Day 11 (cont) Borsippa and Karbala
Borsippa is a 7 level ziggurat, and part of an unexcavated ancient city dating from 1900 BC. Restored by Nebuchadnezzar the Second, it has lumps of molten brick and a strange boulder with the rock fused together to form glass, which could show evidence of a meteorite hit.
The site is overlooked by a shrine built on an ancient mound dedicated to Abraham and believed to be his birthplace (contested). D and I stayed in the coach (I’m fed up wearing hot, slippery burkhas in shrines) and the men attempted to visit the shrine. They returned quickly because a religious ceremony was due to start (involving a sheep having its throat cut as a sacrifice to cure a man’s sick wife) and no one wanted to cause any offense or possible misunderstanding.
We stopped for fresh pomegranate juice at a town where 80 police recruits were recently massacred and were amused when 2 of our armed escort joined us to eat ice-cream (which they didn’t pay for). Our escort then drove us a high speed back to the main highway with sirens wailing, and handed us onto local police to escort us to Karbala.
Thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit the shrine where Ali is buried and they’ve been targeted by Sunni suicide bombers in the past. The town looks grimy, dusty and rubbish strewn. All of the women are totally covered in black, not one hair showing, so I’ve not got a cat’s chance walking around this place with only a headscarf. D decided to totally cover up.
Our hotel was tucked away out of the city centre and is very odd. The front foyer is modern and glitzy but behind it the rest is broken, badly designed or covered in dust. The electrical sockets in the rooms were for square pins but all of the electrical items have round pins. A squat toilet was installed right next to a seated loo, so the whole room stank. The shower tray had no curtain or screen, so the water flooded the room. No women are allowed to work in hotels here and it shows. I’m rarely critical of accommodation when we travel but this one is beyond reason.
We had to eat in the hotel restaurant because hygiene standards in town are dubious. The food was cold and awful. The only redeeming features were a large plate of fresh fruit and the friendly, mainly Bangladeshi, staff. The place was a shambles. What a miserable city we were in.