Basra Museum: How Saddam's palace was given to the people

The former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, built more than 70 luxurious palaces during his 24-year rule. Now one in Basra is being used to showcase the region's historical treasures.

Hundreds poured through the huge iron doors protecting the antiquities this week to gaze at the remnants of their rich past. The project - a brainchild of the British Army and Qahtan al-Obaid, the museum director - is not finished, but one gallery is open to the public.

The man who managed the renovation, 27-year-old Mahdi Aloosawi, has spent the past three years painting, building and installing pipelines and electricity. The building was for years used as an operational centre by the British army, and had been severely damaged by militia who objected to their presence in the city. Once a symbol of power and grandeur, it had become a ruin. The front facade and columns were falling apart.

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