Two big news stories this year have been the return of the hospitality industry and continuing conflict in the greater Middle East. Few perhaps expected to see them combined—but for the real estate industry, a problem is just an opportunity with a typo and luxury hotels are springing up in the Iraqi and Afghan capitals.
The Serena Hotel, backed by Prince Aga Khan, the leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims, is the first international standard five-star hotel built in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The hotel comes with marble floors, gym, swimming pool, 177 luxury rooms, and—less conventionally, and as a result of Afghanistan's awkward lack of working infrastructure—its own generators, water well and sewage system. The whole thing cost $35 million to build, and will charge its guests $250 a night to stay—in a country where GDP per capita is around $800 a year. The backers are hoping that the Serena will attract businesspeople considering investing in the country and, eventually, wealthy tourists.
Baghdad, meanwhile, is planning a £48 million, 23-story hotel in the city center. Thair Feeley, of the Iraqi Commission for Investment, has claimed, that it will not be a five-star hotel “but a seven and a half stars one.” And in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, one of his former palaces is being turned into a theme park. The country's tourism board now employs 2,400 staff and is gearing up for a boom.
It's notable that the proposed hotel will be located in the Green Zone. This time, it seems, the green is for money.