The recorded history of Shaqlawa begins in the 12th to 13th centuries, when it was first mentioned by Yaqut al-Hamawi in his Glossary of Countries as Shaqlabad. The name changed over the years. A historically Christian town, it was mentioned in church records over the years as Shaqlabaz or Shaqabad. Today its Assyrian Christian character remains strong, but the Christians cohabit with Kurds, Arabs, and tourists from near and far. The folk etymology among the Kurds is that the name Shaqlawa means place with water, as in the Kurdish language aw means water.
Indeed, water has played a prominent role in shaping Shaqlawa's modern history. The town is nestled into a shady hillside, and streams run plentifully between houses and even along the main bazaar. Ottomans declared Shaqlawa the center of a subdistrict, and church records mention that Joseph and Tobias of Shaqlawa became monks at Rabban Hormizd Monastery. War diaries record that by World War II it was a favorite place for British soldiers at nearby bases to go swim and party during their leaves.
Little else is known about Shaqlawa's pre-modern history. When Shaqlawa became a district center in 1952, it was still provincial. It was heavily forested, and the villagers lived in seasonal homes. Life was continuing in the old way. Winters were spent at the base of the mountain in sturdy stone homes, while warmer seasons meant moving to ancestral farmlands at higher elevations and staying in temporary structures of wood and leaves. The mountainside was covered in vast orchards, especially pomegranates.
But life was changing. With the construction of the Hamilton Road completed in 1932, Shaqlawa must have gained from its commercial importance along this route. Over the next decades, it underwent a radical change from an outback village to a well-known touristy resort town. With its mild summers it became a destination in itself. But the devastation of the Anfal and subsequent Kurdish civil war wrought havoc: the town was deforested, and the old character and its ancient grove and forest were forever eliminated.
Nowadays, past the hotels, lodges, and shops along the main bazaar, Shaqlawa is a small, pleasant town of steep, winding roads lined by cinderblock homes on subdivided parcels that were once broad familial farmlands. Aside from the many tourists from Iran and Iraq, since 2014 there has been another kind of visitor: the scores of IDPs, many of them Arabs from Fallujah, who have earned this resort town the nickname Shaqlujah.
The whole of the CB Staff left for Shaqlawa to spend a fortnights compulsory leave at the Corps rest camp there. Shaqlawa is about 90 miles North East of Mosul in the hills and is rather an attractive spot.
The village of Shaqlawa lies in the almost icy shade of a forest of trees in the bottom of a small valley. Some good bathing was to be had here. There was a real holiday atmosphere at this camp. There were no parades, uniform was seldom worn and everyone could within reason do as he pleased. Our chaps thoroughly enjoyed it. Robert Davy's war diary, June 1943