Tourists Return to Iraq

First group of Western tourists since invasion arrive in Baghdad
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2009 3:18 AM CDT
US Army soldiers stroll past two bronze busts of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Friday, March 20, 2009, on the sixth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.    (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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(Newser) – The first package tourists since the days of Saddam Hussein have arrived in Baghdad, the Guardian reports. The group—four Brits, two Americans, a Russian, and a Canadian—are on a 17-day tour of the country, taking in the sights of ancient Mesopotamia in a journey that would have been impossible less than a year ago.

The Iraqi government hopes the visitors, who found it impossibe to get travel insurance, will be the first of many. The tourists say they're enjoying the chance to see sights like the ancient city of Ur despite the ravaged state of most hotels, the red tape, and the security holdups—including no less than 40 checkpoints on the road from Basra to Baghdad.