Saddam’s Basra palace transformed into museum

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A palace built by Saddam in Iraq’s southern city of Basra has been turned into a museum.

The construction work from decaying palace to modern museum is nearly complete, assisted by a team of British army engineers keen to boost their country’s legacy after the invasion, according to UK newspaper The Guardian.

“It will be the principal museum in southern Iraq and we hope people will look to it as the model museum in the region,” said John Curtis, a curator at the British Museum who has worked on the project in an advisory role.

Lieutenant General Sir Barney White-Spunner said the riverside palace had “vulgar, awful imitation rococo interiors” and reminded him of Ozymanidas, a famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about the arrogance and temporal nature of power.

Before the plan went ahead, questions about whether the buildings so ingrained with Saddam’s legacy would be acceptable for transformation, the waterside position, spacious rooms and good views offered by the palace convinced engineers and academics that the project should go ahead, according to the newspaper.

Although Saddam Hussein was overthrown a decade ago, his legacy is preserved in part by a series of lavish palaces he built around the country – once a sign of the Iraqi leader’s power and influence.

At the time of the invasion in 2003, some palaces were used as army bases by occupying forces, while others were left derelict, an eerie reminder of 30 years of Saddam’s rule.

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