Calling all Saudi tourists to Albania

Calling all Saudi tourists to Albania
Dhermi beach
Updated 12 May 2016

Calling all Saudi tourists to Albania

Calling all Saudi tourists to Albania

Albania’s virgin natural environment and an enjoyable Mediterranean climate are some of the features that make it a top tourist destination of 2016.
Sami Shiba, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Albania to Saudi Arabia, explains in an interview to Arab News why his country should top the list of must-visit holidays spots this year:

1. What can you tell us about the values and tourist resources of Albania?
The tourist potential of the coast and mountain areas of Albania is exceptional. As you may know, Albania has been ranked as the first country to travel to in 2016 by the Gazette Review and many international sites. The magnificent coastline where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, the natural beauty, its geographical position and its mild climate make Albania a special place in Europe. Albania should be the first stop for all tourists who are seeking to enjoy the nature, the history or the food of this unique tourism destination.
Albania has a virgin natural environment and a very enjoyable Mediterranean climate making Albania a top tourist destination during the entire year. Recently, Albanian tourism has grown, with the offering of touristic packages that allow its most precious traits to shine, such as: “sun and sea tourism”, “history and culture tourism,” “mountain tourism”, along with other growing fields.
Albania’s seaside has a length of 450 km, with many gulfs, which allows for its great potential in the field of seashore tourism and makes it the main source of tourism in that country. Albania has a considerable number of beaches with fine sand and pines, as well as rocky shores, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, where within minutes tourists can experience the mountain climate of Llogara and warmth of the coast of Dhermi, a feat made possible by the country’s impressive natural features. Albania is known for its riviera with beautiful beaches, especially Himara, Borsh and Dhermi beaches. In this area, I would like to distinguish the location called “Blue Eye Spring”, (Syri i Kalter), an unexpected oasis in the middle of nowhere, that is a natural spring where crystal clear water bubbles up from 50 meters below the surface. The frigid water gently passes over the white sand producing a stunning turquoise color which turns into a pretty green as it travels around the mountains. I want to mention the wonderful underwater caves of Viroi Lake (Gjirokastra city). It is a natural underwater treasures and has a depth of 249 meters and is surrounded by wild pines on the outside.
Albania has important resources for the touristic enjoyment of its mountainous areas. The Albanian Alps to the North, the mountains along the Ionian Sea, the Kruje, Berat, (called ‘the city of a thousand windows’), Gjirokaster (a historic UNESCO-listed town surrounded on all sides by stunning mountain ranges), Saranda, etc., offer great opportunities to receive tourists during the year, including during the winter, which has a mild climate. Albania offers traditional housing in its mountainous regions allowing for an interesting experience of cultural immersion. Mostly you will stay in old traditional stone houses called “Kulas”, where the local hosts spoil you with homemade bread, honey, cheese and delicious homemade dishes, all stemming from their own domestic produce.
The accommodation units, which are both special and traditional, the rich cuisine, affordable prices, accompanied by the historic Albanian hospitality create a truly wonderful ambience, making Albania a sought after destination by Western tourists who have already visited the country and who frequently return to it.
The Peaks of the Balkans Trail region, which belongs to the Alpine border region between Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, is a destination that is rising in popularity on the maps of tourists around the world. The transnational Peaks of the Balkans Trail leads the visitor on a unique experience through one of the most remote and wild mountainous regions of the Western Balkans. Using shepherd paths and footways, the trail winds through high alpine mountains up to 2,300 meters above sea level and leads through wild mountain scenery, with a diversity of breathtaking landscapes, varying from green valleys to crystal-clear mountain lakes, waterfalls, rivers and remote picturesque mountain villages, in which time seems to have stopped — a veritable “hidden treasure” for lovers of nature and hikers from around the globe.
Growing interest and coverage around the world is already making the Peaks of the Balkans Trail a world famous destination. In this area, I would like to distinguish Valbona River, one of the most beautiful rivers, which is part of the Valbona National Park, a pristine area in the North of Albania.
Albania, located at the crossroads of two ancient civilizations, the Greeks and the Romans, has a rich historical and cultural heritage recognized as part of the world’s cultural heritage that warrants special protection. This Albanian historical and cultural heritage can be seen and felt in its natural parks, archaeological sites, art galleries, photographs and movie archives, citadels and castles, religious monuments and folk homes, in its old rock-paved streets, as well as in its museums.
Butrint, in Southern Albania, is one of these archaeological sites with an indisputable value, which has already been included in the UNESCO project for the protection of the world’s cultural patrimony. Cities with a long and vast history, such as Berat and Gjirokastra — also under the protection of the UNESCO, not only bring a unique value to the world’s cultural heritage, but are also a beautiful experience for the visitor walking through them. Also, Apollonia, Antigonea, Voskopoja are remnants of a past filled with culture and significance, and have a major archaeological potential. I am sure the rich history will leave any interested foreign visitors pleasantly surprised.

