Next stop the foothills of Iraq

Us cute hoors of Irish people just love to talk about our “place” abroad. We don’t do it in an openly boastful way like our American friends might be accustomed to but we’re mighty at slipping it into conversation that we’ve taken the plunge. Sure why not, you couldn’t be dealing with the rain and the wind which is now part and parcel of our Irish summer as well as our winter. We seem to have only one season these days apart from the odd showing by the summer sun.

And isn’t the sun just great for the bones, mighty for the arthritis, good for the skin even, but I can safely say it’s bad for the highlights. Not to worry, coming home from the holliers with a glowing green tinge through our blonde locks is a small price to pay for a week or two on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Whether it be an apartment in Spain, a timeshare in Portugal or a villa in Florida, we have taken to foreign investment like ducks to water.

But can you imagine what they’d have to say down in the pub if you arrived in one Tuesday evening after work for a quiet one only to announce that you had just bought a place in Iraq?

God bless us and save us, she has lost her marbles, call in the priest quick, and maybe even a shrink. Something along those lines, I would imagine. “I always knew she was a nut job, but Iraq, that takes the biscuit.”

But let me tell you, Iraq, it seems, is the latest investment hotspot. Not only can you enjoy dry, hot summers there, sipping a strawberry daiquiri in the dusty foothills surrounded by rebels armed with kalashnikovs, you can also take to the hills of Tarin for your winter skiing break.

All joking aside, Damac Properties has launched details of Tarin Hills, a resort which is to be built near Erbil in northern Iraq. Tourism, not terrorism, is the future of this country in western Asia.

The development will include a fully gated community with security fence, checkpoints, high-tech screening at entrance gates, numerous internal monitoring points, and around-the-clock security patrols as well as Mediterranean-style villas, town houses and apartments. Facilities include a spa, sports centre, 18-hole golf course, children’s play area, shopping mall, water and theme park and hotels.

This is apparently going to be the biggest investment contract signed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq war in 2003. Damac Properties has signed a €2.5 billion deal to build basically a new community in an area currently home to a few families and shepherds, as reported in the Irish Times this week.

The development is due for completion in 2010, hopefully around the time the Irish recession should be subsiding, so our appetites for foreign investment will be healthy and raring to go. Actually a generation of Irish tradespeople might find employment out there to get them through the hard times and offer them a chance to experience a very different culture.

If you’re daring enough you could even move out there full time because included in the plans are primary and secondary schools, a medical centre and a lake. The only thing is, Erbil is only 300km from Baghdad and 100km from the Turkish border where Kurdish militants are active. On a serious note let’s hope that by 2010 they will have put down their weapons to allow this war-torn country regain some normality and market itself as a holiday destination.



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