From 'a bunch of terrorists' to vacationers: Inside Iraq's plan to tempt again travellers

Mosul is mostly generally known as a battleground, not a vacationer vacation spot.

Town was famously captured by Islamic State fighters in June 2014, teeing up years of battle between militants and the Iraqi Armed Forces.

However after it was lastly liberated in July 2017, locals set about reshaping the general public picture of this much-maligned metropolis.

Now even vacationers are coming to remain.

“I used to be certain I’d discover a very pure nation, not ruined by mass tourism,” says Yvette Carnell, a first-time customer from Portugal.

“I all the time needed to see what had occurred right here and to raised perceive it. It’s very shifting to come back to Mosul and see how persons are coping with it, how they’re getting again to life.”

An historical metropolis beset by struggle

These guests had been among the first to take part within the free guided excursions – a brand new initiative aimed toward drawing vacationers to Iraq’s second largest metropolis.

The excursions are run by volunteers who converse English as their second language. In addition to the free excursions, the group provides transportation and conventional meals in native eating places.

“What we’re engaged on now’s advertising and marketing tourism within the metropolis to draw many vacationers, whether or not from inside Iraq or overseas vacationers from overseas,” says Ayoub Dhanoun, head of Mosul Heritage, the group behind the excursions.

“We began working at no cost to advertise the town to point out that it’s protected and in a position to obtain vacationers.”

Throughout their time within the metropolis, guests are launched to the distinctive structure of the city centre. Full with bustling marketplaces and Twelfth-century buildings, the scars of struggle are beginning to heal on this historic a part of the Center East.

Non-governmental organisations like UNESCO have invested massive sums of cash within the metropolis’s Outdated City, providing hope that sooner or later, Mosul can return to its former glory.

“The concept that involves Portugal is nearly struggle and nothing else,” says Rui Barbosa Batista, a vacationer visiting Iraq.

“Coming right here, the thought is to assist to deconstruct this type of concept. It is to point out folks is that it is protected to journey right here, persons are good, the Center East just isn’t a bunch of terrorists. It’s stuffed with regular folks like in all places else on this planet, with the identical goals and the identical wishes.”

As a part of a wider effort to advertise tourism within the nation, Iraq has now eliminated the pre-arrival visa requirement for residents from 37 nations, together with the US, UK and EU nations.

Watch the video above to seek out out extra about visiting Mosul.