Iraq opens new antiquities museum in Basra

Iraq opens new antiquities museum in Basra
A museum showcasing artefacts dating back to 400 BC has opened in Basra, weaving rich narratives about Iraq's famed maritime city.
2 min read
29 September, 2016
The museum is housed in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces [Anadolu]
Iraq opened a new antiquities museum in the southern city of Basra this week with pottery, coins and other artefacts dating back more than 2,000 years.

Only one hall was opened due to a shortage of funds, Qahtan al-Obaid, the museum director, told AP.

It will showcase artefacts dating back to 400 B.C. that tell the history of the oil-rich city on Iraq's southern coast.

He said there are plans to open other wings that 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 the Islamic State group.

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 that overthrew him.

Obaid said the location was chosen in order to "replace the themes of dictatorship and tyranny with civilianisation and humanity".

The museum was conceived in 2008 after the British withdrawal, and was partly funded by a British charity.

The hall that opened on Tuesday cost an estimated $750,000, of which $500,000 was provided by the oil company BP, which operates in Basra, Obaid said.

Basra has been inhabited for thousands of years, but the current city dates back to 637. It flourished during the Middle Ages as an important cultural and commercial centre of the Abbasid Empire, and was 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 but many of the fighters launching an offensive on the group's territories come from Basra.