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Italian Archeologists Want To Help Put Iraq Back On Map For Culture Tourism

Iraq, tourist destination? The central city of Najaf will be declared cultural capital of the Islamic world in 2012, which is expected to help jump-start tourism in Iraq nearly a decade after the beginning of the American-led war to oust Saddam Hussein.

In Ur, locals hope troops will soon be replaced by tourists
In Ur, locals hope troops will soon be replaced by tourists


Looking for some cultural travel next year? You may want to consider...Iraq. Italy has been at the forefront of protecting and restoring Iraq's cultural riches as part of the country's post-war reconstruction.

So while resources are pouring into restaurants, hotels and public infrastructure in Najaf, the Italian coordinator of Task Force Iraq, Massimo Bellelli, the scientific director of the Virtual Museum of Iraq, Massimo Cultraro, and Iraq's ambassador to Italy, Saywan Barzani, have launched a new project -- dubbed Abraham's Hills -- to train new antiquity restorers, tour guides, and museum clerks in the area of the ancient biblical city Ur, 400 kilometers south of Najaf.

The Italians are aiming to save archaeological areas across Iraq, to broaden tourist itineraries, and to promote the museum of Nassiriya and the Dhi Qar region. "This is possible thanks to the trust and relations we have built here through the years," says archaeologist Stefania Berlioz.

After the successful opening of the Virtual Museum of Iraq in 2009, the cooperative projects between Italians and Iraqi people are focusing on Ur, which was the city of Abraham, who is referred to as a forefather in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. For this reason, the ancient Babylon might become a modern destination of inter-religious initiatives and multicultural pilgrimages for a wide mix of believers.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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