Najaf, Iraq

Sister City since 2009.

Liaison to Country: 

Sami Rasouli/Iraqi & American Reconciliation Project 




Louay Al-Yasiri

Miles/kms to Minneapolis: 

6484.5 mi/10435kms


1.39 million


An Najaf, just 19 miles from Babylon and in the geographic neighborhood of the “cradle of civilization,” was founded in 791 when it was chosen as the final burial place of one of the "Twelve Imams,"  Ali ibn Abi Talib.  He was the 4th Caliph of Islam, cousin of the prophet Muhammed and the 1st Imam of Shi'i Islam.  The city developed around the burial grounds of Ali.  Najaf grew as Shi'ites made the pilgrimage to Imam Ali's tomb and eventually, in four successive efforts, a shrine was built over the site (in 750, 977, 1086, and around 1500).  Its desert location, however, made the city vulnerable to water shortages.  Eventually, the water supply was established with the construction of the Hindiyya canal in 1803.  Consequently, the population began to grow rapidly.  The city was held under Ottoman rule until 1915 and afterward subjected to rule by the British Empire.  Attempted rebellion was put down when the British retaliated by cutting off this vital water supply.  From 1965 until 1978 Ayatollah Khomeini lived in exile in Najaf.  For years under Sunni rule, the shrines and mausoleums in the area were damaged and raided for gold on jewels.  After 1991 Saddam Hussein was alleged to put effort into repairing this damage.  Najaf has now regained its religious and independent rule with the establishment of the Shia-led government of Iraq.


Traders, handicraft makers, simple manufacturing, farm workers and farm owners. The province is famous for its rice (Anber) crops. The city is attracting local and foreign (mostly Arab) investors who are buying real estate and investing in the construction of homes, hospital and health care facilities. Najaf is home to a bus manufacturing facility which sells busses throughout the Middle East. Simple manufacturing and  a healthy religious tourism continues. The Najaf Imam Ali Airport (international) opened for business in July of 2008.

Did you know?

* The Shrine of Imam Ali is the third holiest place of pilgrimage for Shia Muslims

* The mosque's dome is covered with 7,777 tiles of solid gold, with mirror tiles reflecting light around the silver walls.

* Najaf is also home to communities of Sufi Mystics who live in the region. 

* Najaf has been named the “Cultural Center of the Arab World,” for the year 2012 which is considered a great honor and will bring a large increase in tourism.

Why is it a Sister City?

* As Minneapolis has the Mississippi, the great US river, Najaf is on the Tigris which watered the cradle of civilization.

* Najaf is similar to Minneapolis in that both communities include religious and medical centers. In addition to Seminaries and teaching hospitals there are scientific universities, colleges for humanitarian studies, as well as technical and vocational institutes. One of the most well known is Kufa University. Najaf has a teaching hospital as well.

* Najaf has a core of citizens committed to making friends across boundaries.  Citizens from both cities have traveled to the other city meeting families, educators, medical providers and government officials. 

* The Najaf Chamber of Commerce, established in 1952, supports small business and tourism in Najaf. The Chamber has 100’s of individual and business members.

* Minneapolis and Najaf both have strong commitments to strengthening and broadening our Sister City relationship.


Imam Ali Foundation

Sacred Destinations

Iraqi American Reconciliation Project