THE biggest graveyard in the world is the final resting place for over six million bodies all crammed into an ancient burial site.
Wadi Al-Salam cemetery in Najaf, Iraq is visited by millions of pilgrims each year and contains the remains of prophets, royals and scientists.
From above, the landscapes of Al-Salam can be mistaken for a city, with countless graves looking like cramped buildings.
And the size of the cemetery is one of the small town- spanning over 1,500 acres.
The graveyard accounts for 13 per cent of Najaf’s size, sprawling further every day.
Holding more than six million bodies, it is larger in population than some countries like Norway, Finland or.
The name Wadi Al-Salam translates to “Valley of Peace”, but the history of the region has been far from peaceful.
And this number is only increasing as Iraq continues to be the epicentre of military action.
At the height of the Iraq War, it was reported that as many as 250 bodies were interred at the cemetery every day.
And the closely packed tombstones and mausoleums, as well the vast network of underground catacombs made it the perfect place for insurgents to hide.
These days Iraq is still locked in the middle of a brutal conflict, fighting against ISIS.
Maajid, who works for his family business at the graveyard, told the New Arab: “I’m burying more now than ever before, more than my father buried during the war against Iran, more than when the Americans came.”
Militias have even set up their own burial offices in Najaf, and now fully manage the organisation of the funerals.
They pay for everything from the transportation of the fighter’s body to the inscription of their tomb.
To accommodate the growing demand for burials, rooms and vaults have been carved underground for families to lay their loved ones to rest.
Special ladders allow visitors to descend into shafts under the earth.
There are tens of thousands of crypts, some of which can hold as many as 50 sets of remains, prompting many Arabs to purchase catacombs in their entirety for family graveyards.
The site is extremely sacred to Shi’ite Muslims because of its close proximity to Imam Ali Mosque which houses the tomb of the first Shi’ite Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib.
It is the third most important pilgrimage destination in Islam.
Muslims from across the world choose to be buried in the heart of the holy city.
Each coffin buried there is taken to the shrine of the first Imam, and subjected to several laps of blessing before being taken to their final resting place.
Al-Salam is one of the oldest graves for Muslims, with process of burial starting more than 1,400 years ago.
The rich history of the cemetery is the reason many important figures were laid to rest here.
Among them are royal family members, prophets and Sultans.
The kings of Al-Hira, princes of the state of Hamdania, Fatimia, Al-Buwayhyia, Saffawayia, Qajar,and Jalairiyah are said to be interred at the site.
The cheapest plot in Al-Salam sells for £240, without counting the costs of specialised headstones.
The limited space has led to theft and repurposing of old burial sites, but gravediggers have put down their tools after reporting eerie encounters with ghosts.