Would You Party in Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Palace?

Would You Party in Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Palace?

It could be poised to become a tourist magnet.

By Tamara Palmer

There is a chance that one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Iraq will be open to the public as a grand historical museum as soon as this September, thanks to help from a British charity and curatorial support from the British Museum. There is also a chance that the property could be threatened and taken over by Shiite militia down the road before it happens, or stormed after it has debuted. So there's that.

Such is the nature of attempting something noble in an unstable region, but if the project is successful, it will be a magnet for the world’s attention. The hope is for it to be a center for all sorts of cultural activities, and will be home to up to 4,000 artifacts from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The palace, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, is an exquisite art object itself, with massive vaulted and tiled ceilings.


Of course, travel to Iraq is not something considered safe for Americans at the moment, which is worded harshly in the State Department’s Iraq Travel Warning. It’s full of scary information, such as “U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), magnetic IEDs places on vehicles, human and vehicle-borne IEDs, mines places on or concealed near roads, mortars and rockets, and shootings using direct fire weapons. When such attacks occur, they frequently take place in public gathering places such as cafes, markets, and other public venues.”

But Qahtan al-Abeed, the director of Basra’s section of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage told National Geographic that the museum is part of a greater vision to turn Basra into a “heritage area with hotels and restaurants and a heritage museum, but being sure that people still live here. We want to make this like Granada in Spain, but it is a 15 to 20 year project.”

World peace willing, it might be somewhere incredible — and safer — to check out in the future.

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