Iraq Plans to Turn Saddam Hussein's Babylon Palace into Hotel, Convention Center

In celebration of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Iraqi government officials finally opened one of Saddam Hussein's famed palaces to tourists on Dec. 9, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month. The palace, which overlooks the ancient city of Babylon, is located 50 miles south of Baghdad and was opened for a day as part of an ongoing effort by the local government to revive Babylon as a destination for tourists as well as meetings.

Admission to Hussein's Babylonian palace was free, according to the Times, but required a 25-minute hike up a winding road that leads to the palace, which sports impressive views of the Euphrates River on one side and of the hanging gardens of Babylon on the other.

According to the Times, the government of Babil province said in October that it plans to turn the palace into a hotel and convention center, and to launch tourist boat trips on the nearby Euphrates. Other reports, meanwhile, have suggested that the palace will be converted into a casino.

For Iraqi citizens, however, the palace is more than a potential meetings or gaming destination. It's a symbol. "Entering this place is a triumph for human rights," Maytham Abdul-Amir told the Times. "Nothing can stand up against the will of the Iraqi people."