Provincial investment commissioner Luay al Khairullah brims with optimism about the near future.
“Imagine,” he says “the tourists fly into Nasiriyah airport (the military runways is being extended for civilian aircraft) and the first thing they see from the plane is the Ziggurat” he says, pointing at ongoing work at the nearby Iman Ali air base. The first wave of planned tourism--in coordination with the Vatican, could attract some serious numbers. Another hotel has been constructed in Nasiriyah and others are planned.
Because of the location of the House of Abraham and what is thought to be original site of Eden in the nearby Central Marshes, the centre of global Catholicism have placed this area in their annual travel guide (circulation: 250,000.) There’s no question that there are impressive sites to see here: Iraq’s fertile crescent is surprisingly green and beautiful, from the wheat fields of Al Shatra (pictured) to scenic canals and palm groves.
And that’s why were here. We came to film a documentary in the making, A Portrait of Thi Qar which focuses on life in the province that is home to Iraq’s beautiful marshes and much of the rich archaeological heritage of the south.
A sheikh and his friends were our escorts, as was Luay al Khairullah. The Sumerian saying feels apt in Iraq, “a city cannot greet a city, but a person can greet a person.” Businessmen and tourists are clearly welcome, wherever they are from. For this trip, we wanted to see some non oil sector industry in Iraq.
What we saw was a spirit of DIY innovation that has kept things running through decades of war, sanctions and neglect.