Tourism… the neglected wealth in Iraq

Tourism… the neglected wealth in Iraq

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Researcher Shatha Khalil *
The economic importance of the tourism sector is not less important than the rest of the sectors, as this sector ranked first in some countries, such as Arab countries, Tunisia and Lebanon, and other foreign countries, such as Spain and France.
In the land of Mesopotamia, a country whose civilization dates back to more than 8,000 years, it has many religious sites and historical monuments in its various regions, from north to south and from east to west, but these sites are neglected and have not received sufficient attention from the Iraqi economic planner over the past years, and despite the existence of the Tourism Authority, but it was not effective to meet the required purpose, and this lack of interest caused the country to lose the economic and social benefits that can be obtained from investment in the tourism sector.
This neglect of the tourism sector , which if it is intentional , it is a calamity and if it is due to ignorance , then the calamity is greater , like other sectors of the national economy, and this is due to the suffering of Iraq from multiple wars led to the militarization of the Iraqi economy, and the national wealth obtained from Oil as the main source of wealth was spent on these wars and military industries. In the end, Iraq emerged from these wars with a debt of 120 billion dollars and unjust compensation of 350 billion dollars , a wealth for generations that were not yet born, and Iraq was emerged with American occupation and control and the increase of Iranian influence on the joints of the state, plunged it in a security breakout and bitter chaos .

Unutilized energies and wealth in Iraq:
Iraq has huge natural resources. It is the fifth largest oil reserves in the world, and it has other resources such as phosphates, sulfur and natural gas.
Tourist activity is a set of measures and steps taken by a responsible party, or by the investor in order to attract tourists and stimulate tourism. Tourism is defined as the travel of people from their places of residence to other places. If these places within the country to which they belong, it is an internal tourism , and if outside their country , it is foreign tourism, and in both types of tourism, it is a process of transition to achieve certain goals, including: pleasure and psychological recreation from pressures of work and stressful atmosphere and conditions on the individual, which prompted him to travel and tourism, although tourism is determined by its objectives and its purposes, for example, the definition of a tourist does not include members of delegations , diplomatic commissions , military personnel participated in training courses ,and the attendance to conferences . Tourism is to travel in order to enjoy the landscape or industrial views, and to know the nature and traditions of others, and this is related to the financial ability of the tourist, and factors of tourist attractions in the country of tourism, and consequent spending in the country of tourism, by tourists, means that the tourist spends money brought with him from his country. Therefore, tourism has clearly contributed to the financing of the budgets of many countries that have been interested in it, and countries that rely heavily on tourism such as : France, Spain, Australia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan Etc. especially some of these countries have factors of tourist attraction that are not limited only to the cultural and religious archeology , but they include a climate as well , If you know that some of the reasons for travel are nature’s heat in some countries, as in Iraq, so Iraqis go outside their country to enjoy . moderate or cold climate in the countries they go to for tourism, and others for the purpose of access to the cultural, religious, historical and heritage features , and most of them in Iraq, but it needs those who can take the appropriate decision to make them places of tourist attractions.

Types of services provided to the tourist :
• Transport and communication: The tourist needs means to transport his luggage to the residence or to travel to the tourist sites that he intends to visit, and therefore the interest in tourism necessitates the establishment of such required means by the establishment of transport companies, both within the country of tourism or from it to other countries, this indicates that the tourism is a sector leads to the creation of vertical and horizontal integration.
• Accommodation (residence): This service is one of the basic services that are indispensable to the tourist to feel stable and safe, and take a rest after the end of the day in a tour in various tourist available sites, and therefore must pay attention to places of accommodation.
• Public services: Basic human requirements, especially for a tourist who has moved away from his home and his family, are public tourism services such as water, electricity and communications services, as well as providing security and any other health and security services.
• Tourist and guidance services: In various countries of the world, the authorities responsible for tourism to prepare a guide to explain briefly the names of tourist sites of different kinds, religious, archaeological or historical sites, and according to this guide, the tourist requests to move to the tourist site he wants, and this is the responsibility of the officials of tourism sector to be accompanied by a guide of qualified cadres or specialized in tourism activity.
The elements of tourism investment to support tourist investment, requires an investment climate – investment environment – and this means the overall conditions and circumstances of the environment in which the investment process is done and affected by the political, economic and social conditions, including:
Political environment:
The political environment means the existence of a stable political system and the position of political forces on economic projects. Some of them are specific, especially if their interventions are wide and have no limits.

Security Stability:
The investor needs a safe environment with a clear security stability. In contrast, security instability is a driving force for the flight of capital out of the country and the search for a stable environment, as is happening now in Iraq. The security instability in Iraq has led to the flight of capital and investment to some neighboring Arab countries.

