Day 17 (cont) Basra – Saddam’s Palaces at Shatt al-Arab
We moved onto the old Corniche (broken and sad) where Saddam had his palaces, taken over by the British for their HQ during the war. We waited the customary 20 minutes at the gate while the army and the secret police negotiated permission for us to proceed. Two extra soldiers then joined us on the coach to escort us around the grounds because some of the buildings are still in government use.
We had a good wander around 3 palaces, similar to the one at Babylon with marble floors, incredibly intricate plaster ceilings, and large ballrooms – all crumbling and decaying. The government is deliberately allowing the buildings to fall down and be bulldozed because they cannot find a use for them.
They occasionally held exhibitions here and laid some of the area to parkland with menageries and aviaries but it’s long since been abandoned. Dead pot plants from a flower show a year ago, a closed museum with its windows boarded up – all eerily silent.