karbala or kerbala (arabic: كَرْبَلَاء, romanized: karbalāʾ[karbaˈlaːʔ], ə/ kar-bə-lə, also us: ɑː/ lah;) is a city in central iraq, located about 100 km (62 mi) southwest of baghdad, and a few dozen miles east of lake milh. karbala is the capital of karbala governorate, and has an estimated population of 700,000 people (2015).
the city, best known as the location of the battle of karbala in 680 ce, or the shrines of imam husayn and abbas, is considered a holy city for shi'ite muslims, in the same way as mecca, medina and jerusalem. tens of millions of shi'ite muslims visit the site twice a year, rivalling mecca as a place of pilgrimage. the martyrdom of husayn ibn ali is commemorated annually by millions of shi'ites. up to 8 million pilgrims visit the city to observe ʿĀshūrāʾ (the tenth day of the month of muharram), which marks the anniversary of husayn's death, but the main event is the arbaʿīn (the 40th day after 'ashura'), where up to 30 million visit the graves. most of the pilgrims travel on foot from all around iraq and more than 56 countries.