“Come! Enjoy sunny Basra! Avoid the markets! Flock to the
broken glass speckledsandy shores of the Shatt al-Arab! Drive really fast at a roadblock for a laugh! Wolf-whistle at local women! Shout "Shia sucks!" and see how the friendly locals react! There's so much to do!”
Basra (Arabic: البصرة) is Iraq's third largest city and an increasingly popular holiday resort. Of late British holidaymakers have flocked to the sunny haven; so much so that it has become known as the new Costa del Sol.
The resort which has come to be known as the "Venice of the Middle East" first started out as a military encampment built by Caliph Umar. However the military site soon became exploited as a tourist destination for it's wonderful riverside beaches and many, many camels.
Unfortunately this popularity would backfire on Basra when a group of Mongol package holidayists arrived in the 14th Century. The Mongol's stay, more specifically their rowdy, drink-influenced behaviour, led to the complete destruction of the city and a resite 10 kilometres up river. This new development, still with an adundance of beautiful riverside beaches and many, many camels, became the city of modern times. A city which, while suffering the odd bit of vandalism by visting Iranians and adventure seeking Americans out looking for a fun time, has generally gone from strength to strength while still mantaining a family friendly atmosphere.
However, since March 2003 the resort has beared witness to the "invasion" of a substantial number of Brits and Americans (again). While the Americans moved on quickly, apparently seeking a "more extreme experience", the increase in British visitors has generally soured the mood amongst locals; while at first they welcomed the increase in revenue, of late they have tired of their antics, makeshift holiday camps and threats of inviting Prince Harry to the party. Despite this, the locals still remain reasonably warm and welcoming to foreigners.
If they're not under siege or playing host to your friendly neighbourhood warlord, the mosques of Basra can be a sight to behold. This is especially true at dusk, when the soft light pours through the holes ripped through the roofs of the mosques by rocket propelled grenades and cascades over the tiled walls in a quite spiritual way.
The Anah Minaret
Stand in front of the palm tree surrounded Anah Minaret and think how beautiful Basra once was, then turn around, look at the flame lit sky, and leave.
With the recent influx of Brits, vacancies in the hotels in Basra are very rare. As are hotels. Or any kind of infrastructure for that matter.
However British holiday camps have been springing up around the outskirts of Basra ever since 2003. All that is required for you to stay there is a 12 week training programme and a tolerance of mortar fire. It is highly suggested that stays are booked in advance; driving up to said holiday camps in a car filled with boxes, water tubs and tent poles unannounced will only end in disappointment.
It is also suggested that the self-catering option is avoided due to the lack of food, water, electricity, gas and intact marketplaces in Basra.
Due to Iraq being a Muslim country, alcohol a is rarity. Meaning that anyone looking for a diversion that doesn't wish to visit an Afghani Hashish Den must look for other means of entertainment.
The Shatt al Arab
“Now 45% oil spill free!”
If you can avoid the sea mines, friendly Iranian border patrol guards and flaming oil spills, the Shatt al Arab can be a pleasant place for an afternoons swim with the kids. The sandy banks of the river can provide a pretty good spot for a riverside barbecue, a spot of sunbathing or a good old fashioned stoning.
Join the Insurgency
For a one-off starting fee paid to your nearest disgruntled ex-postman militia leader you can be given an insurgency starter pack. In this pack comes your standard RPG, AK47, fertiliser, detonators and suicide belt, plus a handy manual complete with map highlighting the nearest markets, school yards and transport system bottlenecks. From there, Basra is your proverbial oyster, so long as you don't threaten any oil supplies or Coalition troops, you're free to kill whoever you want, wherever you want.
And then, after all the killing, maiming and cowardly bomb attacks, you might even be employed in the unofficial police service by the Coalition Forces! It's win win.
It's highly recommended that you go around saying that temporary marriages are a good thing. The Sunnis love that shit.
Once a bastion of traditional Iraqi food, the Western contractors neglected to rebuild the traditional food outlets that were destroyed in the invasion for some reason. Thus, instead of the customary falafel, harissa or mujaddara, you now have the choice between McDonald's and Starbucks, enjoy.
When to Go
- Named in a similarly humorous fashion to Glasgow being called the "Venice of Great Britain".
- And a good souvenir rug.
- Complete with Butlinsesque drill yards and gruel!