By John Lee.
Azzaman reports that more than 2.5 million tourists visited Iraq in 2012, most of them on pilgrimage to the country’s holy shrines.
Data issued by the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism show that Iraq has become a top destination for Muslim, mainly Shiite, tourist.
The numbers are reportedly the largest since the country opened its doors to tourism for the first time since the 1970s.
The ministry gave no details on the nationality of the tourists but most of them are believed to have come from predominantly-Shiite Iran, as well as other states with sizeable Shiite communities such Lebanon, Bahrain and Pakistan. An estimated 6,000 Iranian pilgrims cross the border into Iraq every day.
Official data did not say how profitable the industry is for the economy, but the main cities to benefit are Karbala (pictured) and Najaf, where most revered Shiite saints are said to be buried.