Welcome to Iraq, the hot new holiday destination
It has some of the finest archaeological sites in the world and some of the holiest places in Islam - but persuading tourists to visit Iraq has to be one of the toughest jobs around.
Hamood Massam al-Yakoubi, the head of the Iraqi Tourism Board, is confident that as the violence begins to recede, the brave and curious may be enticed to the country. “I would like tourists from around the world to visit because there is a lot to see,” he says.
On that score, he is certainly right. Gathering dust in the entrance hall of a Baghdad hotel a guidebook from the 1980s displays pictures of Iraq's attractions, among them the golden dome of the al-Askari shrine, one of the holiest buildings of Shia Islam. Of Samarra, where the shrine is, the book says: “The artistic, literary, and scientific splendours of the city have remained a legend in Arab history.”