Perhaps it’s not the top of everyone’s ecotourism ‘must-see’ list, but the tourist ministry of Iraq is working hard to lure visitors back to the ancient kingdom. And, alongside the promotion of the traditional tourist sites, there is a concerted effort to develop and nourish the surrounding natural environment in a bid to attract eco tourists.
Whilst the traditional religious sites and shrines at Najaf and Karbala pull in a large proportion of tourists from neighbouring Iran and other countries with Shia minorities, the tourist ministry thinks there is huge potential to be uncovered at the many other sites of natural and historical interest. This would diversify the tourist industry in Iraq and restore much needed confidence in the war torn country.
In the future, it is hoped that the marshlands in the South of the country will be restored to their former glory, and that eco tourists will flock to see this unique natural environment.
Destroyed by Saddam Hussein in order to punish dissenting locals, the marshlands previously boasted beautiful wildlife and scenery, but were reduced to desert and rubble by Hussein. It is hoped that the regeneration will bring back the water buffalo, birds and otters that used to live in the area, which many believe is the site of the Garden of Eden.
Ecologists from all over the world have been working with local scientists in a bid to rehydrate the area and bring it up to standard as an international ecotourism destination. Tourists will then be able to access the marshlands from the city of Al Amarah.
Also on the tourist ministry’s radar is the ancient kingdom of Babylon, once home to the hanging gardens and boasting numerous ruins of archaeological significance, but which now lies largely abandoned, its facilities in disrepair.
Development of this wonderful area, which would include the ruins of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar and also numerous uncovered treasures, as well as the still buried remains of ancient buildings, would ensure this area regains its recognition as a world heritage site and bring thousands of tourists back to the region. Watch this space.