In an attempt to restore national pride and tourism to one of the oldest landmarks in Iraq, American Paratroopers and Iraqi army soldiers discussed plans for renovating the area surrounding the famous Arch of Ctesiphon in Salman Pak, Aug. 5.
The all-brick arch was built nearly 16 centuries ago and is one of the oldest free standing arches in the world. But years of neglect and war in the region have transformed the once popular attraction into an Iraqi army outpost surrounded by acres of trash and rubble.
However, as conditions in Iraq continue to improve, a new effort to renovate the area was discussed between U.S. and Iraqi army officials during a site assessment mission in the hopes to bring some heritage and stability back to the people of the greater Ma’dain region.
“About 25 years ago this area was very popular and people came from all over Iraq to trade at the marketplace that used to be here,” said Iraqi Capt. Abbas Kadhum, an Iraqi army officer who grew up in the region and currently oversees the outpost around the arch. “There was music playing all the time here, and the large fountain used to have running water that the kids would play in.”
“It was sad to see this place get torn apart in the 1990s when residents started taking ancient bricks from the arch to build their houses and walls,” added Kadhum.
Iraqi and U.S. forces discussed their hopes to start several projects at the arch site within the next few months.
“We want to start improving the area by working around the arch, I think that’s our quick fix,” said Capt. Dallas Cheatham, of Fayetteville N.C., the commanding officer of Company B, 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “The first thing we are going to try and do is build a fence around this area and plant grass and trees, trying to make the area more beautiful and inviting.”
Cheatham said another goal for the project is to bring some tourism to the area that will display Iraq’s history and culture.
“The Iraqi people need a sense of pride and heritage for their country and few places in Iraq are as symbolic as the arch,” said Cheatham.
Cheatham also said once the surrounding area is complete, restoration of the surrounding buildings on the site will be looked into. These areas include the courtyard fountain, a nearby pool, visitors’ center, and the large panoramic building, which were all built in the 1980s to help bring more people to the ancient attraction.
“I’m really excited about the reconstruction and I hope it all goes well,” said Kadhum.
Cheatham emphasized that the reconstruction of this area would also symbolize the overall reconstruction of the war-torn nation and would give many of the Iraqi people hope and encouragement for the country’s future.
Story by Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann