*NEWSBITES

Looking for some cultural travel next year? You may want to consider...Iraq. Italy has been at the forefront of protecting and restoring Iraq's cultural riches as part of the country's post-war reconstruction.

So while resources are pouring into restaurants, hotels and public infrastructure in Najaf, the Italian coordinator of Task Force Iraq, Massimo Bellelli, the scientific director of the Virtual Museum of Iraq, Massimo Cultraro, and Iraq's ambassador to Italy, Saywan Barzani, have launched a new project -- dubbed Abraham's Hills --  to train new antiquity restorers, tour guides, and museum clerks in the area of the ancient biblical city Ur, 400 kilometers south of Najaf.    

The Italians are aiming to save archaeological areas across Iraq, to broaden tourist itineraries, and to promote the museum of Nassiriya and the Dhi Qar region. "This is possible thanks to the trust and relations we have built here through the years," says archaeologist Stefania Berlioz. 

After the successful opening of the Virtual Museum of Iraq in 2009, the cooperative projects between Italians and Iraqi people are focusing on Ur, which was the city of Abraham, who is referred to as a forefather in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. For this reason, the ancient Babylon might become a modern destination of inter-religious initiatives and multicultural pilgrimages for a wide mix of believers.  

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Photo - Minnesota National Guard

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