Cartographer puts Baghdad on the map

Arne Rohweder's new and detailed Baghdad City map (2004 Gecko Maps) Copyright 2004 Gecko Maps, Arne Rohweder

Swiss cartographer Arne Rohweder has produced an updated map of central Baghdad, featuring palaces and buildings that were bombed or looted during the war.

This content was published on January 11, 2005

His latest version also marks restricted areas such as the Green Zone as well as the best places to get "wood-fire roasted fish".

Rohweder says the map is designed to serve tourists, residents, journalists, military personnel and those involved in rebuilding the city.

The cartographer, who specialises in panorama, tourist and road maps, says he has already sold more than 1,500 copies of the updated version.

"I decided to make another map of the city, because I am interested in cartography, the city and cityscape," Rohweder told swissinfo.

The new city map is more detailed than his 2002 edition, incorporating infrastructure damaged during the war and new building projects.

It marks the Rahman Mosque (Grand Mosque), under construction since 1998, which would be the country’s biggest mosque once completed.

The map also indicates other tourist attractions, plus nightclubs, teahouses, cinemas and shopping areas not included in the previous edition.

Gap in the market

Rohweder said he came up with the idea of producing a map of Baghdad four years ago.

"I was at the Frankfurt Book Fair while the war in Afghanistan was raging and visitors were desperately looking for a map of Afghanistan, because they wanted to get information about the country," he explained.

He says the two publishers selling up-to-date maps of Afghanistan made a huge profit.

When the war in Iraq started, Rohweder realised there was a similar gap in the market for maps of the country’s capital, Baghdad.

He added that regions and countries where American forces were involved militarily were always of great interest to the public.

"I was the only one who was offering a map of Baghdad City with up-to-date information," he explained.

"Our strength consists of mentioning particularities and offering insider tips that have not been published anywhere else."

Satellite photos

Rohweder, who has never been to Baghdad, based the latest version on his 2002 edition and on satellite photos and images. But he needed a co-worker on site to do the fieldwork.

Martin Herzog, his business partner who is married to an Iraqi, spent about three months in the city collecting information on street names and buildings to update the map, which covers central Baghdad.

"Remapping the whole city – a metropolis with over five million inhabitants – would mean a lot of work," explained Rohweder.

"I would certainly map Greater Baghdad if I was commissioned, but this would take a long time," he added.

Rohweder says he would like to update the map every six months, but claims this is not feasible because of the unstable situation in Iraq.

swissinfo, Katalin Fekete

In brief

Swiss cartographer Arne Rohweder set up his company Gecko Maps about ten years ago.

The Gecko team consists of two permanent employees, Rohweder and his wife, and several external collaborators, freelancers and experts.

Apart from producing panorama maps of Swiss ski and hiking resorts, the company also publishes tourist, road and trekking maps covering southeast Asian countries such as Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos.

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