Inside a Saddam Hussein Palace
It’s estimated that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein built 8o – 100 palaces during his 24 year reign. Billions of dollars were spent on lavish structures with gold and marble fittings – no expense was spared. They were seen as an expression of his power and authority over Iraq. There was a Saddam Hussein palace built in every town of prominence across Iraq.
These were not just built for the dictator himself. Wives and top party officials were also well looked after.
Many were looted and ransacked after the first Gulf War but the majority fell after the American invasion in 2003. Before the war, The US army had earmarked certain palace’s to utilise as headquarters after the war. These were spared any bombing. Two of these were the gigantic Republican Palace and Al-Faw palace in Baghdad.
The "Bird's Nest".
Definitely the one with the finest views, the “bird’s nest” is perched atop Gara mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan. It was looted like all others in Kurdistan after the first Gulf War in March 1991. Only traces of the Italian marble and Siena green tile remain. (take them home as a souvenir!)
The location couldn’t be more idyllic. Cool mountain air with valleys cascading in every direction. He even had settlements raised in the surround area to create such views. Unsurprisingly the palace was heavily fortified with the surrounding perimeter loaded with landmines and military barriers.
The Saddam Hussein palace at Babylon is perhaps the most controversial of them all.
The palace was constructed in 1986 just steps from the historic heart of Babel. It’s walls are engraved with his initials and likeness. At the time Saddam embarked upon a massive reconstruction and renovation of Babylon – he even had these refurbished blocks inscribed with the following;
“In the reign of the victorious Saddam Hussein, the president of the Republic, may God keep him the guardian of the great Iraq and renovator of its renaissance and the builder of its great civilization. The rebuilding of the great city of Babylon was done in 1987.”
The palace itself is three stories with an open rooftop area – we secure the permissions to access all areas when we visit the grounds including Saddam’s former bedroom!
All former palace’s of Saddam Hussein are currently under ownership of the Iraqi government.
While most have been left to a state of disrepair some are taking on new roles. The newly opened Basra museum is actually housed in Saddam’s former lakeside Basra residence in the southern city. Almost 8 years in the making, the museum is the first of it’s kind in Iraq for decades and takes a central place in pride for the people of Basra.
Rocky Road Travel offers tours to Iraq several times per year. Visit the “bird’s nest” on our Iraqi Kurdistan tour and the Babylon palace on our southern Iraq tour. Of course there’s a lot more to Iraq than a Saddam Hussein palace but there’s not too many other places in the world where you can walk the steps of a dictator!
When Shane is not endlessly writing award winning content for Rocky Road, he's usually kayaking to and from the beer garden along Berlin's River Spree.