Investors are moving forward with plans to build an amusement park in Baghdad, arguing the Iraqi capital is in dire need of entertainment facilities. Many worry that security concerns will disrupt those plans.
"Mr Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is pouring millions of dollars into developing The Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. It is being designed by the same firm that developed Disneyland."
"'The people of Iraq need this kind of positive influence. It's going to have a huge psychological impact,' Mr Werner said."
"The 50-acre swath of land, which sits adjacent to the Green Zone and encompasses Baghdad's existing zoo, was looted, left without power and abandoned after the American-led invasion in 2003. Only 35 of 700 animals remained after the invasion. Some had died of starvation, some were stolen and some killed for food by Iraqis fearing that war would bring food shortages."
"In the years that followed the Zoo and the surrounding al-Zawra park became an occasional target for insurgent attacks. But in recent months, families have cautiously begun to return for weekend picnics. Renovations have already begun on the zoo, with cages being repainted and new animals arriving, including ostriches, bears and a lion."
"'There is a shortage of entertainment in the city. Cinemas can't open. Playgrounds can't open. The fun park is badly needed for Baghdad. Children don't have any opportunities to enjoy their childhood.' Mr al-Dabbagh added that entry to the park would be strictly controlled through tight security."
"The project will cost $500 million to develop and will be managed by Iraqis. Under the terms of the lease, Mr Werner will retain exclusive rights to housing and hotel developments, which he says will be both 'culturally sensitive' and enormously profitable - 'I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't making money,' he said."