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Iraqi Culture & Society

In Iraq, A Race To Protect The Crumbling Bricks Of Ancient Babylon. By Jane Arraf

Babylon image 1

Part of what remains of the ceremonial entrance through the walls of the ancient city of Babylon. The site was partly reconstructed in the 1950s and 1990s, but in a way that caused damage. Conservationists now are trying to undo some of that damage.

Jane Arraf/NPR

Mohaned Ahmed is standing on scaffolding at the ancient site of Babylon, dipping water into a bucket and sponging the bricks around a stone relief showing a dragon with a serpent’s head.

The image is so well defined it looks as if it might have been made yesterday instead of more than 2,000 years ago. But below it, the bricks and mortar of one of the ancient world’s grandest cities are disintegrating.

Ahmed is part of a team of about 10 Iraqi technicians trained by a U.S.-funded project to shore up the brick walls of the ancient site of Babylon, some 50 miles south of Baghdad. The goal is to improve Babylon’s prospects of being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation that would help ensure better protection and preservation of the site and encourage future tourism.

“Babylon was the first city in history. We want to work here because we love this city,” says Haider Bassim, 29, an Iraqi technician who grew up within the perimeter of the ancient city.

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In Iraq, A Race To Protect The Crumbling Bricks Of Ancient Babylon

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