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Babylon awaits tourists' return

Cultural authorities are trying to revive tourism to Iraq's Babil, historic Babylon, after years of neglect and destruction in the area.
An Iraqi man walks at the archaeological site of Babylon, south of Baghdad, on April 25, 2012. Babylon's Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but heritage appears to be no match for Iraq's booming oil industry in a dispute over a new pipeline. AFP PHOTO / ALI AL-SAADI        (Photo credit should read ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/GettyImages)
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The ruins of the city of Babil, some 56 miles south of Baghdad, flourished as the ancient Mesopotamian capital of Babylon, founded in the 19th century BC. Since that time, the city has suffered from neglect, and poor treatment of its buildings and the very ground it was built on. There is now talk among Iraqi cultural officials of reviving tourism in the city.

Two events of the modern era greatly contributed to jeopardizing or destroying parts of Babil's ancient heritage. The first involved renovations under former President Saddam Hussein as part of his political-construction program. In 1988, some of the buildings were renovated in such a way that UNESCO protested on the ground that the changes threatened Babil's historic status. UNESCO removed the city from its World Heritage List that same year.

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