Leisure and Tourism in Iraq

Mövenpick Signs Basra Hotel Deal

Swiss-based Mövenpick has signed a deal to manage a five-star, 152-key hotel in Basra, Iraq”s economic capital and a regional oil and gas hub.

The Mövenpick Hotel Basra is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2018. Located in the center of Basra, within the commercial district of Al Baradi’yah and 25km west of Basra International Airport, the new property will help to fill a gap in the market for upscale hotels.

Olivier Chavy, President & CEO, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, said:

Basra is one of the Middle East”s fastest-growing economic centres, a major oil producer and is undergoing rapid infrastructure development, so the time is right for Mövenpick to cement its presence in this flourishing city.

“Our upcoming property will cater to pent-up demand from the corporate sector, which contributes around 90% of hotel demand in Basra due to the high volume of oil and gas and shipping companies based in this booming region of Iraq.

Amenities at the Mövenpick Hotel Basra will include one all-day dining and one specialty restaurant; an executive lounge and a lobby lounge; a meetings and events area featuring a 700-square metre ballroom, multi-functional hall and meeting room; an indoor swimming pool, gym, spa, and beauty salon; and a retail area.

Mr. Akeel Ibraheem Al-Khalidy, Chairman of the South Group Corporation and Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Investment, part of Basra Council, said,

“With tens of thousands of foreign workers and businessmen travelling in and out of Basra every day and thousands more based in the city, Mövenpick Hotel Basra will be well placed to provide them with high-quality business, dining and leisure facilities and accommodation that set new hospitality standards in this thriving area of Iraq.”

(Source: Movenpick)

Video: River Cruise Weddings return to Basra

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

To the sound of drums and trumpets, an Iraqi groom and his bride this week stepped hand-in-hand onto a speed boat on the river in Basra to celebrate:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Nightclubs, Cafes still Risky Business for Iraqi Women

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The Iraqi parliament’s Committee on Women, Family and Childhood revealed Nov. 13 that there are organized criminals behind the work of some female minors in cafes and casinos. The committee said this phenomenon is no different from that of human trafficking.

The next day, an Iraqi radio station reported the story of a 17-year-old girl who works at a nightclub in Baghdad. “I have to work because I need money” to support herself and her mother, she said. “The owner of the club raped me more than once.” She also said she is subjected to beatings almost daily.

Another girl, however, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that some cafes and nightclubs operate aboveboard and provide desperately needed employment opportunities for young women. “I managed to work at a relative’s [place] because I needed money and the casino owner agreed to temporarily hire me for humanitarian reasons.”

Regardless of the situation, in conservative societies such as Iraq’s, girls and women who work at casinos, nightclubs and even coffee shops are often frowned upon.

Also, as women rarely get involved in this field of work, when they do it often draws media interest. One example is a woman from Nasiriyah who decided Jan. 20 to open a family coffee shop, the first of its kind in the south. The opening was widely covered by local media. Yet while this woman showed courage to embark on a nontraditional career path, other women have faced obstacles. On April 27, the Wasit Governorate Council voted by a majority to ban girls from working in cafes.

In Anbar, Liquor Shops are an Unlikely New Sign of Hope

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Even before the extremists were in control in Anbar, selling alcohol was banned. During extremist control, selling liquor was punishable by death. But now liquor stores have become a sign of freedom.

These days as you head into Karmah, one of the smaller cities in the central Anbar province, you may notice a small store on the way into town.

It’s not a big shop but its doors are wide open and it is selling alcohol. It is an unusual sight in this province, where conservative traditions and religious customs prevent the open sale and consumption of alcohol. But things have changed since the extremist group known as the Islamic State was in charge here.

“While we were displaced we lived in both Baghdad and in northern Iraq,” says Ahmad Abu Ali, a 44-year-old local; Karmah was part of the territory controlled by the extremist Islamic State, or IS, group and Abu Ali and his family fled their hometown. “And we used to see a lot of these shops there, close to where we lived. To us, it was an indication that these cities were safe and secure.”

“Although the drinking of alcohol is against our religion, the shop is a good sign. It is proof that the militants who once had such a big role in this city, and those who supported the militants, no longer play a part here,” Abu Ali explains. “Each person can practice their own religion. And when we saw this [the alcohol store] it gave us hope.”

Although Abu Ali doesn’t drink, his fellow townspeople who do are happy about the alcohol store for other, more obvious reasons.

