I mentioned in my previous article that I have gathered some information regarding the work to preserve and restore Babylon. Today I’ll share with you the information that I have gathered in this lengthy article.
I think the ongoing status of Babylon’s preservation and restoration should be of some interest to people regardless of whether the city is Babylon the Great City mentioned in Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 or not. At the minimum, I believe Babylon is going to be a notable End Times city that will face its final destruction in the future. Recall, the Bible suggests that Babylon’s final destruction will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:
“(19) And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (20) It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.” (Isa 13:19-20)
“(39) Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. (40) As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.” (Jer 50:39-40)
Babylon’s ruins have not been wiped off the face of the earth and there is work ongoing to preserve and restore Babylon. For instance, the following video report shows an important museum located in Babylon reopening just a few months ago after being renovated:
The following passage from the most recent (February 2011) Babylon Damage Report summarizes where Babylon stands today:
Today, Babylon is an archaeological site overlaid with a few areas of reconstructed ancient buildings, extensive areas of modern construction dating to the rule of Saddam Hussein, and several villages. It is critical to recognize that the entire area within Babylon’s outer city wall and the 500 meter buffer zone that surrounds it is an archaeological site… (Pg. 7)
Much of the ongoing preservation and restoration work taking place in Babylon is organized under the Future of Babylon Project, which is jointly-run by the Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and the World Monuments Fund. The following video from the World Monuments Fund discusses the project’s purpose while showing some sites in Babylon.
The U.S. State Department gave $700,000 to the Future of Babylon Project in early 2009 to begin developing a management plan for the Babylon site. After the completion of the management plan, the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) awarded another $2 million to the Future of Babylon Project in November 2010. According to the New York Times, the $2 million will primarily go towards work to redirect water away from the Ishtar Gate’s foundation.
- The AFCP was created by the U.S. Congress more than 10 years ago to provide financial support to cultural heritage preservation efforts around the world. The AFCP has given away nearly $26 million since its inception to more than 640 projects in over 100 countries around the world. Therefore, it’s not unusual for the AFCP to award money to projects like the one ongoing in Babylon.
- However, the amount of money the Future of Babylon Project received from the AFCP is unusual. The AFCP announced in June 2010 that 63 cultural heritage sites around the world would receive award money totaling nearly $6 million. I viewed a list of award recipients and noticed that most sites received less than $100,000. Therefore, the AFCP’s willingness to provide $2 million to the Future of Babylon Project stands out because it is significantly more money than what the other cultural heritage sites received.
The Future of Babylon Project is expected to last an additional four years, and according to the State Department’s press release, the project will deal with the following:
The New York Times recently published an article about the recent activity taking place in Babylon. The article mentions that there is a hope to turn Babylon into a major tourist attraction. However, there are several ongoing issues which are making things difficult for those working at the site, including man-made damage to the site and Iraqi officials arguing about how to exploit Babylon for tourism.
The following video by The New York Times shows the current state of some of the sites in Babylon right now and shows how there is a lot of work to be done
Another major problem that Babylon faces is that it currently lacks infrastructure to support a lot of tourism. Mariam Omran Musa, the general inspector of the Babylon site, recently told Reuters that Babylon needs a huge amount of investment to buildup the infrastructure of the area:
After considering the information I’ve gathered, I believe it is going to take awhile to buildup Babylon.
- According to the U.S. State Department, it is going to take at least another four years for the Future of Babylon Project to complete its efforts to preserve the existing site. People working on the ongoing preservation efforts may try to slowdown the buildup process to protect the site as work continues to preserve it.
- It is going to take time for Babylon to attract the investment money needed to finance new construction projects.
- If/when the financing is secured, it is going to take time to build the infrastructure around Babylon to make it a location where people around the world can easily visit.
However, Iraq’s oil wealth is an important factor to consider when gauging its potential ability to afford making the investment necessary to turn Babylon into a major destination in the long-term. I believe Iraq is likely going to be in a good position to afford a buildup of Babylon in the future.
- Iraq is currently exporting around 2.6 million barrels of oil per day. If we assume the average price of a barrel of oil in a given year is $100 and Iraq exports an average 2.6 million barrels of oil per day in a given year, Iraq would earn nearly $95 billion in oil export revenue annually.
- Iraqi officials have recently made producing 6.5 to 7 million barrels of oil per day a goal to reach by 2017. If we assume the average price of a barrel of oil in a given year is $100 and Iraq exports an average of 6.75 million barrels of oil per day in a given year, Iraq would earn nearly $246.5 billion in oil export revenue annually.
- The difference in annual oil revenue with oil prices at $100 a barrel is over $151 billion. If/when Iraq’s oil exports reach 6.75 million barrels a day, the country would have over $151 billion in additional money annually to spend on projects like building up Babylon. The revenue difference could even be greater if oil prices rise further in the future (which I believe is likely in the long-run)
Iraq has significant incentive to buildup Babylon in the long-term. Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world. In fact, the Reuters article I mentioned earlier noted that the city’s historical importance rivals the importance of Egypt’s pyramids. Given Babylon’s historical importance, the site would likely become a major tourist attraction that could generate a large amount of tourist revenue for the country annually with more development.
- It would be wise for Iraq to build up its tourism industry to add diversity to its economy and to add another revenue source.
Time will tell how quickly Babylon is rebuilt and what kind of city it will be in the future. Regardless of whether the city turns out to become Babylon the Great City or not, the city’s progress is something to pay attention to in the future since its name appears in some important Bible prophecy passages.