The River Tigris, which is sometimes known as the River Tigres, starts in the Tarus mountains of south-eastern Turkey and flows for some 1,150 miles towards Shatt el-Arab at the head of the Persian Gulf. Most of the time the River Tigris is flowing through the hot and dry regions of Iraq where it is used for essential irrigation. The Tigris is capable of flooding particularly in May after the spring rains. This is also when the snows of the Turkish mountains where the river rises start to melt. The Tigris is now heavily dammed in Iraq and Turkey.
The Tigris flows more swiftly than the River Euphrates which is to the west of it, and is generally laden with much mud and sand. This silt is then deposited over the dry land which adds to the vast marshy delta where the rivers meet at Basra.
The river has long been an important transport route in a largely desert country. Shallow-draft vessels can go as far as Baghdad, but rafts are needed for transport upstream to Mosul. General Francis Rawdon Chesney hauled two steamers overland through Syria in 1836 to explore the possibility of an overland and river route to India. One steamer, the Tigris, was wrecked in a storm which sank and killed twenty. Chesney proved the river navigable to powered craft.
The Tigris appears twice in the Old Testament. First, in the Book of Genesis, it is the third of the four rivers branching off the river flowing out of the Garden of Eden. The second mention is in the Book of Daniel, wherein the prophet states he received one of his visions "when I was by that great river the Tigris". The River Tigris is also mentioned in Islam. The tomb of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal and Syed Abdul Razzaq Jilani is in Baghdad and the flow of Tigris restricts the number of visitors.
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