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Babel: the famous tower and the meaning of the history of Babylon

The name of the Babel Tours agency evokes a number of past and present high points in Iraqi history:

- The Tower of Babel: according to the symbolic story in the Scriptures (Genesis 11, 1-9), all men originally spoke the same language. The story says that their ambition drove them to build a very high tower in a place called Shinar (Sumer for the Sumerians). In so doing, they wanted to reach the heavens for their own personal glory! The Bible story tells of how these ambitions failed and yet delivers an extraordinary message through the new name given to the town: Babel. Nothing in the Bible story actually says that the tower was destroyed. It simply states that the inhabitants "left off to build the city" (Genesis 11, 8).

- The name of Babel. The name of Babel in the bible is clearly significant in Hebrew and, as is frequently the case, has a number of meanings: Babel means "to mix" or "mixture". It also, and perhaps more importantly, means "Doorway to God", an etymology that can also be found in Arabic and most of the Semitic languages.

Through the image of this tower and the meaning behind its name, Babel Tours aims to express the reality of Iraqi Kurdistan and indeed Iraq as a whole: Iraq is a land that welcomes a melting pot of cultures and religions, of traditions and languages. Iraq is also a land that has experienced too much suffering at the hands of those who ruled the country and sometimes those who invaded from outside. And yet, Iraq remains this Doorway to God, this place where the mix of men and cultures is capable of bearing the finest fruit. This name, "Doorway to God", applies to Iraq today and, with the help of the men and women of good will who live in or visit the country, it will without doubt be even more relevant in the future. It is a land capable of carrying a spiritual message ensuring respect for each religion and each tradition. Violence can never achieve anything, regardless of whether it claims divine justification. Acceptance of differences and the ability to live together in mutual respect are already bearing the fruits of peace in Iraq and Babel Tours, through its high-quality tours to the country, is committed to contributing to this labour of peace and knowledge.

The city of Babel or Babylon is located 90 km south of Baghdad. At the time of the Akkadians and Sumerians, in the second half of the third millennium before Christ, Babel was nothing more than a very small town. Nimrod would seem to have been the first king and his reign bears all the hallmarks of a totalitarian regime (Genesis 10, 8 and numerous archaeological sources). But it was Hammurabi, the sixth King of Babylon, who brought to the city its true splendour and greatness. His reign was a long one (from 1792 to 1750 B.C.) and he enabled the people to adopt a single language, Akkadian. Through his famous code (1730 B.C.), he also introduced the notion of one law for all, a law that most specialists today consider to be the forerunner of all modern legal systems. A place of incomprehension and conflict, a place of lawlessness, thus became a place of unification and harmonisation, allowing the inhabitants to live together. During the course of one of the many invasions of Babylon, the Code was taken in around 1200 BC to the town of Susa, in Iran. It was there that it was discovered by the expedition headed by the Assyriologist Jean-Vincent Scheil in December 1901 and is now to be found in the Louvre Museum in Paris. But Babel remains the place where Hammurabi's Code was written and etched in stone. It is one of the strongest symbols of the great civilisation of Mesopotamia, the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is this region, more particularly the city of Ur in Chaldea, that was the birthplace of Abraham, the "Father of the Faithful".

Babel Tours identifies strongly with this biblical and cultural heritage. We hope that in the near future it will be possible to resume pilgrimages to Babylon, about forty kilometres from the modern city of Hilla. But we know that simply by enabling travellers to visit Iraq, we will offer the opportunity the many with a passionate interest in culture and faith to travel to a land that is one of the principal cradles of civilisation. The area that can today really be visited in Iraq, is the autonomous province of Iraqi Kurdistan.