Iraq is opening up the doors of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces to honeymooners who can enjoy the macabre pleasure of spending their wedding night in the former dictator’s bed.
The tourism authority is still renovating the presidential palace in the town of Al Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, but once complete it is planning to charge $223 for the chance to sleep in Saddam's former bedroom.
“We hope that many people will visit,” said a tourism official in the battle-scarred town, in an interview with UK daily The Times.
The palace, which boasts Roman columns, chandeliers and huge bathrooms, was occupied by US troops until 2005, who left their mark in the stonework with a variety of graffiti such as “Brian loves Brandy”.
However, its outlying buildings, which used to house Saddam’s special guard, have already been turned into luxury hotel rooms, with 32 suites to rent that come with widescreen televisions and king-size beds.
The rest of the place is now being revamped, according to the tourism authority, which hopes that its close proximity to Babylon, fabled for its Hanging Gardens, and Baghdad will attract foreign tourists.
The palace is already a hit with locals, attracting 1,000 people a day, who pay a small fee just to look at the building and picnic in the grounds.
One of the main attractions is Saddam’s date tree, surrounded by a concrete wall, from which only the dictator, who was in power from 1979 to 2003, was allowed to eat its fruit.
“I never would have dreamt that one day Saddam would be gone and people could come here. Before, they would have been arrested,” said Hussam Kadhim, the palace's manager.
However, visitor Khalid Al Lizan, an Iraqi who recently went on his honeymoon to Syria, added: “I don’t think it would be an easy thing for newlyweds to sleep on the bed of a dead person.”
Furthermore, the area still has security concerns, a bomb recently exploded in Al Hilla and killing 10 people, and the road from Baghdad has been dubbed the ‘Triangle of Death.’
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