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
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.