2. How do the authorities in Albania help the tourist sector?
The Albanian government is working with determination on the country’s road infrastructure, in order to further improve a modern road network which would allow Albanian citizens, visitors, and foreign investors to easily and effortlessly experience the whole country. In addition, I want to emphasize that special attention has been paid to the exposure of Albanian tourism through different fairs in many countries.

3. Since it is always good for a traveler to know some words in the language of the country he/she visits, would you please teach us a few common expressions in your language, such as, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good bye, cheers and thank you?
Yes, in the order you mentioned them, these expressions in the Albanian language would be: mirëmëngjes, mirëdita, mirëmbrema, mirupafshim, gëzuar and faleminderit.
Albanians are friendly and very open toward foreigners who visit their country. If you are lucky enough to be invited to visit an Albanian’s home, you will be treated as royalty. The guest will be shown the highest respect by being offered a seat at the head of the table. The guest is then regaled with the best the family has to offer, usually reserved for the head of the household.
Albania is a safe country for visitors. Its tradition of hospitality affords great respect for foreigners; almost all Albanians will go out of their way to provide assistance when you are in need — whether you are lost or in trouble.
The Albanian monetary unit is called “Lek.” The currency floats freely but is quite stable. Presently, the exchange rate is about 140 lek to the Euro and about 125 lek to the US dollar.

4. Tell us about the Albanian climate.
Albania has a mild, Mediterranean climate. The Ionian Cost, in particular, is very clement; with average winter temperatures of 10-12 °C. The country enjoys a good deal of sunny weather, with an average of around 300 sunny days each year. Most of Albania’s annual rainfall occurs between late autumn and early spring; outside of the mountainous areas, it is unusual for it to rain in summer. In the summer, visitors often find the inland towns to be quite hot, with July usually being the warmest month. In Tirana, for example, temperatures occasionally reach 38 °C. The best places to be in midsummer are on the coast, where sea breeze keeps the average temperatures down to a more tolerable 25-35 °C, or in the high mountains.

5. Tell us about the cuisine and some of the Albanian traditional products.
Every region in Albania has its own unique dishes. Albanian cuisine is characterized by the use of various Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, black pepper, mint, basil, rosemary and more in cooking meat and fish. Olive oil and butter are also main ingredients. There are Albanian specialties that everyone likes plugged into the pizza-pasta menus as if they were in harmony. But there they are along with ferges, the popular Tirana specialty with cheese, eggs and bits of meat or liver and 27 other Albanian specialties including stews originating in Elbasan, meatballs from Korca and, cornmeal spinach mush from Gjirokastra, as well as many Mediterranean specialties. Albania, a traditionally agricultural country may be one of the last countries in Europe to have real seasonality in food, causing prices to be high.

6. How can a Saudi tourist visit Albania? Are there any specific requirements?
For Saudi travelers who want to come to Albania there aren’t any specific requirements. During the summer period, from May 15 2016 to Nov. 1 2016, Saudi citizens can travel to Albania without having to obtain a visa at the Embassy of Albania. Travel can be done with a passport. I want to seize this opportunity to invite Saudis tourists to take Albania into consideration as one of the best options when making their holiday plans. (see www.akt.gov.al).
Thank you, shukran!


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Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans

Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans
The site is made out of a series of seven fresh water wells, which includes more than 200 sites containing rock inscriptions, graves and stone circles. (Supplied)
Updated 10 April 2021

Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans

Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans
  • Archaeological excavations carried out by SCTH discovered that the city of Najran is among the oldest inhabited places
  • The site contains numerous rock inscriptions and drawings that date back to before 3000 BC

MAKKAH: Hima Well, one of the most ancient and significant stops along the ancient trade routes of Arabia, untouched and unaltered, continues to fascinate researchers and archaeologists.

