Apr 8 2012
By Saadoun al-Jabiri
Azzaman, April 8, 2012
The religious city of Najaf has turned into a hub for foreign investments mainly in areas of housing and tourism as numbers of foreign pilgrims to the city surge.
“Najaf has attracted massive sums of hard cash estimated at $7 billion to be invested in sectors such as housing, construction, industry, agriculture, transport and tourism,” said the head of Najaf Investment Commission Wafi al-Bahhash.
Early this month, Bahhash said that his commission granted new licenses for entrepreneurs willing to construct a $247 million housing complex in the city.
“We have so far given 176 licenses and more applications are waiting for approval,” Bahhash said.
Najaf and Karbala are Muslims’ most sacred sites after those in Saudi Arabia. The two cities are holy for Muslim Shiites and hundreds of thousands of foreign pilgrims flock to the city during religious occasions.
Najaf has seen more development than any of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Scores of new hotels, housing complexes and tourism-related utilities are under construction in the city.
Najaf is the capital of a province of the same name. It is the site where Imam Ali, Shiite Muslim’s most revered saint, is buried.
The city is also reputed for its sprawling cemetery, believed to be the world’s largest.
To be buried in Najaf’s cemetery is a dream for millions of Shiites across the world.
Burial ceremonies and accessories have turned into an industry, employing thousands of people.
Bodies of Shiites from countries as far as Pakistan are brought for burial in Najaf.
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