Is Iraq Ready for Tourists?
It seems like just yesterday, that IEDs were exploding in Baghdad and Kirkuk and Turkish planes were bombing Kurdish rebels in northern Ira. Wait, that was yesterday. But anyway, today is a new day, and Iraq’s tourism industry is getting back on its feet.
CNN reports that international airlines are now flying directly to Iraq from Austria, Germany, Greece, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and various cities in the Middle East. (Sadly though, an attempt to book a flight from London to Baghdad on Orbitz provided us with this error message: “We’re sorry, Orbitz does not provide flights to Baghdad, Iraq [Message 1783]”)
Tour operators are also returning to Iraq. French tour company “Terre Entiere” will lead tours of the ancient city of Ur in Southern Iraq beginning in June. According to the Iraq Ministry of Tourism, last year only 73 tourists visited the country’s archaeological sites, so there’s plenty of room to grow. And, for some travelers, the possibility of danger is intriguing. “You do find with some countries that were recently war zones, certain segment of travelers see it as attractive,” says Sean Tipton of the Association of British Travel Agents. “Some people see it as off the beaten track. They view it as an experience.”
Aside from being a recent/ongoing war zone, Iraq has plenty to offer the intrepid traveler. Just 55 miles outside of Baghdad is the ancient city of Babylon, which housed the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Outside of Mosul, there’s the ruined city of Hatra, the first capital of the Arab Kingdom, and the ancient city of Ashur from the third century B.C.