRG carried out large scale projects in the town worth 12.5 billion dinars. The length of the Hungarian-stretch of the mountainside goes far north of Alqosh all the way to the south, into the street leading to the industrial district leading to 1,500 meters of the stretch. The basic purpose of the projects is to maintain Alqosh of environmental pollution, which will collect water cleaning, washing, and rain in the winter in one channel to serve the latter outside Alqosh away from the population in addition to getting rid of the negative effects of heavy rains in the winter, which before washed away soil and rocks into the streets of Alqosh.

See also


  1. "Iraq: Situation report No. 19". ReliefWeb.
  2. Burger, John (30 August 2014). "Amid ISIS Storm, a Christian Oasis in Iraq". Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  3. Frazee, Charles A. (2006). Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire 1453–1923. Cambridge University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-521-02700-7.
  4. Neurink, Judit (5 July 2015). "Kurdistan needs help to preserve its Jewish heritage". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  5. enter your name here. "Nader Shah".
  7. Costa-Roberts, Daniel (15 March 2015). "8 things you didn't know about Assyrian Christians". PBS. Retrieved 6 July 2015.

Further reading

External links

Media related to Alqosh at Wikimedia Commons

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