What Iraq needs now: tourism
Economic opportunity was stripped from the Iraqi people at the onset of the war. Basra in southern Iraq would be the perfect place to restore it through tourism.
Much of the attention on Iraq is still focused on the fight over who will control the new government in Iraq as the constitutionally-mandated deadline to select a new government passed July 14 without resolution.
To be sure, the reality of what the March 7 election will mean for the long-embattled country is still up in the air, and vital. But no matter who takes control of the government, economic recovery should take center stage if Iraq is to move forward.
Basra, long under British control, was always more stable than its northern counterpart, Baghdad. As such, Basra has the potential to open the country up in a way that has never been done before: tourism.
Marshes, date palm tree gardens, important religious monuments, the environmentally rich Al Athaal area, and cruises along the Persian Gulf could all be huge draws to tourists from neighboring Arab countries, along with many in the West, especially to those who have either invested in a war-time Iraq, or have some stake in its future prosperity.
In the midst of increased sectarian tensions, fueled largely after the onset of the 2003 war, Basra is home to several religious monuments that have special meaning to observers of Judaism, Christianity, as well as all sects of Islam. It is telling of the open spirit of the province, where to this day, following years of war and terror, there are still Christians, Jews, and Muslims all living side-by-side.