Financial Markets: (Financial Markets)
Financial markets are the locations where securities are traded, whether they are stocks, bonds, or commercial papers issued by major industrial companies. These are of several types, some of them are initial dealing with the securities issued for the first time, and the secondary dealing with securities issued in the past and still exist , and the financial markets that are suitable for Arab or foreign investment need to have all the elements of the financial market to facilitate the investor to achieve his goals and requirements.

The appropriate tax environment:
In view of the limitations that tax legislation poses to the expansion and spread of tax investments, it may constitute a high percentage to be deducted from the expected cash flows from the proposed economic projects. Therefore, the appropriate tax environment is either to encourage these investments with specific tax exemptions at a given time,or to reduce the percentage of tax obtained from the owners of investments in order to encourage industrial development in Iraq, a tax exemption for ten years has been issued for industrial projects and as from 1/1/1989.

Economic environment:
The economic environment is a stable economy where there are `no economic problems, such as low production, rising costs and increasing demand, without production. Such problems create an economically insecure environment for the investor.

Savings are beyond the need of the consumer, or are waiver of instantaneous consumption in the hopes of obtaining a good return on the investment of savings in the future, and this requires support from the fiscal policy of the state in general.

Legal and financial legislation that contributes to facilitating the investor’s task, such as allowing imports to meet the needs and requirements of the proposed investment project, or exporting what is produced to markets that the investor sees, and any financial and banking facilities.

I will present some archaeological tourist sites in Iraq:
Erbil: the castle of Erbil , 7,000-year-old , has a long history. The large castle in the center of the city is the most important tourist attraction, and the other places of interest in Erbil are the Erbil Museum and the Kurdish Textile Center, which is a great way to learn about the history and culture of this amazing part of the world. .

Ur building: Ur is famous for its epic stories about epic floods and Babylonian kings. It is also known as one of the oldest ancient monuments in the region. Ur is located in the southern desert of Iraq, a tall building with high walls and steep stairs that could have been used in the ancient days for the worship of the akadian goddess of the moon, one of the most exotic, and most mysterious tourist attractions in Iraq.

Baghdad: There are many brass bazaars, Assyrian treasures in the National Museum, landmarks such as the Unknown Soldier and others.
Basra is one of the most beautiful destinations in the entire country. The area is covered with palm forests. The city is located on the Shatt al-Arab River, lined with the sunny beach , where you can walk and enjoy the wonderful evening breeze.
Houses of of Kurekalizu : The history of the ancient ruins dates back to 3,500 years. This part of Iraq was the heart of the cradle of civilization in southern Mesopotamia, close to the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. This was the home of the ancient cassian kings who built the ziggurat in the 14th century. These remains can still be found in the form of amazing stone works and brick walls rising to high towers above the desert, which were used as a sign of camels caravans on their way to Baghdad.
Babylon: Babylon’s name evokes images of ancient empires, hanging gardens, and epic battles between the kings of Alexander the Great and the Persian. You can also see some majestic castles here, as well as the remains of the vast island of Humira. When you explore Babylon, you know you are following the great emperors in this part of the world, you are surprised at artifacts such as the wonderfully ruined lion statues, and imagine how the hanging gardens of Babylon were at that time .
Mosul : a city that has more than 2,000 years of rich history, will once again be a place for people to visit. There are some amazing sights to see here, including the dilapidated ruins of the Umayyad Mosque dating back to 640 AD, in addition to the blue marble cobalt works by Yehia Abdul Qaseem Mashhad.

Duhok: the Kurdish town of Duhok is located in Safi valley in northern Iraq, and it is a short distance by bus from the Turkish border. This means that this is one of the easiest places to visit in Iraq, and perhaps for this reason it also enjoys a good reputation for being one of the most welcoming places, The city has many cafés and the University of Dohuk is there, and it has a university town atmosphere. There are comedic waterfalls nearby, as well as colorful Kurdish markets where you can buy local products such as spices and others.
Kirkuk : Kirkuk is located between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of the country. It is also famous for its rich oil supplies. These include the vast oilfields burning in Baba Gurgur , as well as the old castles that are now collapsing due to neglect and scars of long battles.
Zakho : it is a border town near Turkey, and for this reason there are a range of restaurants and good hotels, one of the most accessible places in Iraq. It is the original place where Christian missionaries first settled in the country, such as the beautiful Dalil bridge that extends over Khabur al-Saghir, as well as the arduous ruins of Zakho Castle.

Lake Razzaza : it is located 15 km west of the city of Karbala, and the lake water is provided from Lake Habbaniyah through the a stream of al-Majarah linking the lake Razzaza to the Lake of Habbaniyah and the length of it (8) km, and the size of the lake depending on the difference of water levels between (1500 – 1810) km 2 while the part located within the limits of Karbala is (844) km 2, but this area is also increasing or decreasing according to the water levels, and it is currently decreased by (400) m on the shelf or the coast, and this affects the area of the lake , and was known as Hor Abu Dibis , an old marshes , it was a tourist area intended for tourists for tourism and fishing, but in recent years, it has been suffering from water shortages, losing its first attractiveness.