The site, about 140 km north of the city of Najran, is well preserved, and with its largely intact rock art depicting humans, animals, hunting tools, bows and spears and more, shows a picture of what was once an ancient route for caravans traveling from the southern regions of the Arabian Peninsula to its north.

Saleh Al-Muraih, a historical researcher specializing in the tourism and archaeology of Najran, told Arab News: “Hima Well is one of the most important historical sites in the Kingdom and contains numerous rock inscriptions and drawings that date back to before 3000 BC.”

“The site is made out of a series of seven fresh water wells covering an area of 30 km, which includes more than 200 sites containing rock inscriptions and drawings, graves, stone circles and historical wells,” he said.

Al-Muraih added: “Hima was the starting point for commercial caravans that gathered at the wells before taking one of two main roads. The firsts of these roads used to lead to Mesopotamia after passing through Al-Faw (also known as Qariah, an ancient city on the outskirts of the Empty Quarter), which is the archaeological site of the Kindah and Al-Yamama regions, known today as Najd. The second road used to lead to the Levant and Egypt after passing through the Hijaz region.”

FASTFACT

To date, 1,293 human drawings, 5,121 animal drawings, 3,616 Thamudic inscriptions, 2,775 Ancient South Arabian script inscriptions and three Nabataean inscriptions have been found in the region, while search and excavation operations are continuing in the Kingdom in general, and the region in particular, to uncover more monuments and historical cultural heritage.

Its dense rock art engravings are the legacy of the hundreds of caravans, departing from Al-Okhdood in the south, that passed by the well over the years. Ancient South Arabian script (Musnad), the South Arabian language or the Thamudic language can be found on these engravings alongside depictions of flora and fauna.

“The Saudi government took care of Hima Well, and there are fantastic fencing works taking place. This is coupled with continuous scientific research that has studied the site and we hope for the completion of the procedures that would see the addition of the site to UNESCO’s World Heritage List,” Al-Muraih said.

“There has been numerous land surveys and protection efforts exerted in the area. Fortunately, Hima does not have any violations or anything that could harm these monuments, while the people of the region are highly cultured when it comes to protecting these sites and therefore preserving these significant historical monuments,” he said.

As one of Najran’s 86 historical sites, Hima Well combines heritage and tourism in one area. Tour guides, a cooperative local community and cooperative government bodies are all on hand to speak about the historic significance of the well.

Dr. Salma Hawsawi, professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News: “The Kingdom has a great deal of archaeological sites and historical cities that have witnessed construction works over the course of thousands of years. They are truly worthy of preservation and development so that they can cope with the current requirements.”

She added: “Historical cities, regardless of their history and origins, are many. Among those worth mentioning is the southwestern city of Najran, which was mentioned by numerous classical historians such as Strabo, in his book ‘Geography,’ where he called it Negrana, as he talked about the Roman campaigns in the Arabian Peninsula in the years 24-25 BC, and Ptolemy, who referred to it as Negara Metropolis.”

“In his book, Yaqut Al-Hamawi, a Muslim historian, said that the city was named after the first person that inhabited it, Najran bin Zaydan bin Sabaa. What also confirms how old this city was is the mention of its name in the inscriptions of Sabaean rulers such as Karib’il, Samah Ali Yanuf and Yitha’amar Bayyin,” she said.

According to Dr. Hawsawi, the geographical importance of the Kingdom’s southwestern region stems from its location between Africa and Asia. This is coupled with the importance of the coastal region in terms of migration, and some settlements are found to date back from the first century BC to the Islamic era.

“Archaeological excavations carried out by SCTH discovered that the city of Najran is among the oldest inhabited places. It did so through archaeological evidence found at various sites belonging to different periods in history, starting with the ancient Stone Age to the Islamic era,” she said.

Hawsawi said: “Rock art and inscriptions are the elements that most distinguish the region’s monuments, as they provided us with a lot of information regarding clothes, accessories, weapons, stone stoves, rectangular and conical structures and tanks, especially around the Hima Well area.”

Most of the region’s rock drawings showcase camels, cows, goats and geese, along with some predatory animals such as lions and wolves, Dr. Hawsawi said. “Ostriches were given special attention in terms of their decoration and size, in addition to them being drawn in various positions, highlighting the significance of this animal.”

