FASCINATING photographs show inside the abandoned Babylon built by Saddam Hussein – who called himself the “son of King Nebuchadnezzar”.
Pictures show the dead despot’s vision for the ancient city after becoming obsessed with the Babylonian ruler during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
Saddam Hussein’s former palace in the city of Hillah in Babil province about 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq[/caption]
Saddam Hussein was obsessed with King Nebuchadnezzar[/caption]
Nebuchadnezzar, the second and greatest king of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia, was notorious for waging bloody wars to seize large swathes of current day Iran and Israel.
Babylon – mentioned in The Bible – was one of the glories of the ancient world, with its walls and mythic hanging gardens listed among the Seven Wonders.
Founded around 2300 BC, it was the capital of ten dynasties in Mesopotamia and the birthplace of writing and literature.
Now, over 15 years after Hussein’s execution, his palatial tribute to the emperor has become a ghostly shell.
The once-grand palace halls are daubed with graffiti and broken glass litters the floors.
Shisha-smoking teenagers and families gather on Hussein’s vast balconies overlooking the complex spread of Babylon, whose replica Ishtar gate is made from gaudy blue bricks polished off with gold overlay.
A mural depicting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with King Nebecanezzer at The Hanging Gardens of Babylon[/caption]
Inside a marbled room, where Saddam supposedly once slept, at one of the former dictator’s palace villas[/caption]
Most of Babylon was rebuilt by Saddam Hussein on its old foundations, but pictured here is the original Ishtar gate[/caption]
The Palace, which is adjacent to the remains of the ancient city of Babylon, was purged of anything of value by looters as Saddam’s regime fell in April 2003[/caption]
Babylon was built in 1894, and was the capital of ten dynasties in Mesopotamia[/caption]
Restored walls of the temple complex in the ancient city of Babylon[/caption]
In 1985, Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins, investing in both restoration and new construction.
Because of this, some artifacts may well be under the city by now.
To the dismay of archaeologists, Hussein inscribed his name on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar.
One inscription reads: “This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq.”
‘THIS WAS BUILT BY SADDAM HUSSEIN’
Brutalist reliefs depict Hussein leading soldiers on the battlefield, while the ceilings are painted with symbols of Iraqi civilisation, from Babylonian lions to towers that Hussein built in Baghdad.
Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi author and professor at Brandeis University who has written a book on Saddam’s building projects, told atlasobscura.com: “Babylon is neither Islamic nor Arab—it is obviously deeply pre-Islamic.
“In celebrating Babylon and reconstructing the city of Babylon, what one is doing is essentially calling upon the idea of Iraq—not the idea of Arabism, or the idea of Baghdad as the spearhead of a new pan-Arabism in the region, or Islamism, but Iraq.”
Dead despot Saddam Hussein, pictured with Def. Min. Gen. Youssef Abu Taleb[/caption]
This 19th-century illustration by William Simpson, “The Walls of Babylon and the Temple of Bel (Or Babel),” was influenced by early archaeological investigations at the site[/caption]
In recent years, the Iraqi authorities have reopened Babylon to tourists, hoping that one day the site will attract visitors from all over the world.
Following excavations in the early 20th century, European archaeologists claimed key features such as the remains of the famous Ishtar Gate – the glazed brick gate decorated with images of dragons and aurochs, built in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II as the eighth gate to the inner city.
The King of Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar II was the second and greatest king of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia who reigned c. 605–c. 561 BCE.
He was known for his military might, the splendour of his capital, Babylon, and his important part in Jewish history.
The first Babylonian Empire reached its peak in the second millennium BC before collapsing.
However, in 612 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II broke the power of the Assyrians.
He re-established Babylonia before going on to conquer Jerusalem, destroying the Jewish Temple and taking thousands of Jewish armed men, workers, and the King of Judah back to captivity in Babylon.
Whenever Nebuchadnezzar made a conquest, he used the stolen wealth to build monuments to his own glory.
It was in his capital city that Nebuchadnezzar built the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
In testimony to his grandeur, each brick was inscribed with Nebuchadnezzar’s name.
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Abdulamir al-Hamdani, Iraq’s minister of culture, described the city as “Saddam’s Babylon” rather than an accurate reconstruction.
“We admit this was the wrong way to do conservation but it was a chaotic time in Iraq then, and it was done without external consultations.
“It fell into neglect after the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. Further damage was inflicted by US and Polish soldiers who used it as a military base.”
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