In a good sign for Iraq's battered tourism industry, the past week has seen a flurry of inaugural flights to or from Baghdad.
Monday, an Etihad flight touched down in the Iraqi capital, the first of five weekly flights that operate between Abu Dhabi and Baghdad. Flight EY555 to Baghdad departs Abu Dhabi on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 am, arriving at Baghdad's international airport at 11:25 am the same day.
In Britain, the first passenger flight between Baghdad and London in 20 years touched down at Gatwick airport on April 25, operated by Iraqi Airways. Although it made a scheduled stop in Sweden for extra security checks before passing into British airspace, Iraqi officials say that before long the route will be flown twice weekly direct from London to Baghdad.
On the same day, Lufthansa resumed flights to Iraq, beginning its regular service between Frankfurt at the Northern Iraqi city of Erbil. It will fly the four and a half hour route four times a week, joining Austrian Airlines which also runs a codeshare five times a week to the city. It announced earlier this year that it intended to fly to the Iraqi capital by the summer.
"The demand for flights to Iraq is growing amid signs of an economic recovery and foreign investment," said the airline. "Lufthansa also plans to resume flights to the Iraqi capital Baghdad this year and is currently making the necessary preparations to do so."
Although Iraq received a million tourists from neighboring Middle Eastern countries in 2008, its tourism infrastructure is still in need of repair after the war and significant patronage from Western tourists has yet to take off.
With the considerable improvement in the security situation, government officials hope that attractions such as the legendary Babylon and the Garden of Eden can encourage visitors and prove a valuable source of income.
The progress has been encouraging - the number of regular air routes between Iraq and the world has jumped from six 18 months ago to 26 today.