Exorcising the past

American troops in northwestern Iraq have come up with a novel plan to restore the ancient city of Hatra’s appeal as a tourism destination.

  • E-Mail
By  John Irish Published  January 7, 2004

Film buffs from across the globe are set to be the target for a US troop initiative to bring tourists back to the ancient city of Hatra in northwestern Iraq. Although the city is 2000 years old and possesses a host of pre-Christian Assyrian archaeological sites, American troops recently discovered that the opening sequences of cult movie The Exorcist were filmed in Hatra. As a result plans are underway to promote the city to the fanatics of the horror movie. “It was filmed a bit before Saddam really came to power and the opening scene was made at an actual excavation that was taking place here at the time,” Captain Nik Guran of the 101st Airborne division told the UK-based Daily Telegraph. Dubbed ‘The Exorcist Experience’, troops were granted an initial US $5000 to recruit guides, guards and refurbish the Saddam-built Hatra hotel. “Once it’s up and running again as a visitors’ spot, this place will be a real moneypot,” said Guran.” The film will add to the numbers of people coming here. You should see it all at night. We’ve put in floodlights and it looks really beautiful. Despite the continued insecurity in the former Baathist state, Iraqis are increasingly attempting to tap into the nation’s rich cultural heritage. In December plans were put into action to revive the country’s religious tourism industry. Iraqi government officials, tour operators and religious representatives set up a committee aimed at supervising the development of the industry. With ancient Sumerian and Babylonian historic sites, “tourism should become the country’s second industry” after oil, said Culture Minister Mufid Al Jazairi. “We must reinforce infrastructure, lift restrictions, and invite foreign experts, especially from Arab countries.” Estimates put the value of religious tourism alone at around US $2 billion a year, twice the amount achieved under Saddam Hussein.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code