Babylon is named UNESCO World Heritage site

The BBC reports that Iraq has pledged to allocate funds to the restoration of the 4,000-year-old city of Babylon, after it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO at a meeting last week in Azerbaijan.  Babylon, the reputed site of the famous Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was popular with Iraqi Jews, who would visit the landmark on outings from Baghdad. But the damage in the last decades has been so great that it might never be undone.

Iraqi Jews visiting Babylon in  the 1950s (Photo: Eli Saleh)

In the early 1980s, former Iraqi leader Saddam razed a large part of the ancient city in order to build a replica on top of some of the original ruins.

After the Gulf War, he also built an extravagant modern palace for himself on another part of the ruins, overlooking the main site.

Then, in 2005, the British Museum warned that US-led coalition forces were causing severe damage to the ancient city.

Children celebrating outside a replica of the famous Ishtar gate (Photo: Reuters)

John Curtis, who was Keeper of the Middle East Department at the museum at the time, warned in a report that sandbags had been filled with precious archaeological fragments, and 2,600-year-old paving stones had been crushed by tanks.

He also found evidence of fuel leaks, and 12 trenches that had been dug through archaeological deposits.

It was “tantamount to establishing a military camp around Stonehenge”, he said at the time.

Four years later, Unesco said that “the use of Babylon as a military base was a grave encroachment on this internationally known archaeological site”.

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