Iraq should be one of the richest countries in the world: it has rich oil reserves, countless traces of ancient civilisations ideal for tourism and a young well-educated population.
Unfortunately Iraq is known to many people for its instability since the 2003 invasion and subsequent foreign occupation. However, the country is finally seeing some rest since IS has been defeated in 2018, but it is a fragile peace. Baghdad and the southern part of Iraq are safe for those who are careful and prepared.
This November, LDE CGHD representative Rients de Boer visited Iraq with two goals: first to work in the Iraq Museum on cuneiform texts that will be published together with Iraqi colleagues. Secondly, to visit archaeological sites with the goal of research and development.
A number of archaeological expeditions from Germany and Italy are already working in southern Iraq, but few academic institutions are active in using heritage for development. Together with prof. Al-Hussainy from the University of Al-Qadisiyah in the provincial capital of Ad-Diwaniyah we are looking into ways to study and develop an archaeological site in Al-Qadisiyah province.
The potential for an accessible archaeological park in the area of Ad-Diwaniyah is high. The region has about one million inhabitants and there is relatively little to do in terms of culture, there is Thareb castle and a small local museum, but other ways for local Iraqi's to learn about their region's history are lacking.
An archaeological park will be a huge economic stimulus generating tourism and related activities,. It will also be valuable to local schoolchildren, university students and other educational initiatives. For the LDE collaboration it is also beneficial. For example, an internship will be possible to study the requirements and best practices of an archaeological park. The LDE universities can use their specific expertise to develop and study a site, even when visits to Iraq are difficult. In the future we may even be able to take LDE students to Iraq if the safety requirements are taken into account. Hopefully we can start our collaboration late in 2022.