Al-Anbar shines again as a tourist destination

Al-Anbar shines again as a tourist destination

Shafaq News/ Al-Anbar rose from the ashes, shedding the scars of war and mountains of rubble to rebuild its pummeled culture and re-establish itself as a tourist destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists.

"Al-Anbar received approximately 400,000 tourists from other Iraqi cities during Eid al-Fitr," Muayad al-Dulaimi, Fallujah's district commissioner, told Shafaq News Agency, "Fallujah registered nearly 179,000 visitors from inside and outside the governorate. Ramadi followed with nearly 130,000 visitors. The rest sought to visit other cities in the western governorate, particularly Haditha and Hit, to enjoy the views of water wheels and mesmerizing nature."

"Security, stability, and the reconstruction campaigns have contributed to bringing the governorate back into focus; as has the desire to visit cities that have risen from the ashes of a devastating war in a short period to become comparable to developed cities."

Renaissance and progress..

"This is not new for al-Anbar, a popular tourist destination in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly near the Habbaniyah and Therthar lakes. However, the destruction of vital facilities as a result of wars since 2003 has effectively ended tourism in the governorate," said the Ramadi district commissioner, Ibrahim al-Awsaj.

"The governorate is striving to restore tourism, to convince people that al-Anbar is not an incubator for terrorism as rumored," al-Awsaj told Shafaq News agency, "we are working to strengthen tourism and attract tourists, whether in the Habbaniyah lake or the water wheels in the west, and elsewhere."

Tourist cities..

"We are considering the construction of a new tourist city soon near Therthar lake. Today, the governorate is working hard to boost al-Anbar's tourist appeal, similar to the Kurdistan Region."

"Tourism projects in cities have attracted tourists, especially the corniche, the green spaces, and recreational areas on weekends and holidays," he said.

"Previously, there was only one park in Ramadi. Today, we have five. We are trying to build more to attract more tourists and reflect the governorate's civil image and  dispel the narrative that al-Anbar is a breeding ground for terrorism."

"The city was ready to welcome tourists during Eid al-Fitr and received nearly 5,000 tourists from inside and outside the governorate," said Muayyad al-Mashuh, director of the Habbaniyah tourist resort.

Kurdish joy

"We welcomed many tourists from the Kurdistan region, and the joy on their faces was obvious. They were among the people they embraced during the years of war against ISIS. We also received a large number of people from the central and southern governorates, the majority of whom were from Baghdad."

"The tourist city is for all Iraqis, and despite the bad weather, it continues to attract tourists," al-Mashuh added, "the city has a major role in true national reconciliation, as it combines the components of Iraqi society."

On the dust storms sweeping Iraqi cities and their impact on the tourists' influx to Habbaniyah, al-Mashuh said they hindered many people from traveling. "The number of tourists in the early days was very large, and does not compare with the numbers arriving today."

"Since the arrival of the storm and the cleaning campaigns are underway. The houses, gardens, and streets of the city are being cleaned periodically," he continued, "work on the rehabilitation of the Habbaniyah Hotel, Chalets, and Disco al-Khaimah, which began early this year, is expected to be completed in the middle of next year."

The Kurdistan region’s Experience

"The construction and reconstruction campaigns in al-Anbar, and emulating Kurdistan’s experience in some tourism projects, have rendered al-Anbar a tourist destination," said Sinan al-Issawi, director of al-Anbar tourism and antiquities.

"If there were no suitable situation to host tourists, they would not have come," al-Issawi said, "the visit of citizens, poets, intellectuals, and various segments of society to al-Anbar is a sign of the governorate's security and peace."

"The tourist city was ready even before Eid al-Fitr, and all the guest houses there are busy with tourists. The restaurants there are overcrowded," the local official said.

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