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 Saddam's bed - tourism/hoonymooner attraction? Confused? Read on...

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GeckoShinx
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PostSubject: Saddam's bed - tourism/hoonymooner attraction? Confused? Read on...   Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:18 pm

Saddam’s bed awaits daring honeymooners
The former Iraqi dictator's palatial boudoir is being offered to newlyweds for £150 a night
Matthew Campbell
The Times Online


SOME might think it macabre but Iraq is offering honeymooners the chance to spend their wedding night in Saddam Hussein’s bed.

As the country gingerly begins to revive a war-ravaged tourism industry, the former dictator’s bedroom is on offer for £150 a night in a presidential palace that is undergoing renovation in the town of Hillah, some 60 miles south of Baghdad.

“We hope that many people will visit,” said a tourism official in the battle-scarred town.

With its Roman columns, chandeliers and gargantuan bathrooms, the palace is a striking example of excess, and one of several reserved for the exclusive pleasure of the dictator, who was deposed in 2003 and executed in 2006.

Perched on top of a man-made hill overlooking the Euphrates, the building has seen better days: even the lavatories were removed in the orgy of looting that followed the allied invasion of the country in 2003. Until 2005, it was occupied by American troops, who have left their mark in the stonework with a variety of graffiti such as “Brian loves Brandy”.

Today outlying buildings that used to house soldiers from Saddam’s special guard have been refurbished and turned into luxury hotel rooms with widescreen televisions and king-size beds. Now the palace bedrooms are to be revamped, and that could take a considerable time.

“I’ve been here three years and I can’t tell you how many bedrooms or bathrooms there are,” said Abdul Satar Naji, in charge of security at the palace.

Hussam Kadhim, 44, the manager, hopes that proximity to Baghdad, as well as to the biblical city of Babylon, will lure tourists. Already the palace attracts 1,000 locals a day. They pay a small fee just to look at the building and picnic in the grounds. One attraction is Saddam’s date tree, which is surrounded by a concrete wall; only the dictator was allowed to eat its fruit.

“I never would have dreamt that one day Saddam would be gone and people could come here,” said Kadhim. “Before, they would have been arrested.”

Iraqis expressed mixed feelings about the honeymoon offer, however. “I don’t think it would be an easy thing for newlyweds to sleep on the bed of a dead person,” said Khalid Al-Lizan, an Iraqi who recently went on his honeymoon to Syria.

As the country gradually reopens to tourism, though, foreigners might be tempted. The first group of western tourists since the fall of Saddam recently toured historic sites such as Babylon, fabled home of the Hanging Gardens.

“We expect these tourists will convey a positive message to their citizens back home that the situation in Iraq is good,” said Abdul Zahra al-Telagani, a spokesman for the tourism and antiquities ministry and a determined optimist in the face of Iraq’s continuing violence.
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