Najaf's contested tourism bids

Iraqi merchants say Iranian companies control tourism to the south's holy cites.




    Iraq has moved to capitalise on religious tourism to some of its most revered sites in recent years.

    Hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims, particularly from Iran, flock to the city of Najaf, which hosts the tomb of Ali bin Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.

    Although religious tourism brings millions of dollars of revenue every year, local merchants have complained that Iranian companies have monopolised the industry.
     
    They say the Iraqi government has awarded tourism contracts geared toward Iranian pilgrims and that the Iranian Hajj organisation was granted exclusive rights to put together package deals for hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims visiting Shia holy sites.
     
    The exclusive deal for Iranians has kept food and board prices artificially low at a select number of contracted hotels and restaurants, they argue.
     
    Al Jazeera's Mosab Jasim looks at how the contracts affect the local economies in southern Iraq.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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