Honeymoon Baghdad

>> Sunday, September 21, 2008

It is pretty surreal. You read stories about what is going on in Iraq and you have to just shake your head. This is the case in point. People are getting blown up in this country every day. Ethnic cleansing is not some rare phenomenon but an everyday practice. So when i read that someone wants to build a massive resort for tourists in the greenzone, i find it ridiculous.

Mr. Yakobi, the chairman of Iraq’s Board of Tourism, is charged with attracting foreign visitors to his beleaguered country. Jazirat A’aras, an island in the Tigris that is just across from the fortified Green Zone and the new American Embassy, is central to his plans. He is seeking investors who might want to spend $2.5 billion to $4.5 billion to build on the island, which was a honeymoon resort before it was bombed and looted in 2003 and then taken over by the Americans for use as a construction yard for the new embassy.

As Mr. Yakobi and his colleagues envision it, the development would include “a six-star hotel,” spas, a yacht club, an amusement park, a shopping center and luxury villas, built in the architectural style of the Ottoman Empire-era buildings in Old Baghdad. The complex would also have an 18-hole golf course, the “Tigris Woods Golf and Country Club,” as it is called in preliminary sketches prepared by the Tourism Board.

I am surprised Iraq even has a board of tourism. There are so many problems with this idea that i would be shocked if someone invests in it. How are people going to get there? Are we even allowed to book trips to Iraq? I tried plugging it into orbitz but they dont carry flights to baghdad. So not only is getting there an issue but there is always the threat of death upon arrival.

In fact, the State Department strongly warns Americans against travel to Iraq. “Despite recent security improvements, Iraq remains dangerous, volatile and unpredictable,” its Web site says, noting that bombings, kidnappings and mortar fire are common and that “such attacks can occur at any time.”

Sounds like a great vacation destination to me. You cant get around with out your own private security team and other than this still non-existant resort there is not a whole lot to see in terms of cultural sights that remain standing or available to visit.

Before the American invasion in 2003, Westerners wandering the capital with cameras were not an uncommon sight. A Bradt travel guide to Iraq published in 2002 noted that “Iraqis tend to be very friendly, hospitable people, but most will not discuss politics or controversial topics.”

It suggests, among other expeditions, a day trip from Baghdad to see the shrine at Samarra, which was bombed in 2006, setting off a wave of sectarian violence that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war; a visit to the Christian churches in Mosul, now emptied of most of their worshipers; and a stroll down the streets of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, currently at the center of a struggle among Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and other groups.

I have strong reservations about anyone investing in the tourist industry of iraq at this point in time. The people we have there want to come home. What will they think of next...


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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