Direct flights from UK to Baghdad for first time in 23 years

After a gap of 23 years, direct flights between the UK and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, are set to return.

Commencing next month, Iraqi Airways will operate the service twice a week to Baghdad, with one going to the Iraqi city of Sulimaniya. By June 15 this year, it is intended that the flight frequency will increase to six per week.

All inbound flights to Gatwick from Iraq will land first at Malmo in Sweden for an hour before continuing to the UK, with Iraqi Airlines commenting that the stopover is for ‘security reasons.’ The airline further commented that the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK has already given its permission for the routes, and IKB Travel and Tours, a travel agency, has been appointed as its agent in the UK.

Iraqi Airways website, while keen to promote the attractions that Baghdad has to offer, including the Baghdad Tower and the National Museum of Iraq, is also up front with the security problems that a visit could entail. The website says, ‘Unfortunately, that is a reality at the present time and there are specific considerations that must be taken when planning travel to Iraq. We have Iraq travel specialists with extensive knowledge and experience to help you arrange flights to Baghdad.’

Maysan, Iraq to receive facelift

Maysan, a region in Iraq, is receiving a face-lift to enhance its reputation as a tourist destination.

With the plan to transform the region into a tourism hot spot having gained approval, officials in Maysan province are making major efforts to develop services in the region. Building infrastructure including parks, resorts and hotels is being pursued as a top priority.

Speaking to reporters, Ali Dawai Lazim, governor of Maysan, said, ‘The province is witnessing a qualitative leap in the field of tourism due to its many attributes, which could transform it into a tourism outlet for Iraqis coming from all provinces, not just Maysan. Our plans for this year include building a number of tourist facilities, in addition to improving the roads and bridges network, the electricity grid and the municipality sector, to reinforce the functions of these tourist attractions. These projects will help boost the local economy in the province, especially since they will effectively wipe out unemployment by providing a large number of job opportunities in all fields.’

Authorities are improving facilities in the province while trying to maintain the character of the region. One example of this is a plan to maintain the Amara traditional market, while at the same time funds have been allocated to build a five-star hotel in the area. The location is also to gain a ‘Paradise of Eden’ resort, which will have many entertainment and recreational activities for national as well as foreign tourists.

Maysan is considered to be an archaeologically important tourist spot, with more than 430 archaeological sites. Combined with a tourist-friendly climate and areas of ecologically important marshes, the area is claimed to be ideal for tourists with diverse interests.

Holidays to Iraq – top destination of the future?

The tourism bureaucrats of Iraq are attempting to persuade Brits to holiday in Iraq, appealing for us to spend our British pounds in the heart of Western Asia.
The very idea most would dismiss as out of the question, due to the alarming quantity of textured headlines that scream out at us on a daily basis from our television sets and newspapers; underscoring the deep rooted dangers of the Muslim country.

However, Iraqi tourism officials are hopeful their travel industry has a booming future ahead, the majority of visitors anticipated to journey from the United Kingdom.
Fadhil Al-Saaegh, of Al-Rafidian Travel, says: “There have been few British tourists but I am always ambitious and I will keep trying to get them to come.”

Iraq plans to market a vacation in their country to ‘’adventurous British holiday-makers’’; potentially a delicate, albeit clever choice of wording or an accurate observation of who this type of holiday would essentially appeal to.
At London’s vastly popular annual ‘World Travel Market’, the promotion of Iraq was pitched to Brits in their masses by Fadhil Al-Saaegh, who was adamant Iraq had more than enough fascinating features to attract and persuade sceptical Brits. He was quoted: “They can visit Baghdad, plus we have mountains, waterfalls and great Islamic architecture. We have beautiful things to see everywhere.”
Despite the countries’ cavernous ugly connotations to war, violence and terrorism, it is actually a country which houses the standard elements one would expect a holiday to encompass. Cloudless sapphire skies hang over miles and miles of untouched beautiful golden dessert, riddled with architectural gems such as the National Museum of Iraq. The museum houses the world’s largest and finest collection of artifacts and relics of Ancient Iraqi civilizations.

In terms of scenery and culture, Iraq is actually a strong contender with its towering knots of mountains and frothy soaring waterfalls.

One of the most important factors when one goes on holiday, particularly for Brits, is what to eat? Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world. Today, the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighboring Turkey, Iran and the Greater Syria area
Highlighting Iraq’s personalised holiday qualities, in an attempt to encourage Brits to realise they have more to offer as a nation, (other than material for journalists to write up), has proven to be slightly more problematic than originally thought.

It is not just the British public that needs persuading as the Foreign Office is currently completely against any holidays to Iraq unless absolutely necessary. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office currently warns against; “all but essential travel to the whole of Iraq, except to the Kurdistan Region”.
So, a holiday in Iraq perhaps isn’t the most tempting of propositions for most Brits at present. However, perhaps a few years down the line we may travel to this country, if only to admire the historic assets and natural backdrop whilst being baked in that diurnal glorious heat.

Article by Emma Boyle