Pack your backpack.. you’re going on a package tour of Iraq

No frills tourism – in Iraq. [BBC]

Five British tourists, two Americans and a Canadian spent two nights there at the end of a tour of Iraq which has included historic sites as well as cities where extreme violence is still a possibility.

It’s a lovely little piece for Sunday. It’s upbeat, quirky and fits with the general drift of the narrative that’s coming out of Iraq.

We had country-wide elections with little violence, a recent poll says all is peachy and now western tourists are arriving. If you listen closely you’ll hear the sound of foreign desk editors picking up the phones to Baghdad to tell their reporters to head to Afghanistan, the story is so over in Baghdad.

Look, I’m all for it. Bring on the tourists, it’ll be fun. But this piece on the BBC is just a bit odd. The footage is filmed in front of Saddam’s old parade ground which is in the middle of the green zone. Normal folk, or should I just say it.. Iraqis, have no way of getting there unescorted. And they talk of visiting the ancient city of Babylon.. the last I heard is that an US army unit uses it as a base. You’d need security clearance to enter, no? I sort of suspect that waving foreign passports helps negotiate some obstacles but it’s still a bus full of people from foreign travelling through a country where kidnappings still happen – my father’s work associate still has no news from his wife and 4year old daughter who have been kidnapped late January.

All in all it’s a nice plug for Hinterland Travel, check out their website. The itinerary is quite impressive, they probably deserve the plug just for doing something as mad and wonderful as organizing tours in Iraq. Quite honestly I would have been interested in going on that 20 day tour as well. Besides the religious places and the souks they seem to get access to places I don’t think Iraqis are too welcome to. Waving a foreign passport here still makes you more welcome than pulling out an Iraqi ID. Sadly in most cases ‘assume terrorist until proven otherwise’ still applies to Iraqis.

All in all these tourists are very brave souls and I am very curious how the people at Hinterland Travel do this. Theire clients are probably signing a million waivers and disclaimers.

And just in case you were wondering.. yes, I am a little bit jealous. Sour grapes and all that.

5 Responses to “Pack your backpack.. you’re going on a package tour of Iraq”

  1. Lennie Says:

    I’m jealous too.

  2. Stephen Says:

    I’d love to visit, but I remember being a youngster in the early 1980s in Belfast, where the trouble was somewhat less pronounced than modern Iraq but there were gun-toting soldiers on every corner, and I didn’t like it then. I can’t imagine it would be much fun spending my holidays surrounded by bored teenagers with guns. Fascinating, life-changing, eye-opening – yes. Relaxing and restful and all that other holiday stuff? Somehow the idea of lying on a beach towel with a John Grisham novel in the Green Zone is a bit… Off…

    On the subject of odd Iraqi travels, did you see the recent Storyville documentary about an armoured car salesman? (Nice person has posted it here: http://xhgc18.blogspot.com/2009/03/storyville-bulletproof-salesman.html) I found it intriguing, I’d be interested to know your thoughts on it.

    Best,
    Steve

  3. Michael Stevens Says:

    I would love to come. As a sociologist, and a lover of that part of the world Iraq fascinates me.

  4. observer Says:

    Babylon is now under Iraqi jurisdiction, the US and Polish armies withdrew in 2006. There is a small base/consulate across the river, but it is not part of the historical site.

  5. almulhama Says:

    I wish I could visit, just explore and enjoy like I’d done in Yemen. This is home different, can you imagine having not discovered your home? While so many others ‘frolick’ to their hearts content! Shame that I can’t and others can. Safety to all and God bless

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