Thursday, September 15, 2005

Babylon

For the past fifteen years any discussion about Iraq has been negative. I know most people my age knew nothing about the country until the first Gulf War. Now my teenage daughters have grown their entire lives knowing it only as a place ruled by an evil dictator, and now as a place where their Dad has to go serve for a year.

During that same time period the only news about Iraq has referenced war, Saddam Hussein, U.N. sanctions, and now the insurgency. Because of all of this "bad press" people no longer recognize this region for the incredibly rich history it contains. This area is the Cradle of Civilization and is the birthplace of some of the most ancient cities known to man. I had the unique privilege of touring one of those ancient sites, and the experience was pretty amazing.

Many people know of the city of Babylon from the Bible stories found in the Old Testament which tells of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, and the stories of The Tower of Babel and Daniel in the Lion's Den. This city was considered the mightiest of its time and contained the famous Hanging Gardens, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.


The re-built Gates of Ishtar


The re-built Royal Palace of King Nebuchadnezzar



The Lion of Babylon

The city was eventually conquered and laid to ruin, and due to the kilned mud and clay bricks used in the construction the remaining structures have significantly decayed over time. In the early 1980's Saddam began reconstructing certain portions of the city. He did this not because of his love of history but because of his own dillusions of grandeur and because he saw himself as the next King Nebuchadnezzar. Archeologist cringe at what he did since he built over the actual sites thus destroying many of the artifacts. The original bricks, which rise two or three feet from the ground, contain ancient inscriptions praising Nebuchadnezzar. Above these, Saddam Hussein's workers laid more than 60-million sand colored bricks with the words, "In the era of Saddam Hussein, protector of Iraq, who rebuilt civilization and rebuilt Babylon." The new bricks began to crack after only ten years and based on what I've seen during my travels his "rebuilt cvilization" didn't fare too well either.


Some of the orginal ruins

Saddam's megalomania is further demonstrated here by the home he built for himself. First he built a hill so the structure would sit higher then any other in the area and then built a four story palace complete with marble floors and golden fixtures. Local villagers say that he had over a thousand people displaced during its construction, but then never really used it. Since the fall of his regime it has been looted and sits empty looking over villages of mud huts and stands as yet another symbol of his selfishness and greed.


Saddam's Palace overlooking the ancient city


One of the palace walls


A ceiling mural depicting the ancient kingdom and Saddam's new empire

The following picture is the Iraqi General that gave us the tour. He is showing us the ancient coliseum and explaining that the windowed structue at the top was the personal area for Saddam and his sons to watch theatrical productions. At one point the General turned and said that one day he and his friends would sit in those seats


This is a view of the Euphrates from the new palace. As you can see, the area is very lush with vegetation, which is why this particular region is referred to as the Fertile Crescent.


As we were leaving I overheard my brigade commander telling someone that people will one day pay thousands of dollars to visit this area and see what we had just seen. Obviously that can only happen once the country is stable and secure and I believe he is right.

I stood in the place where civilization was born and branched out into the rest of the world. Now it is time for us to bring civilization back.

22 Comments:

Blogger Amy said...

WOW !!! You never cease to amaze me with your entries. These pictures are awesome. I pray that the people of Iraq could only realize the true riches that they hold in this beautiful country.

Thank you my darling for sharing this bit of history with us. Thank you for sharing with us the stories that we do not get to hear on the news. Thank you for sharing the truth !!!

We support you and what you all are doing for this country so they can have a better and free life.

I Love You !
Amy

12:20 PM  
Blogger Chevy Rose said...

Wow, great post.
God bless and stay safe.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Krista said...

What awesome pictures!! I agree with Amy!! I pray that you will be kept safe and that God will work wonders in the hearts of the people over there!! Thank you for all that you do for our country!!

Krista

2:08 PM  
Blogger John & Jeri said...

That is absolutely amazing. I wonder if back then the people also endured 130 degree temps. Your pictures are just beautiful and just wow. Just makes you think about what was and what will be thanks to people like you.
Jeri

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing! Thanks for sharing these inspiring stories. I envy the people that know you. God bless you and your family.

Mark
Bloomington, IL

8:47 PM  
Blogger TheAnvil said...

Thanks John,,

Good to get some history in there!!! and always love to see the pics. The one thing I am curious about,,the general`s statement,,,,was it like " once our country is free, I will sit up there" , or did it have the " once I am in power , I will sit there" taste to it? I dont think it was the former......

Jason

11:21 PM  
Anonymous JenIG said...

This is so interesting; thank you so much for posting.
JenIG

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truely amazing experiences you're having John! We appreciate so much your service! Keep up the great work and great writing.
-Charles

11:12 AM  
Blogger kathi said...

What a great post. Thank you, again, so much for all you do and for taking time to share your life with us back home. God bless and keep you safe.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

WOW!!! I can't believe you actually stood in King Nebuchadnezzer's palace ruins!!!!!! That is so amazing!!!!! And you actually saw the Euphrates river.... the river that I am caonstantly being tested on at school (not to mention evverything else you saw)!!! You actually saw the places that people always wonder about and read about in the BIBLE!!! I am so thrilled you got to see all of that. I was also very touched when I read what the general said to you. It is good to here that they want you there. Can't wait to here the details.

I love you so much,
Jessica

4:10 PM  
Blogger membrain said...

Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Pebble said...

Oh I especially love photo's of kids, whenever you can get them... They are so neat, and they are Iraqs future.

I would say great post, but yours always are... really.


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4:43 PM  
Blogger Karens Korner said...

This is a great post, the picture tell me a lot. how awesome!

7:31 AM  
Blogger Al's Girl said...

Al visited there too. He said that it was one of the few cool/nice/fun things that he had gotten to do there. Hope you enjoyed your brief moment of tourism - there is a lot of history in the ground that you walked on. Stay safe.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Kristen Greene said...

Hey John, You don't know me but I am doing SHINE interview with your beautiful wife and 2 gourgous daghters!! They AMAZE me how strong they are and how much they appreciate what you are doing...we all appreciate what you are doing!!!! You are truly blessed!

Kristen Greene

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Monica said...

John,
I check your blog daily now for updates and this post has to be one of the best yet! The photos are amazing! God bless you and keep you safe.

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Kel said...

Thank You for sharing that....I have to say I was amazed that one person could be so self serving.
I know this shouldn't be a shock but everytime I see what he has done I am still taken aback.
It must have been amazing to stand in the midst of all that history!!!!
I hope one day it is stable enough there for the whole world to be able to share in the wonder.

The pictures in the previous post were priceless...and also remind me to be so thankful for all that I have.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous azpaul said...

Thanks for that very interesting and (typically) well-written post, John. I am so glad you had a great leave, and hope that it won't be too long until you're back home for good. Until then, stay safe and keep up the great work (blog and other!)!!!

5:48 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Now there is something there in Iraq that makes it even more hallowed ground.

The blood of our brothers.

Thunder6 salutes the fallen

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I wish you and your brave fellow soldiers were not in harm's way, I think you're doing an incredibly tough job with grace and courage.

Come home safe, America is so proud of you.

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Circe said...

What awesome pics! Oh, and I LOVE the name of this blog,,,:)

hugs,
circe

10:53 AM  
Blogger jodielynn said...

My husband sent me a tshirt from Iraq that said Who's Your Baghdaddy, so I had to check out your blog. This song has already made me cry once today, so i better be moving along.
Jodie

5:53 PM  

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