Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Imagine the line for that magic carpet ride

When I was kid I loved those cheesy "Ali Baba" movies. By extension, I figured Baghdad must be the coolest place on earth. Genies, magic carpets, those nifty swords ... seemed a helluva lot more fun than anything Disneyland had to offer.

Or so I thought. Iraqis seem to be learning one lesson from the Americans: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Babylon, the mud-brick city with the million-dollar name, has paid the price of war. It has been ransacked, looted, torn up, paved over, neglected and roughly occupied. Archaeologists said American soldiers even used soil thick with priceless artifacts to stuff sandbags.

But Iraqi leaders and United Nations officials are not giving up on it. They are working assiduously to restore Babylon, home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and turn it into a cultural center and possibly even an Iraqi theme park.

You had me then you lost me. A theme park? "Come experience the mass confusion at the Towers of Babel!"

Emad Lafta al-Bayati, Hilla's mayor, has big plans for Babylon. "I want restaurants, gift shops, long parking lots," he said.

God willing, he added, maybe even a Holiday Inn.

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