Babylon awaits tourists' return

Fri, May 8, 2015

by Adnan Abu Zeed

The ruins of the city of Babil, some 56 miles south of Baghdad, flourished as the ancient Mesopotamian capital of Babylon, founded in the 19th century BC. Since that time, the city has suffered from neglect, and poor treatment of its buildings and the very ground it was built on. There is now talk among Iraqi cultural officials of reviving tourism in the city.

In an attempt to bring tourists back to Babil, cultural authorities are focusing on organized tours as well as promoting the city as a place for meetings and festivals. Of note, the city already hosts the Babylon Festival for International Cultures and Arts, held in the spring. It features poetry and fine arts events, as well as theater performances. The seven-day 2015 festival kicked off April 10.

“This festival aims to revive the city’s history and attract the world’s attention to visiting and preserving it,” said Ali Shalah, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) and head of the festival. He noted the participation of “Iraqi and international poets, musicians, painters and fine artists.”

The city of Babil, like other Iraqi historical sites, has long suffered from neglect. The security situation has allowed the theft of untold artifacts, some of them still underground. Meanwhile, fears spread in 2014 that the Islamic State might raid the city and destroy its heritage, but that did not come to pass. Protecting and renovating the city’s cultural heritage will require an Iraqi effort supported by international funding and expertise.

To read the full piece from Al-Monitor, click here.