By John Lee.

A delegation from the Saudi Arabian government reportedly arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to discuss the construction of a 100,000-seater football stadium.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman promised last March to build a football stadium in Iraq.

According to some reports, it was later announced that Saudi Arabia would increase the number of seats to 135,000.

(Source: Xinhua, Al-Monitor)

By John Lee.

UAE-based Rotana Hotels has signed a hotel management agreement with Al Ibaa Company to operate a five-star property in Baghdad.

Effective 1 February 2019, Rotana will operate the city’s famed Babylon Hotel under its new brand name Babylon Rotana Baghdad.

With a prime location next to the high-security Green Zone, close to the banks of the famous Tigris River and just 30 minutes’ drive from Baghdad International Airport, Babylon Rotana will offer long and short-staying guests alike all the comfort required for a pleasant and memorable stay experience.

Boasting avant-garde architecture, the hotel features 284 spacious and modern rooms and suites with stunning views of Baghdad’s skyline and the majestic Tigris River. The hotel’s striking pyramid design and extensive gardens are truly fitting to the Babylonian heritage of the city.

Imad Al Yasri, Chairman, Al Ibaa Company, commented:

“It gives us immense pleasure to partner with Rotana to operate our five-star property in Baghdad, and we are excited about the planned upgrade and refurbishment of the hotel. We are confident that the partnership with Rotana will present a compelling value proposition for our guests, employees, and stakeholders, and further drive our business growth. We look forward to working closely with Rotana to enhance the overall performance of the hotel, thereby contributing to the development of a thriving hospitality market in the capital city.”

Commenting on the agreement, Guy Hutchinson, Acting CEO, Rotana, said:

“At Rotana, we are delighted to have made a strong start to the New Year with the signing of the agreement to operate the Babylon Rotana Baghdad. This new milestone is closely aligned with our vision to further deepen our footprint in the region and cement our leadership position in the hospitality sector.

As a result of its ambitious reconstruction efforts, Iraq has achieved tremendous progress in accelerating economic growth and development and improving the security environment in the country over the last few years. Likewise, the capital Baghdad has been experiencing a robust increase in the number of corporate and leisure travellers, thanks to its greater financial stability and rebounding tourism sector.

“With these prospects, the country is increasingly becoming an attractive market for hospitality investments. At Rotana, we will continue to seek new opportunities to further enhance our presence in this market.

Considered one of the city’s top dining destinations, the hotel’s offerings include five dining venues and a range of authentic regional and international cuisines, with both indoor and outdoor seating areas. To cater to the needs of corporate travellers, the hotel offers an extensive business centre, fully-equipped meeting rooms and event venues, and a ballroom that can host up to 600 guests.

The hotel also features a host of entertainment and leisure offerings, including tennis courts, Bodylines Fitness & Wellness Club, temperature controlled indoor and outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pools, and kids’ play facilities.

Babylon Rotana Baghdad will join the company’s three operating hotels in Iraq, including Erbil Rotana, Erbil Arjaan by Rotana, and Karbala Rayhaan by Rotana, bringing Rotana’s total inventory into 838 operating keys. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Rotana will open Slemani Rotana, Sulaymaniyah, adding 240 rooms to the country’s growing hospitality inventory.

(Source: Rotana)

By John Lee.

Docomo Digital, part of Japan’s NTT Docomo, has said it is launching a mobile gaming platform with Zain Iraq, giving more than 16 million subscribers the ability to access hundreds of titles using direct carrier billing on monthly phone bills.

Zain Games’ GamEmpire is a bundle of native and HTML5 games that can be streamed directly to mobile phones or tablets.

Docomo Digital and Zain, a leading mobile operator in the Middle East and Africa, signed the initial agreement in early 2018 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The partnership allows Zain’s 46.9 million customers to access mobile content from Docomo and have it billed monthly through the carrier.

Zain, which operates in eight countries in the region, has already launched the service in Saudi Arabia,  Kuwait and Jordan. Additional rollouts are scheduled for Bahrain and Lebanon over the next few months.

Hiroyuki Sato (pictured), Docomo Digital CEO, said:

Launching our games platform in Iraq marks yet another important milestone in our important partnership with the Zain Group, and our first such partnership in Iraq.

“We are committed to expanding our footprint across the Middle East and we hope to bring our latest suite of content and billing services to Zain’s subscribers across the region.”

(Source: Docomo Digital)

By John Lee.

The head of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Board of Tourism has reportedly said that tourism is expected to “approach” 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

Mawlawi Jabar Wahab told Rudaw that this would be roughly double the sector’s current size.

Visitor numbers are now beginning to climb once more, topping three million in 2018.

More here.

(Source: Rudaw)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the fact that each year, 7 million Iraqis and Iranians visit each other’s country is a sign of the two neighboring countries’ close ties.

Speaking at a meeting with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi in Baghdad on Monday, attended by the chairmen of the Iraqi parliamentary factions, Zarif hailed the relations between the two countries, the parliamentary ties in particular.

The fact that seven million Iranians and Iraqis visit each other’s country each year is an outstanding sign of “the proximity of the two great nations,” Zarif said.

Every year, a large number of Iranians visit Iraq for pilgrimage. Iranian pilgrims travel to Karbala, Najaf and Baghdad to pay homage to Shia Imams buried in Iraq.

Iraqis visit the Iranian cities of Mashhad and Qom for pilgrimage.

The Iraqi parliament speaker, for his part, referred to the two countries’ common interests and praised Iran’s role in helping the Iraqi people defeat the Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) terror group.

Daesh militants made swift advances in much of northern and western Iraq over the summer of 2014, after capturing large swaths of northern Syria.

However, a combination of concentrated attacks by the Iraqi military and the volunteer forces, who rushed to take arms after top Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa calling for fight against the militants, blunted the edge of Daesh offensive.

In November 2017, the self-proclaimed caliphate of Daesh collapsed after Syrian and Iraqi armed forces and their allies managed to recapture the terror group’s last strongholds in the two Arab countries.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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

For centuries, the Iraqi city of Mosul was a magnet for artists across the region and churned out Iraq’s best musicians — but it suffered a devastating ban on music under the rule of the Islamic State group.

Now free from jihadi rule since July 2017, Mosul is starting to make a musical comeback.

View on YouTube

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

In Iraq, the toughest female competitors, best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are considered to be in the Kurdish-majority northern region:

View on YouTube

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

Flipping, spinning and pinning each other on the mat, women on Iraq’s first female wrestling squad wrangle in the ring but they also grapple with reactions taking on a sport largely reserved for men in an Iraqi region with strict traditions.

View on YouTube

The number of tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region this year reached a record high, according to Mr. Mawlawi Jabar, Chairman of the General Board of Tourism.

In an interview with the Kurdistan Regional Government website, Mr. Jabar noted:

In the first six months of 2018, 1.3 million tourists visited the Kurdistan Region, mostly from central and southern Iraq. During the 11-day Eid al-Adha holiday, there were 349,000 tourists, spending 140 billion dinars in the Region.

“In the first four months of 2018 there was a good influx of Iranian tourists visiting the Region. After the Iranian authorities imposed taxes on its citizens for traveling abroad, however, the number significantly decreased. Though smaller in numbers, tourists from other countries are also preferring to visit the Region.

While neighboring countries offer lower costs to Iraqi tourists, the ratio of Iraqi tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region continues to rise.

Mr. Jabar added:

A comprehensive tourism development strategy has been in place since 2014, but the ISIS war and financial crises restricted implementation of strategic plans. Since 2016, however, implementation has been gradually reactivated. For example, loans have been extended to small and medium tourism projects.

“The Board of Tourism has a special department for invigorating protection of the environment. To raise awareness, we are working to protect the environment through the media, publications and other awareness tools.

Regarding private sector’s role in developing tourism, he said, “Part of the strategic plan is to support the essential role of the private sector. He said Kurdistan’s tourism companies have good relations with companies abroad and play an important role in attracting tourists.

He said, “Tourism investment has rapidly grown in the Kurdistan Region and its effectiveness is illustrated by the rising number of visitors and revenue.

(Source: KRG)

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

US sanctions have made it too expensive for Iranian Shia Muslims to travel to Iraq to mark Ashoura.

Ashoura is a day of remembrance, commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad: