Garbage seen in front of one of the ancient historic houses dated back to the time of Ottomans in the old downtown of Basra, Iraq May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani
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When Iraqi merchant Jabar Mohamed was growing up in the southern port city of Basra, he liked to watch boats gliding along a canal lined with palm trees and ancient buildings near his home.A shopping mall, some five-star hotels and elegant restaurants have sprung up in Basra since 2003 thanks to steady oil money – much of Iraq's crude comes from fields nearby – as well as port facilities and an international airport.Since 2003, state authorities have not restored a single house in Basra's historic Old City, made up of Ottoman buildings famous for wood carvings on balconies, windows and ceilings.Basra is one of the few cities in the Middle East without an effective water treatment system. It boasted an advanced sanitary infrastructure in the 1960s but it broke down decades ago, turning Basra's waterways into cesspools whose stink is compounded by a notoriously hot desert climate.Located at Iraq's marshy southern tip where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers merge near the Gulf, Basra was for centuries a melting pot of Arabs, Persians, Turks, Indians and Greeks who all left their cultural imprint.
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