Iraqi is rightly considered the cradle of civilization. Many empires were based there before the historic land turned into a country. Unfortunately, when people hear of Iraq today, many of them think of violence, chemical weapons, car bombs, and Saddam Hussein's palaces.
The construction of the palaces came at a massive cost to the Iraqis. During his 24-year reign, Saddam Hussein spent a lot of money making lavish palaces. Their income went down by two-thirds in the early 90s when palace constructions were most rampant.
To Saddam, the palaces expressed his power and authority over the Middle Eastern country. That is also why he ensured a palace in every significant town in the homeland.
Naturally, Saddam Hussein's palaces were full of luxuries, including his murals, swimming pools, and beautiful ornaments. Apparently, Saddam had about 80 to 100 castles, and most of them were built after 1991, once the Gulf War ended.
The US considered these residents perfect for hiding weapons of mass destruction, which is why they often scrutinized the lavish residences while Saddam was in power. That is probably why Saddam once said that he had made many palaces not to be easily targeted by his enemies as he moved around.
In fact, these were also the only places in the country that was well secured. Some of the residences had double walls to ensure they could withstand bombs, while others had elaborate tunnels.
The Iraqi ruler was so serious about the palaces and their security that when an Iraqi architect, Hussam Khadori, talked about them in a documentary, he was soon killed.
Saddam Hussein's Palaces After His Death
In 2003, US forces entered Iraq in a bid to overthrow the ruthless dictator. In the end, they were successful, and Saddam Hussein was hanged for his many crimes. Without wasting time, the US troops moved into Saddam Hussein's palaces.
Eventually, the troops also had to move out, and when they did, Saddam Hussein's palaces changed hands and ended up in the hands of looters. Any lost objects were stolen and sold by the looters.
Later, the looters also had to leave as well, and Saddam Hussein's Palaces became the property of the Iraqi government. Since then, there has been a debate on what should be done with the luxurious residences. Many of them are in a state of disrepair due to looting and vandalism.
Some people believe that Saddam Hussein's palaces should be restored to their former glory. Others think that leaving the palaces to fall apart is a more fitting way to 'honor' the endless horrors Saddam put the Iraqis through during his bloody reign.
Here is a look at a few of the most famous of Saddam Hussein's palaces and what became of them after he was removed from power.
1. The "Bird's Nest" Palace
This palace has one of the best views of the picturesque surroundings. It is located on top of Gara mountain. The luxurious residence featured Italian marble, among other extravagances.
"Bird's nest" was heavily looted after the first Gulf War in 1991.
Otherwise, the palace offers a cool breeze and breathtaking sights to this day.
2. The Republican Presidential Palace
One of the most luxurious of Saddam Hussein's Palaces was the Republican Presidential Palace, located in Baghdad. The place is enormous and elegant.
This was one of Saddam's favorite places when meeting other politicians.
Foreigners did not always find the palace as luxurious as everyone else seemed to think. The mattresses were too hard, the water consistently hot, and the old televisions had only a few channels.
The palace fell to the hands of looters after the abrupt end of Saddam's reign. Even the heavy brass doors were removed.
Saddam did not build this palace himself. King Faisal II constructed it in the 1950s, and the architect working on the project was J. Brian Cooper from England.
Initial plans were to turn it into a Royal Palace, but the king was killed before he moved in during a coup in 1958. For that reason, it was given the name the Republican Palace.
The US tried to preserve it during their invasion of Iraq, thinking that they would find important documents there.
Although the Republican Palace was once hit with a land missile, most of it is still in great shape.
3. Al-Faw Palace
Al-Faw was one of Saddam Hussein's palaces that did not suffer damage due to Gulf War II bombs. The palace had about half a million square feet of space, and it had 62 rooms, 29 of which were bathrooms.
Most notably, the palace was surrounded by an artificial lake with large bass. The troops liked to fish while staying there.
As grand as the palace was, it had chandeliers that were part plastic. The residence also had thin walls and fake gold.
4. Tikrit Palace
Tikrit palace is located along the Tigris River in a village called the city of palaces because the dictator had built many palaces along its river banks.
The palace had an artificial lake around it. After Saddam's reign, it was destroyed by looters, who took away everything, including the light switches. This ruined plans to turn the palace into a luxurious resort.
The palace was also the site of 1,700 executions by Islamic extremists. The bodies of the victims were thrown into the river, and the search for them continues to this day.
5. The Babylon Palace
As the name suggests, this palace is located in Babylon, and it is one of the most controversial of Saddam Hussein's palaces.
It was constructed in 1986 and is just a short distance from Babel.
Saddam went to great lengths to renovate it and even had an inscription glorifying him put on it.
Today, people can visit the palace and even see Saddam's former bedroom.
Saddam Hussein's Palaces Today
Many of Saddam Hussein's palaces are not doing as well as they did before his public execution nearly two decades ago. Many of them have fallen into disrepair, and most people feel that's appropriate given the Iraqi leader's terrifying reign.
Former Saddam Hussein's palaces are now properties of the Iraqi government. Fortunately, people can visit many of Saddam Hussein's palaces while touring Iraq and catching a glimpse of the kind of life the fallen dictator had before he was removed from power.
One of the palaces has been turned into Basra Museum since 2016. Some of the artifacts in the museum are thousands of years old.
The museum was opened with the intention of showing that there is a different side of Iraq while also helping Iraqis understand their culture. To many people, the hope the museum offers about the country may be its most significant treasure.