Originally appeared on Mind The Globe.
You know things are peachy in Baghdad when plans are being made for a major amusement park in the centre of the city. Let’s forget about the stalled political process, the ongoing violence, the failing infrastructure and marvel at the fantastic designs soon to be dropped onto Baghdad. Yes, someone actually sat down and did some ‘imagineering’ . Check out the sketches here, here and here.
There are so many wrong things about this project and I am not even talking about the holographic Allah projection suggested by one of the designs. To start with The TimesOnline reports that the mayor of Baghdad sold the developer, a Mr. Llewellyn Werner, a 50-year lease to Al-Zawra Park for an undisclosed sum – that would be news to many Iraqis.
Then there are the developers themselves. Mr. Werner is the chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms. He told The Times “the people need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact“, skip education, health and less violence on the street and head straight for rollercoaster rides and cotton-candy for positive influence.
The Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience is going to cost $500 million. “A $1 million skateboard park, the first phase of the development, will open in July.” July? Really? One other thing baffles me with this statement: the skateboard park. You would be really hard pressed to find kids with skateboards in Baghdad, not really a popular sport. Many don’t even know what skateboarding is and $1 million are being spent on this park?
But this was not the only enormously exciting news about reconstruction and development work in Iraq I’ve seen recently. Besides an amusement park the other reason why Baghdad is going to be your next favourite tourist spot is a major resort developed on the banks of the river Tigris. According to an AP article, Washington has already had talks with Marriott International Inc. to build a hotel in the Green Zone.
The choice quote from that article is Navy Capt. Thomas Karnowski, who led the team that created the development plan:
“When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbors are”.
My first thought when reading this was: dude it ain’t your neighbourhood! At best you’re a guest and at worst you’re an invader.
And that ladies and gentlemen was your Baghdad story out of leftfield for today.