BAGHDAD -- March 22, 2013 -- Sewing machines buzz inside the Iraq Fashion House as dressmakers work late into the night behind concrete blast walls readying intricately embroidered costumes. Models rehearse for an upcoming show upstairs.
The energetic atmosphere is in stark contrast to the nearby Iraqi National Museum, which remains closed to the public a decade after it was looted along with other government buildings following the U.S.-led invasion.
On Saturday, the Iraqi capital becomes this year's Arab Capital of Culture, and organizers are hoping to use the title to quicken the pulse of Baghdad's ailing cultural life. Manama, Bahrain, was the last capital to hold the honor bestowed by the Arab League under a program set up in 1995 with the help of the U.N. Education, Science and Culture Organization program.
But there are signs the battle-scarred city is not yet ready to reclaim its place among the Arab world's cultural jewels.
Despite a staggering $500 million budget for the yearlong initiative, security remains a worry and authorities have failed to renovate several cultural buildings that were damaged or neglected following the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. read more>>>