Iraqi Tourism Board Faces Challenges

Well, duh. Here is a true, but funny article about the starcrossed Iraqi Tourism Board. http://www.dispatch.com/dispatch/contentbe/dispatch/2007/04/10/20070410-A1-02.html. Seriously, though, I’ve wanted to visit Iraq for over a decade, and always hoped I’d be able to do it some day. I used to think that in the fullness of time, Saddam would eventually die and perhaps be replaced by a somewhat more benign government that would allow western tourists to visit the archaeological sites. A few years back I read about an Iraqi entrepeneur who had plans to recreate the hanging gardens of Babylon. That would have been awesome. Babylon, Nineveh, Ctesiphon, Nimrud, the cradle of civilization…it’s all in Iraq. Then there’s the southern marshes with their raft homes. Very exotic.

In the 1970s, Iraq drew tourists from around the region and Europe. A few shops in Baghdad still sell the old postcards and guidebooks.
There was a time when the country had tourism offices around the world. But the flow of visitors dried up with Saddam Hussein?s repressive regime and the international sanctions intended to punish it.

Iraq is home to the ruins of Babylon, including its famed hanging gardens. Archaeologists reacted with alarm when the site was damaged by Americans building a military base there after the 2003 invasion.

Ruins in Ur, in southern Iraq, mark the birthplace of Abraham, who is considered a patriarch by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Some of Iraq?s sites, like the spiral minaret in war-torn Samarra or Babylon?s famous lion statues, form images known worldwide even among those who don?t know their origins.

Iraqi officials say there are about 12,500 archeological sites across the country. The ministry has only about 1,500 guards to protect them. Looting gangs often outgun that small force.

Ishtar Gate Lion

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