Arts & Entertainment

Baghdad’s Al Rasheed theater rising from the ashes

By Amer Hamid

Baghdad, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- The prestigious Al Rasheed theater in Baghdad is being restored nearly two decades after it was almost completely destroyed during the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and the violent chaos that followed.

Constructed in 1981 by a French-Swiss company, the theater in the heart of the capital was destined to become one of the most important stages in the country, which at the time was a cultural hub in the Middle East region.

But 18 years later it was forced to lower the curtain.

“The building was severely damaged by bombing from the international coalition, led by the United States, as well as looting and fires that affected numerous government and cultural institutions,” Watid Abdelhadi, director of engineering at the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Cinema and Theater, told Efe.

The theater remained closed until May 2020, when officials were able to make the first “serious” advances towards its reconstruction and restoration, he added.

In the space of almost a year, workers have been able to restore the main auditorium, which has a capacity for 500 spectators, as well as other rooms and administrative offices in the nine-story building.

Abdelhadi hopes the theater can return to how it was before, welcoming artists from around the world.

He said the restoration had been made possible through donations from the theater’s managers and employees but that only through a personal initiative was he able to secure funding from government ministries, the private sector and banks.

Restoration efforts have faced obstacles from the get-go due to a lack of money and, according to Abdelhadi, because “the government has not dedicated a single fund to the restoration of the theater.”

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