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Iraq opens new antiquities museum in Basra

Published 27/09/2016

Antique coins are displayed at a newly opened museum in the southern city of Basra (AP)
Antique coins are displayed at a newly opened museum in the southern city of Basra (AP)

Iraq has opened a new antiquities museum in the southern city of Basra, featuring pottery, coins and other artefacts dating back more than 2,000 years.

Although only one hall was opened due to a shortage of funds, according to Qahtan al-Obaid, the museum director, it will showcase objects dating back to 400 BC outlining the history of the oil-rich city on the Persian Gulf.

Mr al-Obaid said there are plans to open other wings which would exhibit Babylonian, Assyrian and Sumerian artefacts from across Iraq dating back to 3,300 BC.

Iraq is currently in the grip of an economic crisis linked to the plunge in global oil prices and the war against Islamic State (IS).

The museum is housed in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, which had briefly served as a mess hall for British troops after the 2003 US-led invasion which overthrew him.

Mr al-Obaid said the location was chosen in order to "replace the themes of dictatorship and tyranny" with civilisation and humanity.

The museum was conceived in 2008 after the British withdrawal, and was partly funded by a UK charity. The hall that opened Tuesday cost an estimated 750,000 dollars (£578,000), of which 500,000 dollars (£385,000) was provided by the oil company BP, which operates in Basra, Mr al-Obaid said.

Basra has been inhabited for thousands of years, but the current city dates back to AD 637. It flourished during the Middle Ages as an important cultural and commercial centre of the Abbasid Empire. It also marked the departure point for Sinbad the Sailor's fictional adventures in Africa and South Asia.

Iraq's oil-rich south is far from the front lines of the war with IS, which has destroyed ancient sites in northern Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

AP

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