With its bombs, bullets and kidnappings, it is an unlikely tourist destination. But this has not stopped officials in Iraq from unveiling plans to transform the war-torn country into a tourist haven. Plans to attract a new generation of visitors would see the conversion of Saddam Hussein's Tikrit palace complex into a theme park.
US commanders last week began moving out of the complex, which contains 19 palaces and 136 other buildings and sits on the River Tigris. It was built in 1991 following the first Gulf War and is filled with marble staircases, carved wooden doors and arabesque ceilings.
Hamed Humed Shikti, the provincial governor, plans to turn the complex into a park for tourists after he officially takes over following the departure of the US military. "First we shall open the gates to allow people to see the palaces, which have always been off-limits to the public."
Iraq has antiquities, a coastline that gets a lot of sun, and 102 airports, but any prospect of tourism has been stunted by decades of wars. However, the recently agreed constitution has fuelled hopes for a fresh start.
Other proposals include the construction of a "seven-and-a-half star" hotel in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Land for the venture has reportedly been donated by the Iraqi government, while a local businessman is providing financial backing.
Source : The Telegraph