The Iraqi government is re-opening the ancient site of Babylon over protests from the state board of antiquities and heritage that the ruins are in bad neglect and shouldn’t be accessible to tourists yet.
“The Iraqi government plans to open Babylon to visitors on 1 June, according to news reports. Iraq’s state board of antiquities and heritage is opposing the move, on the grounds that the site needs further protection and investigation before being reopened. This follows the controversial reopening of Baghdad’s National Museum on 23 February, after a government decision to proceed with this, defying opposition from curators who felt that it was too early.”
So why is the government pushing for this re-opening despite experts saying that there is “considerable evidence of damage” from the years of occupation and war? The best guess would be a combination of prestige, tourism revenue, and the appearance of a return to normalcy in the country. What better way to transmit that Iraq is stabilizing than to re-open its archaeological treasures to the world? Further, Babylon has a huge place in our cultural memory, it was the home to the Hanging Gardens, it had a huge influence on the Abrahamic faiths (to the point where it became a favorite Biblical villain), and it would draw tourists interested in Biblical history, archaeology, and pre-Christian Assyro-Babylonian religions. Let’s just hope that in their haste to draw in tourist dollars once more, they don’t furhter damage a site that has already endured the ham-fisted rebuilding efforts of Sadam Hussein and years of war (including one site being used as a helipad for American forces).