Al-Ukhaydir Fort: southwest of Baghdad (152 km) and southwest of the city of Karbala (50 km) on the road linking Karbala to Ayn Al-Tamr. It is a fortress in which there is a kind of luxury in construction and splendor in design, engineering and decoration. The first buildings were built during the Abbasid period, during the time of the Wali of Kufa (Isa ibn Musa) during the caliphate of his uncle Jaafar al-Mansur in the eighth century AD. And there are natural water wells within the area of al-Ukhaydir fort which are located within the administrative boundaries of the district of Ayn al-Tamr. The fortress is of historical importance in which the commercial caravan routes were met, linking southern Iraq to upper Euphrates and linking Aleppo to Basra , The palace consists of a large palace that is attached to the wall on the north side. It is a rectangle (122 × 82) m in height. Its design is sufficiently protected against enemy attacks. The palace includes (165) rooms, a large hall, a mosque and departments for the guard. The arts and styles of Sassanid and Byzantine leadership and other methods in the fortress emerged that were not known before Islam . (Jamal and Hassan, 2002).
Castle of Hindi, this castle is located east of the city of Karbala at a distance of 4 km, built in 1296 AH, and the castle a huge building containing (25) houses.

The caves of al-Tar: the archaeological caves of al-Tar are located on a rocky hill in the middle of the road to the Ukhaydir, 30 km southwest of Karbala and 15 km northeast of the Al-Akhaydir Palace, and the number of caves are 400 cave. And one of exploration missions discovered more than (2000) piece dating back to the ancient Islamic times. It is woven in colored yarns made of lint and goat hair. Some of the pieces are embroidered with female faces and hand-shaped motifs prevalent in the city, which were preserved in Japan and returned to Iraq in glass boxes or packed with nitrogen.

Al-Aqiser site: Al-Aquiser is an archeological site in Ayn al-Tamr near Karbala , located 10 km north-west of the Al-Ukhaydir Fort, about one kilometer from the tourist area of Lake Habbaniyah, they are an ancient hills and ancient Christian tombs, and based on the excavations in the 1970s, an Eastern church was found dating back to the first century CE .

Qasr Chamoun, : this palace is located in the district of Ayn al-Tamr. It is built on a residential rustic peasant hill belonging to the farmers in the outskirts of Ayn al-Tamr, on the road that links Ayn al-Tamr with al-Razazah Lake. It was built of stone, bricks and plaster. It was not the only palace, but there are palaces such as the palaces of Al-Hadran, Al-Hawa Palace and Al-Ayn Palace (Gamal and Hassan, 2002)

Other archaeological facilities, from other archaeological facilities, Khan al-Nekhaila, or Khan al-Ruba, 18 km on the Karbala-Najaf road, and there are Al-Ayn al-Kubra, Ain al-Hamra, Ayn Marza, Ayn al-Sabab , Um al-Kaani and Ayn al- Dhubat . they are natural Sulfur wells in the district of Ayn al-Tamr from which water flows during the days of the year.

we reach to an important conclusion that tourism in Iraq is not given the required attention, despite the existence of the elements of tourism, and the low contribution of the tourism sector in national income due to lack of interest in tourism, in addition to the conditions experienced by Iraq during the previous periods.

The General Authority for Tourism and its branches in the provinces did not have any effectiveness, as it did not show its activity as it should be, and this is evident by the lack of knowledge of the number of entrants to the country, the type of missions they came for, investment opportunities and other reasons. And investment opportunities are not available to Arab and foreign investors to see the investment opportunities available in Iraq, the poor appropriate investment climate both at the level of the Iraqi Tourism Authority or for Arabs and foreigners to come and take a decision to invest in tourism.

And in light of what has been presented to the Iraqi government and the parliament and all concerned to work for the interest of Iraq first and foremost to promote it, and farce and tampering with the wealth of the country is enough , to eliminate poverty and unemployment and destitution and economic and social problems, we begin with politics and political agreement for the benefit of Iraq, by activating the tourism authorities in the provinces, assigning their responsibilities to the specialized staff in tourism, activating their activities and restructuring these departments, and creating an appropriate investment climate that a security stability stands first . . This is related to security and stability in Iraq. We hope to achieve this after the formation of National government, and operation of unemployed specialists and qualified in tourism, as well as the issuance of encouraging and stimulating legal legislation for Arab and foreign investment without violating the sovereignty of the country and its independence and wealth, according to the terms of the reservation of Iraq’s sovereignty and its administration on investment projects.

Translated by : mudhaffar al-kusairi

Economic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies