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5 Mar, 2009 06:32

Iraq – land of danger or cradle of civilisation?

For the past six years, Iraq has been associated with violence and war, but for some it still holds the promise of an exciting trip to the cradle of civilisation.

Bridget Jones (no, seriously) is a 77-year old Londoner who can not imagine her life without travel, having visited more than 100 countries. Now she is packing to go to…where else but Iraq!

“I’ve always wanted to go to Iraq – that’s where everything started,” she says, “the land of the two rivers, Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. ”

Having grown up during the World War 2, Bridget has no fear about the dangers of the place.

“When you get old you don’t get scared because you know that your life is not going to go on much longer,” she said. “And it is better to be shot in Iraq than end up in a geriatric ward.”

The cradle of civilisation is how the country is known to many people. Geoff Hann of Hinterland Travel is organising a guided tour around the country. He has written about the country and travelled there extensively before it got too dangerous.

“Yes, there are parts that are very dangerous indeed,” he said. “I have tried to do our schedule and our itineraries to move around these places so that we don’t stop anywhere near Fallujah, for example.”

His group, consisting of Americans, Canadians, British and even a Russian, will be accompanied everywhere by armed guards, and are forbidden to wander off alone.

For Iraqi officials the tour is a chance to show the world how their country is pulling itself together.

“They are very eager because don't forget they want to be normal. They want to bring the country back. They are very proud of their country,” said Hann. “They want to show it to the best, but they worry about security and they don’t want anything to cast any aspersions on what they do.”

However, when it comes to holidays, Iraq is far from being an obvious choice for an ordinary tourist. And it will probably take a bit more than the first successful venture to Iraq since 2003 before the country is back on the tourist map.

But according to Geoff, all you need to make the most of the adventure is a cup, cutlery, a first-aid kit, an embroidered hat for prayers and a tie – just in case.