Simon Urwin in BBC:
“This is not a scenic drive,” said James Willcox, of adventure travel specialist Untamed Borders. “But what’s incredible about Route 1 is where it takes you: to the birthplace of some of the world’s earliest civilisations, the home of many of humankind’s greatest innovations.”
Willcox, who was charged with logistics and security for my journey, was briefing me before I embarked on a 530km, two-day road trip from Basra to Baghdad. My trip would be using Iraq’s first and longest freeway, the 1,200km-long Route 1, as a conduit to explore the heart of ancient Mesopotamia. Though the region has experienced decades of recent conflict, it was also once home to a series of illustrious historical empires (the Babylonians, Assyrians and Sumerians to name a few), and Willcox reassured me that the journey would be unforgettable so long as I followed some simple rules: “Keep a low profile, dress conservatively and don’t photograph any of the armed checkpoints,” he said.
I flew into Basra, Iraq’s largest port. The city straddles the Shatt al-Arab river, which is formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates – the two mighty waterways that inspired the name Mesopotamia (meaning “between two rivers” in Greek).