The drawings show horse battles, where knights used spears, and limited hunting scenes, where dogs were used to hunt goats, she said, noting that “there are drawings of humans that are larger than the normal size, while some of them had their heads covered. Men’s beards were shown clearly. Humans wore necklaces and collars, while some men wore anklets to produce sounds that suit the dance moves and music. Outfits were made out of short gowns that were wrapped around the middle. Other drawings showed people dancing with musical instruments that resemble the rebab.”

Dr. Hawsawi said: “Thamudic writings were found in the region in large quantities, followed by the Ancient South Arabian script and the Kufic script, which dates back to the Islamic era. The multiplicity of scripts found in the region sheds light on the succession of civilizations. In addition, Ancient South Arabian script inscriptions found engraved on top of Thamudic inscriptions highlights how old the Thamudic script really is.”

“Most of the inscriptions consist of names such as ‘Saad,’ ‘Awathat’ and ‘Rafadat,’ and of deities such as ‘Al’ and ‘Kahl,’ while inscriptions were usually found next to drawings of animals,” she said.

Dr. Hawsawi said that “among the long inscriptions is a 12-line one belonging to King ‘Dhu Nuwas,’ in which he described his victory over the Ethiopians in 512.”

To date, 1,293 human drawings, 5,121 animal drawings, 3,616 Thamudic inscriptions, 2,775 Ancient South Arabian script inscriptions and three Nabataean inscriptions have been found in the region, while search and excavation operations are continuing in the Kingdom in general, and the region in particular, to uncover more monuments and historical cultural heritage.


The Maldives: A pandemic travel haven

The Maldives: A pandemic travel haven
Updated 08 April 2021

The Maldives: A pandemic travel haven

The Maldives: A pandemic travel haven
  • Get your negative test and enjoy a pre-COVID vacation throwback at the Soneva Jani resort

DUBAI: Being greeted with a handshake shouldn’t be such a jarring experience. But stepping into the restaurant at the Soneva Jani resort in the Maldives’ Noonu Atoll, this is how you’ll be welcomed. And in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels, well, strange.

Strange but safe: Masks are cast aside. Open buffets exist. Hands are shaken. On this island, at least momentarily, the pandemic does not exist. 

The Maldives reopened to all international travellers on June 15, 2020, with the exception of the capital, Male, which remains largely off limits, due to COVID cases often emanating from there. 

The overwater villas at Soneva Jani are some of the largest in the world. (Supplied)

At the time of writing, the Maldives had recorded about 24,000 cases of COVID-19 and 66 deaths, from a population of roughly 531,000 people. It has administered around 233,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. The country also has strict regulations and guidelines in place for managing resorts and guesthouse facilities, should an outbreak take place — so be prepared to pay (in most cases) for two weeks of quarantine in your luxury overwater villa if you do test positive.

Due to this perception of being a safe travel destination during the pandemic, tourists have been flocking to the island archipelago. In March, about 110,000 tourists arrived at Velana International Airport, compared to 59,630 in March 2020 and 156,553 in March 2019. Currently, around 3,550 people are arriving every day. Staff at Soneva say the resort is perhaps even busier now than it was over the 2019/2020 festive period.

Clearly, it’s vital to them that the Maldives continues to be a safe destination — and that their resort, especially, stays COVID-free. So safety (theirs and yours) is paramount.

On this island, at least momentarily, the pandemic does not exist. (Supplied)

While Velana is thronging with arrivals from all corners of the globe and your seaplane to Soneva will likely be full, there’s no chanting crowd awaiting your arrival to offer refreshments and a change to mingle . Instead, you’re picked up by speedboat and whisked off to your villa in isolation, where you’ll need to stay for most of that day, since Soneva requires you to take another PCR test on arrival, separate from the one you’ve already taken to board your international flight. 

Fortunately, indoor quarantine here is luxurious. The overwater villas at Soneva Jani are some of the largest in the world. The island’s newest set of bungalows, its 27 ‘Chapter Two’ villas, are bigger than most Dubai apartments. There’s enough seating to comfortably host a football team, freshwater infinity pool, kitchen, retractable roof for stargazing, rooftop dining area and in some, a slide that will transport you from the villa’s rooftop to the azure waters below. Frankly, you’ll struggle to fit it all in during your 12-hour quarantine.

