After serving as a mess hall for the British army during the war, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's palace in Basra, Iraq will turn into a museum in September 2016. The palace will become the first museum to open in Iraq since the British troops pulled out of the war-torn country in 2007.
"We want a very modern museum that does more than display objects. We want to bring in people for all kinds of art and cultural activities, including training courses and professional meetings," said Qahtan al-Abeed, director of the Basra section of the state board of antiquities and heritage in Iraq. "We want to make this a heritage area with hotels and restaurants and a heritage museum, but being sure that people still live here. We want to make this like Granada in Spain, but this is a 15-to 20-year project."
The project is estimated to cost $3.5m (£2.5m) and will lend nearly 3,500 objects from Baghdad's Iraq Museum spanning across periods from Babylon and Assyria. The project will be part funded ($500,000) by British charity Friends of Basrah Museum while the remainder of the funds ($3m) will come from the Basra government.
According to the National Geographic, the British Museum has even offered curatorial support to the project for free. Abeed had reportedly requested Baghdad to "turn the palace over to us" after the British troops exited the country.
Abeed hopes to transform the ancient port city of Basra into a Unesco World Heritage. However, there remains a challenge –above the palace's main door lies the Iraqi dictator's name, carved in Arabic calligraphy with the soubriquet "Prince of Arabs." Mahdi al-Musawi who belongs to the construction company in charge of the museum's transform says: "Politicians will be here for the dedication. They won't be happy with this."