By Robert Tollast, Iraq analyst with The Brecon Group.
Standing on the Ziggurat, an impressive religious temple from the Sumerian period which was largely restored in the 1980s, you can still see solidified tar seeping out from the several thousand year old brickwork.
In fact "qar" in the province’s name refers to tar that was used in construction here. Apart from artifacts recently dug up by British and Italian teams, it’s one of the visible reminders that here was a civilization with developed sanitation, bureaucracy and emerging institutions that place the settlement of Ur as an early manifestation of a state.
It is here in Iraq that the earliest known examples of “true writing” (as distinct from the ancient Chinese “proto writing” of the Shang Dynasty) were found. Undoubtedly, the early inhabitants of Mesopotamia were innovative.
“Ziggurat” means roughly, “structure whose foundations inspire fear.” Today, there is little to fear coming to Thi Qar, providing you carefully plan your trip and seek expert advice on security. While Nasiriyah is about to pass one year with no terrorist attacks, it is still located in a transitional, post conflict part of Iraq: Ramadi is over 400km away.
As with many places in post conflict transition, kidnapping is a risk. But kidnapping is also a risk in Mexico, Colombia, South Africa, and Nigeria, and sure enough people still travel there with the right precautions in place. But don’t go without speaking to a consultancy or specialist travel agency, such as Hinterland Travel. For this trip, we relied on local contacts, but Iraq Advisory Group kindly resolved a last minute Visa delay to clarify our situation with border authorities. Nature Iraq were also our hosts.