In-villa dining, courtesy of a team of cautious staff, is dropped off while you wile away your quarantine by the pool or in the ocean. (Supplied)

In-villa dining, courtesy of a team of cautious staff, is dropped off while you wile away your quarantine by the pool or in the ocean. 

Once your results are through (between six to 12 hours), life goes back to normal. As in, pre-COVID normal. Staff and guests alike are free to go about their days without masks. High-fiving and handshakes are common. Physical distancing isn’t imposed  — but is easy to achieve if you’d prefer to be extra-cautious.

Soneva Jani is based on a large island, and despite being home to 51 overwater villas and three island villas, most of which are full during our stay, it is blissfully quiet. The restaurants never seem to have more than a few other families or couples in at a time, and as most of the options are outdoors (Cinema Paradiso, the overwater, open-air theatre, being a very 2021 way to take in a movie), you’ll never feel cramped.

Soneva Jani has outdoor cinema. (Supplied)

Excursions on the island are just as pandemic-friendly. The boats that provide dolphin cruises or snorkelling trips are huge, and the water is the perfect place to social distance.

At Soneva, the pre-pandemic holiday still exists. For a few nights, at least, you won’t be rushing back to your room to retrieve a forgotten mask, or feel the need to stare down anyone who accidentally gets a little too close.

The resort’s extra PCR test is imposed for this reason. If you do test positive, your quarantine is free. If you don’t, then the anxiety of travel in 2021 is relieved. For that reason alone, if you’re in need of a holiday at a time when safety is key, Soneva is a great option.


Registration opens for Hammayah program in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

Registration opens for Hammayah program in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla
Hammayah aims to encourage community partnership, enhance awareness of the exceptional cultural, historical and natural heritage. (SPA)
Updated 05 April 2021

Registration opens for Hammayah program in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

Registration opens for Hammayah program in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla
  • Hammayah aims to encourage community partnership, enhance awareness of the exceptional cultural, historical and natural heritage in the AlUla and Khaybar governorates

ALULA: The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) announced on Sunday that registration has opened for the second phase of the Hammayah program.
The training program includes a series of workshops and field trips for participants from the AlUla and Khaybar governorates.
Hammayah aims to encourage community partnership, enhance awareness of the exceptional cultural, historical and natural heritage in the AlUla and Khaybar governorates, and help the youth become ambassadors to play a pivotal role in preserving heritage for future generations.
The program also aims to empower the trainees to become custodians of AlUla’s distinctive character.
Those interested in taking part can apply through the program’s portal at hammayah.rcu.gov.sa/account/register before April 14. Applicants must be aged between 18 and 35 years old, have Saudi citizenship and reside in AlUla or Khaybar. Participants should also not be employed, or registered with social security or the civil service. 

Candidates will undergo a series of medical, security and personal assessments. After that, those who are accepted will be notified on April 30. The program will begin on May 5.

The previous edition of the Hammayah program attracted 2,500 people. They took part in 21 workshops and 46 distance training courses on heritage, history, archeology, rock art and agriculture under the supervision and guidance of experts.

Hammayah is part of efforts by the RCU to promote the region as a global destination for cultural, heritage, historical and nature tourism.

The program contributes to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by enabling the world to access Saudi heritage, which has played a pivotal role in human history.


Fossil discoveries in Egypt date back to age of dinosaurs

Fossil discoveries in Egypt date back to age of dinosaurs
The team carried out excavations and assessed the ancient environments in which the ancient animals lived. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2021

Fossil discoveries in Egypt date back to age of dinosaurs

Fossil discoveries in Egypt date back to age of dinosaurs
  • The research team discovered the remains of an extinct giant fish, a sawfish beak, and a sawfish rostrum, in addition to large parts of a sea turtle

