If you’re a traveler who’s been almost everywhere, there’s an incredible new opportunity to explore a place few have visited. Geographic Expeditions (GeoEx), the venerable travel company that has launched some incredible journeys around the globe, will begin taking small groups to Southern Iraq in 2024.
The 11-day trip, “On the Road to Baghdad: Exploring Southern Iraq,” begins in the ancient port of Basra and visits some of the country’s most iconic archaeological and spiritual sites before ending in Baghdad.
It is safe to say that the war in Iraq – March 20 marks the 20thth anniversary of the US-led invasion – the war for oil and internal conflicts have overshadowed the country’s rich heritage. Tourism in most of the county has been virtually unimaginable for more than two decades.
However, focusing only on recent history would give the country short shrift, especially now that a democratic government has gained control. Scholars consider Iraq to be the site of the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; it has some of the most significant monuments in Islamic history.
“Traveling to challenging destinations is core to who we are as a company and we are absolutely thrilled to be offering these impressive journeys in southern Iraq,” says Brady Binstadt, CEO of GeoEx. “We first offered trips to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2011, and our staff and travelers have shared many cups of tea and compelling conversations with our Iraqi friends since then. Now it is incredibly exciting to open the southern part of this fascinating and hugely misunderstood country.”
Geographic Expeditions states that the purpose of the trip is to weave Iraq’s stories, old and new, into a single tapestry.
“This was one of the most exciting trips of my life,” said GeoEx Middle East expert Sara Barbieri, who just returned from a pre-reconnaissance trip. “It was incredible to experience the combination of iconic historical sites and the unexpected kindness of contemporary Iraqis. Everywhere we went, we were treated with the greatest warmth, generosity and hospitality.”
The tour is limited to just 12 travelers, leaving enough time to visit the millennia-old architecture of Ur, Uruk and Ctesiphon. There is a visit to the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf and the shrines of Hussein and Abbas in Karbala, among Islam’s holiest sites. The group gets a chance to explore the Mesopotamian marshes and the 5,000-year-old culture of the Marsh Arabs.
Highlights of the trip include Sumer, the site of the earliest known civilization, said to be responsible for the creation of the wheel, large-scale architecture and the world’s first writing system. In Baghdad, there is a visit to see the treasures of the Iraq Museum, with its spectacular treasures of ancient Mesopotamia, some only recently recovered and restored. Few trips anywhere can offer a site like Cidra el Muntaha, the Tree of Knowledge, supposed to be the tree whose forbidden fruit resulted in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
“The journey was fascinating, enlightening, at times frustrating and overwhelming, and overall, one of the most profoundly challenging and inspiring journeys I have ever taken,” added Barbieri. “I’d be right back.”
On the Road to Baghdad: Exploring Southern Iraq will run from January 10-21, February 7-18 and November 6-17, 2024. Cost is from $10,350 per person (based on double occupancy). For more information, visit GeoEx.
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