A huge festival has been held in the 4,300-year-old city of Babylon following Unesco’s decision to designate it as a World Heritage Site.
Hundreds of Babylon residents attended the celebration which included for the first time a wide variety of cultural performances that aimed at reviving the glory of the ancient city.
The celebration was attended by the Iraqi Minister of Culture and members of parliament, in addition to senior officials from the local government.
In his speech, Minister of Culture Abdulameer Al-Hamdani shed light on the significance of this accomplishment and on the efforts exerted to pull it off the ground.
“Today, Babylon has come onto the Unesco World Heritage Sites list after more than three decades of efforts,” Al-Hamdani said urging the government to carry out the necessary restoration work for its infrastructure.
“The cabinet has allotted $200 million to remove any construction infringements that occurred during the presidency of Saddam Hussein and the presence of US troops in the city after 2003,” Al Hamdani added.
The festival included folkloric and historical shows performed by the Iraqi Fashion House which covered the different epochs Babylon had witnessed. The performance, which portrayed the kings and queens of Babylon, lasted for 40 minutes and included theatrical, operetta and fashion shows.
Aqeel Al-Mandalawi, the general director of the Fashion House, said that they wanted to present “a bright image of the Iraqi designs and the way they developed since the ancient Babylon age till the present time.”
The Iraqi National Troupe for Folk Art also performed dances that reflected the culture of different parts of Iraq, from north to south, shedding light on the country’s customs and traditions.
Prominent Iraqi singers such as Abd Falak and Reda El-Khayat also sang their most popular songs which appealed to an audience yearning for such great galas.
Othman El-Kharzagi, a university professor, told 7Dnews that he was keen to attend the celebration to enjoy “the true art we’ve been missing for so long.”
“It also helps my kids know the historical importance of their city,” Kharazgi added.
Governor of Babylon province Karrar Al-Abady said that the local government had allocated $250 million for a 5-year restoration plan.
“It includes paving roads, building a number of tourist facilities and turning former President Saddam Hussein’s palace into a museum,” Abady told 7Dnews.
“The plan has already been put forward and the implementation process will start in a few days,” he added.
Abady called on sculptors and artists to revive the city’s squares by erecting a number of statues that reflect its great history.
Reyad Adday, a member of the province council, said that the initial designs of Babylon scale model have been completed. The miniature city, to be built on an area of 10,000 square kilometres, is designed to display to the young generation the history of their city.
With regards to the 8-month deadline Unesco gave to the local government, Raad Allawi, the head of the national group in charge of Babylon’s case, said that now the ancient city is on Unesco’s list forever and that the Iraqi government is capable of carrying out the necessary restoration work.
“I’d like to assure the Iraqi people that now Babylon is officially a World Heritage Site,” Allawi said. “Babylon will soon be a popular destination for excavation teams, members of research centres and international museums.”