Estimates on how many visitors arrive in the city each year vary, with some official sources putting the number at around 35 million. However based on figures for 2010 and 2011, it’s most likely to be sitting somewhere between 15 and 25 million visitors per year. Those kinds of numbers, along with a successful agricultural history, make the city one of Iraq’s most prosperous. Additionally Karbala is not only known as a centre for tourism but also as a place where, increasingly, important religious and political decisions are being made.
Of course it depends where in the city of Karbala one is looking, says local real estate agent Sabah al-Tamimi. But the price per square meter in the central city, where one can find restaurants, shopping malls and luxury hotels, has already reached US$4,000, he says.
Another local real estate agent, Shakir al-Jibouri, added that the price had already gone up to US$4,300 in some of the areas he sold property in. Mainly because this was in one of the neighbourhoods where high ranking government officials and politicians tended to live – the area was nicknamed the “Green Zone” after Baghdad’s own highly protected Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies, ministries and the homes of government officials.
Even agricultural land near the city was benefitting from the property boom, Ulwan Habib, the owner of a real estate agency that specialized in farm land, told NIQASH.
One of the farm owners, Riad al-Asadi, who is also a lawyer, believes that the agricultural area is going to become the “new Karbala”. “The area has good roads, sidewalks and other needed infrastructure,” al-Asadi said. And the prices are going up continuously, he noted, because of the number of wealthy business people coming here to buy land so they can build houses in what is considered a beautiful landscape, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.