“In the past we used to have to go to Baghdad to buy spirits,” Ibrahim Abdo, a 38-year-old local of Fallujah, told NIQASH. Abdo used to travel to the capital to buy enough alcohol to last a couple of weeks but he no longer has to do this. “We used to hide the bottles in the car so that the police and people at checkpoints wouldn’t harass us. They would destroy the drinks if they found them. Today I can just buy what I want even while the security forces are watching,” he says, somewhat incredulous.

Kurdistan’s Tourism Suffering following Referendum

By John Lee.

Tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan has reportedly been hard hit following Baghdad imposed punitive measures on the Kurdistan Region following the independence referendum.

Many restaurants and guesthouses in Erbil have had to lay off employees after international flights were banned and the borders temporarily closed.

According to Rudaw, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had planned to invest in modern infrastructure and build hundreds of new tourist attractions across the Region, spending an estimated $100 million over the coming years to revive and develop an industry which many believed would be profitable in the long-run.

More here from Rudaw.

(Source: Rudaw)

Int’l Flight Ban Causing Million-a-Day Losses for Kurdistan

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi government has banned international flights from landing in Kurdistan. Locals say it’s causing major financial trauma and is unfair collective punishment. No one knows when the ban will be lifted either.

It has been just over a month now since the two major airports in the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan were closed to international air traffic. The closure came as a result of the referendum on Kurdish independence held in the region in late September.

The federal government in Iraq had said the referendum was unconstitutional and as a result, one day after it was held, the federal government demanded it be given control of Iraqi Kurdistan’s border points and airports. It was clearly also a way to ratchet up pressure on the Kurdish.

The Kurdish were given three days to hand over their airports or face the threat of international flights being cancelled. After the 29th and 30th of September, this happened – the only exempt flights were domestic ones as well as military, diplomatic or UN delegation flights.

Losses as a result of this ban at both airports are now estimated to be as high as US$1 million per day, according to Kurdish officials who spoke with NIQASH. The number of passengers has fallen to less than 300 per day. Up until the ban, there had been at least 2,000 passengers per day coming through the airports.

Before the ban there had been between 70 and 100 flights a week, carrying between 1,000 and 1,500 people a day, Sulaymaniyah’s airport director, Taher Abdullah, told NIQASH. “But now we don’t get more than 100 to 150 people and most of those are the passengers travelling through Baghdad,” Abdullah noted.

Formerly the Kurdish airports had been doing almost around half of Iraq’s international aviation business. The Iraqi Kurdish region has long been a favourite launching point for foreigners in Iraq as the region has tended to be more peaceful and prosperous than other parts of the country.

Soccer returns to Mosul after Three-Year Ban

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Three years after the world’s most popular sport was banned in Mosul by the Islamic State (IS), soccer has returned to the city the terrorist group had claimed as its capital.

soccer game between Mosul FC and the Ninevah police soccer team was held Aug. 29 in the liberated city of Mosul, on a field damaged by shelling and surrounded by dilapidated buildings, bleachers in disrepair and a few fans.

Nashwan al-Hamdani, a resident of Mosul, told Al-Monitor, “Seeing this feels strange. We have not had a soccer game here in three years.”

When IS took control of Mosul on June 10, 2014, it imposed sanctions on anyone who played soccer. These included the death penalty, which was the fate of six children.

Forty days after the liberation of Mosul, the semi-official game between the two teams took place at the University of Mosul rather than in Mosul FC’s stadium because a large part of the latter had been destroyed during military operations.

The game was not the first to take place following the city’s liberation; local teams had already started playing on smaller fields in destroyed neighborhoods.

“This is Mosul FC’s first game after IS took over the city in 2014, and it sure will not be the last,” Ahmed Al-Huraithi, the club’s media manager, told Al-Monitor.

A number of Mosul FC’s stars participated in previous competitions over the past months with smaller local teams in preparation for the big game.

Security officers and government officials in Mosul expressed their desire to support the comeback of sports and believe the game is the first of many post-liberation soccer games to come.

Baghdad Suspends Int’l Flights to Erbil

By John Lee.

Direct international flights will be suspended to and from Erbil International Airport (pictured) starting from Friday evening, following a decision by the Iraqi cabinet and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an airline official has told Xinhua.

The move follows the region’s vote for independence in Monday’s referendum.

Airlines including Qatar Airways, EgyptAir and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines had already informed passengers that flights would be cancelled at the request of Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Only domestic flights will be permitted, and all the already-booked tickets for international flights should be through Baghdad international airport.

Iraq’s Tourism Board also announced on the halt of domestic tourism movement to the Kurdish region starting from early next week.

(Sources: Xinhua, The Independent, Reuters)

(Picture credit: Makyol)