Restoring Babylon to Old Glory


Babylon was once a booming ancient city in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.  Built almost 4,000 years ago, it became a cultural center, a place where writing and literature started. Babylon belonged to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World with its hanging gardens and old walls. However, after decades of ignorance and years of carelessness Babylon does not resemble what it once used to be.

Despite these ancient treasures Babylon is without tourists. The city lies just south of Bagdad, but the wars and conflicts in Iraq have destroyed the city’s archaeological remains.

In the early 20th century archaeologists started uncovering the treasures of ancient Babylon. Because most of them were Europeans they took valuable findings with them, for example the famous Ishtar Gate , which now stands in Berlin.


When Saddam Hussein came to power towards the end of the 1970s he began turning the historic site into a symbol of his own power. In the reconstruction programs of the 80s Saddam ordered that he be remembered for rebuilding Babylon. A new palace was built on top of the ruins of the ancient city. He had his name inscribed on bricks, just like Nebuchadnezzar did centuries ago. Future tourists should not see the ancient Babylon, but a glorification of Iraq’s dictator. In addition, the archeologists of the time dug carelessly and were not very cautious about preserving Babylon.

When the Americans came in 2003 they occupied the palace and made it one of their bases. Today, barbed wire reminds visitors of the occupiers.

The ancient site has suffered from economic and ecological sins that have been committed. Erosion created by salt water canals that run under the city has damaged walls. And an oil pipeline also runs through the city

Still, the present day Iraqi government is not giving up on Babylon’s restoration. In 2009 the site was reopened to tourism. The United States has promised to help in the efforts to restore Babylon. There is much to do. Only a small part of the city has been excavated and there is no trace of the famous Hanging Gardens or the legendary Tower of Babel.




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  • ancient = old
  • archaeologist = person who studies old cultures and buildings and tries to set them free
  • barbed wire = thin metal with short, sharp points
  • booming = very important, full of life
  • brick = block of baked earth
  • carelessly = not very exact
  • carelessness  = not caring about
  • cautious = careful
  • century = a hundred years
  • commit = do
  • cradle of civilization = where civilization started
  • damage = destroy completely
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • despite = even though
  • destroy = damage completely
  • dig – dug = get something out of a hole in the earth
  • ecological sin = something that people have done, which is bad for the world around us
  • effort = try, attempt
  • erosion = when rock and soil is slowly destroyed by water or wind
  • excavate = dig out
  • finding = discovery
  • glorification = to make someone more important than it really is
  • however = but
  • ignorance = not caring about something
  • in addition = also
  • inscribe = write on
  • Mesopotamia = area around the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, in today’s Iraq; it is the place where the first cities were built
  • Nebuchadnezzar = old king of Babylon
  • occupy = to march into a place with an army and control it
  • palace = very luxurious, official home of a person in a high position
  • present day = now
  • preserve = save
  • promise = to say you will do something
  • reconstruction = rebuild
  • remains = what is left of
  • resemble = look like
  • restore = put back into an earlier condition
  • ruins = what is left of something
  • site = location
  • suffer = endure, go through
  • trace = sign
  • treasures = valuable buildings and other items
  • uncover = set free, dig out
  • valuable = important, expensive, costly