KRG looks to boost religious tourism: Official
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) –The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) plans to renovate and upgrade religious sites in the Kurdistan region to attract tourists, an official from the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs said.
To develop several religious sites across the Kurdish provinces, the Ministry has opened a new division, named the office of religious tourism, to implement plans to increase tourism, Nabaz Ismael, a spokesperson from the ministry recently told KRG media.
“The [new] division is focusing on designing the religious sites in coordination with academic and cultural experts to renovate the sites with the aim to create significant religious tourism centers,” so tourists all over the world can visit Kurdistan, Ismael said.
The Kurdistan Region has more than 5,000 mosques, 145 churches, and 400 other inter-faith sites, he said.
At least eight religious components have been registered officially at the ministry under a directorate called “religious coexistence”, the official said.
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani had previously approved the renovation projects of religious places, including Sultan Muzaffar ad-Din Shrine in Erbil and the Yezidis’ Lalish Temple in the Duhok province.
Praised for its “haven” in the Middle East, Iraq’s Kurdistan region has been a long-standing supporter of religious tolerance and the protection of minority groups.
With the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014, thousands of Christians in the Nineveh Plains and other parts of the country fled to the Kurdistan region for sanctuary.