CAIRO: Egypt has announced new fossil discoveries dating back 70 million years, to the age of dinosaurs.
The President of New Valley University Abdel Aziz Tantawi said in a statement that a research team at the university’s Vertebrate Paleontology Center uncovered the first fossil discovery in the ancient Tethys Sea in the Dakhla Oasis in the New Valley governorate, southwest of Cairo.
The research team discovered the remains of an extinct giant fish, a sawfish beak, and a sawfish rostrum, in addition to large parts of a sea turtle and other parts of a large marine reptile, dating back more than 70 million years. The team also discovered some shark teeth.
Egypt’s Western Desert is one of the world’s most valuable natural treasures, unveiling the secrets of ancient life.
Tantawi said that the university will continue searching for excavations of old human settlements in the New Valley desert, which will be displayed in a natural history museum in the governorate.
Gebely Abuelkheir, professor of geology at the university, said that the discovery location was studied extensively with several scientific and exploratory trips in the Dakhla Oasis.
The team carried out excavations and assessed the ancient environments in which the ancient animals lived. They also studied the level of conservation and determined the extent of the success of the scientific team’s extractions.

BACKGROUND

The team carried out excavations and assessed the ancient environments in which the ancient animals lived.

Abuelkheir added that the important scientific discoveries in this region reflect the conditions and nature of ancient life on the African continent within the ancient Tethys Sea.
These discoveries are part of New Valley University’s research plan to study the ancient life of the Cretaceous period, which is still mostly unknown on the African continent.
The New Valley desert is one of the most important regions in Africa, it contains a large variety of ancient treasures from the Cretaceous period, especially the marine life that lived in the Tethys Sea.
Mohammed Kamel, a geophysicist at the department of geology at New Valley University and one of the members of the research team, confirmed that among the scientific discoveries was a sawfish beak, with a length of nearly 2 meters, confirming the enormity of marine life in that region.
He added that the marine turtle bones were the largest of their kind ever discovered in Africa, but that similar discoveries were previously made by the university’s Vertebrate Paleontology Center.


Iraq’s Jewish community dwindles to fewer than five

Iraq’s Jewish community dwindles to fewer than five
A close-up view of a marker on a grave at the Habibiya Jewish Cemetery in Baghdad. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2021

Iraq’s Jewish community dwindles to fewer than five

Iraq’s Jewish community dwindles to fewer than five
  • A turning point for Jewish history in Iraq came with the first pogroms in the mid-20th century. In June 1941, the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad left more than 100 Jews dead, properties looted and homes destroyed

BAGHDAD: The death of Dhafer Eliyahu hit Iraq hard, not only because the doctor treated the neediest for free, but because with his passing, only four Jews now remain in the country.
At the Habibiya Jewish Cemetery in the capital Baghdad, wedged between the Martyr Monument erected by former ruler Saddam Hussein and the restive Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, an aged Muslim man still tends to the graves, but visitors are rare.
The day of Eliyahu’s burial, “it was me who prayed over his grave,” the doctor’s sister told AFP.
“There were friends” of other faiths who prayed too, each in their own way, she added, refusing to give her name.
To hear Jewish prayer out in the open is rare now in Baghdad, where there is but one synagogue that only opens occasionally and no rabbis.
But Jewish roots in Iraq go back some 2,600 years.
According to biblical tradition, they arrived in 586 BC as prisoners of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II after he destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
More than 2,500 years later, Jews were the second largest community in Baghdad, making up 40 percent of its inhabitants.
Some were very prominent members of society like Sassoon Eskell, Iraq’s first ever finance minister in 1920, who made a big impression on British adventurer and writer Gertrude Bell.
Today, “one prays at home,” said a Baghdad resident knowledgeable of the city’s Jewish community.
According to Edwin Shuker, a Jew born in Iraq in 1955 and exiled in Britain since he was 16, “there are only four Jews with Iraqi nationality who are descendant of Jewish parents” left in the country, not including the autonomous Kurdish region.
A turning point for Jewish history in Iraq came with the first pogroms in the mid-20th century. In June 1941, the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad left more than 100 Jews dead, properties looted and homes destroyed. In 1948, Israel was created.
Almost all of Iraq’s 150,000 Jews went into exile in the ensuing years.
Their identity cards were taken away and replaced by documents that made them targets wherever they showed them.
The majority preferred to sign documents saying they would “voluntarily” leave and renounce their nationality and property.
Still today, Shuker said, Iraqi law forbids the restoration of their citizenship.
By 1951, 96 percent of the community had left.
Almost all the rest follow after the public hangings of “Israeli spies” in 1969 by the Baath party, which had just come to power off the back of a coup.
“Promotion of Zionism” was punishable by death and that legislation has remained unchanged.