From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Mheibes: Iraq’s Ramadan ring game returns after ISIL’s defeat

A traditional Arab game is making a welcome return for players in northern Iraq.

Known as the ring game or Mheibes, it has been played by Iraqis for decades during Ramadan.

However, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) banned the popular pastime in Mosul when it took over the city five years ago.

Now, with the ISIL gone, it’s game on again.

Al Jazeera‘s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad:

Iraqi officials said they have successfully carried out a plan to ensure the security of pilgrims converging on the holy city of Najaf, south of Iraq, to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Ali (PBUH).

In a statement on Monday, the central Euphrates operations command said the Iraqi security forces have managed to implement a plan to provide security for the pilgrims gathering in Najaf to pay tribute to Imam Ali (PBUH) on his martyrdom anniversary and to mark Laylat al-Qadr.

Highlighting the success of the security scheme, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Major General Qais Khalaf al-Mohammedawi, head of the central Euphrates operations command, has been overseeing the operation in person, Alforat reported.

In another successful operation in Baghdad, the security forces prevented an explosive-laden vehicle from entering the capital.

Officials said the affiliates of Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group had plans to deploy the car bomb into Baghdad, but the security forces at a checkpoint in Abu Ghraib road foiled the plot.

Each year in the Islamic month of Ramadan, Iraq steps up security in the holy city of Najaf to ensure the security of pilgrims.

A large number of Shiites from Iran and other countries travel to Najaf to mark the martyrdom of Imam Ali (PBUH) on 21st of Ramadan (the 9th month in the lunar Hijri calendar).

The shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH), Shiites’ first imam, is located in Najaf, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad. The city is now a great center of pilgrimage from around the Shiite Islamic world.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Our friend and former contributor Robert Tollast has been touring Iraq’s religious and archeological sites.

Writing in Middle East Eye, he says:

“Iraq still gives visitors a sense of having a private viewing of some of the world’s wonders, such as the 4,000-year-old ruins of Babylon, and the awe-inspiring Holy Shrines of Hussein and Ali with their intricate mirrored ceilings and breathtaking tile work.”

His full article can be read here.

(Picture Credit: Middle East Eye / Charlotte Mayhew)

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad hasd advised all U.S. citizens of heightened tensions in Iraq and the requirement to remain vigilant.

Actions to Take:

  • Do not travel to Iraq
  • Avoid places known as U.S. citizen gathering points.
  • Keep a low profile
  • Be aware of your surroundings

Assistance:

U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Al-Kindi Street, International Zone, Baghdad
Telephone (during business hours)

From Iraq:  0760-030-3000;

From the United States:  301-985-8841
U.S. Citizen Emergency After-Hours Telephone (ask for the duty officer)

From Iraq:  0760-030-3000;

From the United States:  301-985-8841

E-mail: BaghdadACS@state.gov
Website: https://iq.usembassy.gov/

U.S. Consulate General Erbil
413 Ishtar, Ankawa Erbil, Iraq
Telephone (during business hours)

From Iraq:  0760-030-3227;

From the United States:  240-264-3467 extension 4554
U.S. Citizen Emergency After-Hours Telephone (ask for the duty officer)

From Iraq:  066-211-4554;

From the United States:  240-264-3467

E-mail: ErbilACS@state.gov
Website: https://iq.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/erbil/

State Department – Consular Affairs
888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

(Source: US Embassy)

By John Lee.

The Turkish charter company Freebird Airlines will reportedly offer flights from Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands to Erbil and Sulaymaniya throughout the summer.

According to Eindhoven News, flights depart once a week from April to October.

(Source: Eindhoven News)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq to expand Karbala shrine for growing number of pilgrims

The Iraqi city of Karbala is planning a major expansion of a key religious site to cope with a growing number of pilgrims.

More than 30 million people visit the shrines of Imam Hussein and Abbas each year.

Al Jazeera‘s Dorsa Jabbari reports from Karbala:

By John Lee.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has reportedly committed a grant of $1 billion to build a sports city in Iraq.

A high level Saudi delegation traveled to Baghdad on Wednesday for meetings with Iraqi officials on trade and investment.

(Sources: Arab News, Reuters)

Iraq on Monday began issuing entry visa for Iranians free of charge in a reciprocal move under a deal reached three weeks ago.

As of Monday, Iranians travelling to Iraq could obtain visa free of charge.

The Iraqi cabinet of ministers said the decision that took effect on April 1 has been made as a reciprocal move which had been agreed upon during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq.

After the conclusion of five agreements between Tehran and Baghdad on March 12, President Rouhani said the two Muslim neighbors have agreed to lift visa requirements for the citizens of both nations, including pilgrims and tourists.

“The Iraqi side currently prefers the visa regime, but there is no payment for a visa, which is a step forward in the process of facilitating the relations between the two nations,” the Iranian president has said in a landmark visit to Iraq.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a delegation from the Spanish Real Madrid Club March 21 to discuss joint sports projects in Iraq.

The delegation’s visit was welcomed by not only Iraq’s sports and political elites, but also by the Iraqi people, known for their love for soccer and their enthusiasm for La Liga, Spain’s professional soccer league.

Iraqis have set up a Real Madrid Football Fan Association in Iraq and last year, the Espanyol Football Club from Barcelona opened its own soccer academy in Baghdad with Iraqi coaches. The academy participated in this month’s youth Black Sea Cup in Russia.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The General Company for Land Transport (GCLT) has held a meeting with its Saudi Arabian counterpart to discuss the opening of the Arar border crossing between the two countries.

According to a statement from Iraq’s Ministry of Transport, the participants stressed the importance of the new border facility for commercial trade and religious tourism.

A report this week from Asharq al-Awsat quotes the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Customs Authority, Ahmed al-Hakbani, as saying that the new crossing will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and meet international standards, adding that he expected it to become “the top global crossing in terms of technology.”

(Sources: Iraqi Ministry of Transport, Asharq al-Awsat)