Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
In Amman, Jordan, I met four individual Spanish travellers. The Iraqi embassy in Madrid imposed us the conditions to travel in a group of a minimum of five persons to this country under the supervision of an official travel agency in Baghdad. It was one of the very rare times that I was compelled to join a tourist group during my travels. In the border with Iraq we were invited to produce a test of AIDS test in situ. If you did not agree with this condition you were not accepted into the country. After this prerequisite we were introduced toour tour leader, driver, and headed to Baghdad at 120 kilometers per hour through a paved road in very good conditions stopping twice for drinking tea and eating the unavoidable shish kebabs. Baghdad appeared stunning and radiant. Its mosques, like the celebrated Kazimayn, were of highly aesthetic and exquisite forms decorated with colorful and harmonious tiles representing geometrical shapes, reminding me those of Isfahan, Baku, Kabul, Bukhara and Samarkand that I had visited in the past. The archaeological museum was like the Ali Baba cave, and the central market, with its covered winding lanes like a labyrinth, was almost as exotic and rich like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Finding your way around the many stalls where the polite sellers offered you tea all the times, you would have not been surprised if somebody would have offered you the enchanted lamp of Aladdin, or a flying carpet, or meeting Mullah Nasrudin with his donkey around the corner.
Every day was a new discovery in Iraq. Every day was better than the previous one. Sometimes we felt that we were learning more history than a student in a University.
One of the day visits that we made based in Baghdad was to Babylonia. We entered the site through the Ishtar Gate, which was part of the temple devoted to Bel, built by Nabucodonosor II. But the present gate was a reproduction. The original (restored) is to be found in the Staatliche Museum, in Berlin, Germany. The atmosphere inside Babylonia premises is breathtaking. When you walk among its ruins and walls you feel that you are in fabulous city that in the past was the capital of the world. Babylonia is located 90 kilometers south of Baghdad.
Date posted: July 2013
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