IRAQ Pope Francis opened Iraq to international tourism

Dozens of youtubers, influencers, artists and personalities from the Arab and non-Arab world recently visited the country and extolled its beauty. According to experts, the interest in the country is related to the apostolic trip, which had a “great impact.” The government has taken steps to make international entry easier, eliminating visas for 36 countries.

Baghdad () – Dozens of YouTube celebrities, influencers, web content producers, artists and media experts have recently visited Iraq. They have extolled their beauty in this nation, long ravaged by war and sectarian violence, promoting tourism. This approval is closely linked to the apostolic journey of Pope Francis to the Arab country in March of last year, a visit that has had, according to experts, “a great impact” on opening up abroad, on promoting tourism and the travel of regional and international visitors. Today, as never before, it has become something of a status symbol to post a photo or film in front of the house of the prophet Abraham, where the pontiff he stopped to pray and appealed for peace.

Last year and in the first six months of 2022, dozens and dozens of “youtubers”, famous Arab singers, influencers from Europe, the United States, Egypt and Lebanon, Kuwait and Australia, to name just a few, visited Iraq and extol its beauty. in videos and articles. Their presence has contributed -and not a little- to changing a stereotyped opinion about the country, often described as unstable and a breeding ground for terrorists.

Popular YouTube content creator Dear Alyne, who posts to the channel Nas Daily, with 8.53 million subscribers, launched last March an extensive report on his visit to Iraq, entitled: “Is Iraq dangerous?”. The video criticizes the stereotypes that characterize the Arab country and extols, on the contrary, its historical, artistic, cultural beauty and its landscapes. Gustav Rosted, a Danish influencer with more than 252,000 subscribers on his channel, was one of the first to visit Iraq after the war against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). He confessed to Al-Monitor that he felt “immense happiness” upon meeting a town that welcomed him “with open arms”. During his stay he also carried out a social experiment: he asked random people for help and no one spared any effort in giving out some food, money or a place to sleep, a “generosity” rarely found in other countries, he said.

In 1973, more than 500,000 foreign tourists arrived in Iraq, a figure equivalent to 25% of all tourists. Wars and sanctions, combined with extremist drift, sank the tourism sector. The government recently adopted a series of measures to facilitate entry into the country and used social networks and the Internet to promote international travel, along with the revocation of entry visas to 36 nations -mostly Western-, including the United States, the UK, some EU nations and Australia.

Eman Sobhy, a famous Egyptian activist on YouTube, expressed in a video her admiration for the social harmony and relations between the different sects and religions in Iraq, a nation that is often infamous for sectarian drift and confessional violence. The woman is a Sunni Muslim and she visited the holy Shiite city of Najaf, where she prayed, following Sunni rituals, in most of the mosques and shrines. She was never harassed by the Shiites, who are the majority in the country.

Among the places most visited by influencers and socialites are the historical areas and archaeological sites of Iraq, in particular the Ziggurat of Ur, home of the prophet Abraham, and the historical swamps of Nassiriya Governorate. However, despite the growing number of foreign tourists and the government’s efforts to revive the country’s name and reputation, much remains to be done for it to become a world-class mass tourism destination.

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Written by Editor TLN

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