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Quaint old Iraqi hotel now home for displaced

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(16 Apr 2017) LEADIN:The old hotel of Sarsank used to host royalty and world leaders who came to relax in northern Iraq. But displaced Yazidi families are now the only people staying at this once exclusive resort.STORYLINE:Sarsank hotel - once a playground for the glitziest members of Iraqi and Arab society.But now it has a very different guest list.The building is home to 46 Yazidi families who fled their towns when the Islamic State group advanced across Iraq in August 2014.They found that the resort had fallen into disrepair."The hotel was in ruins. We started to clean it up and we did every possible thing to make it suitable for living," says Sahel Khalil Omar, who comes from Bashiqa.He never imagined he would one day stay in a place he had always dreamed about visiting."My hope had been to come here and stay in this hotel for one day during the summer holiday in this beautiful resort in the north," he says. "But then I was surprised to find that I had to stay here all this time in this lovely hotel."IS has been driven out of most the places these people come from.But the families are stuck at this hotel because the regained towns have been destroyed by fighting and reconstruction has not started.Known as the 'stone hotel', this place opened in 1951 and in its heyday was much loved by some of the region's most prominent figures."This hotel was visited by many Iraqi, Arab and international personalities, including, from among the Iraqi personalities the government ministers of Nouri al-Said," says local historian Nadif Mohammed Ali.He says various royals including King Faisal II also spent the summer season at the resort.Even Saddam Hussein was a fan, and refurbished the old royal penthouse in the eastern wing.Lebanese president Camille Chamoun is also known to have stayed here.After the 1991 Kurdish uprising when the Iraqi government lost control of the north, the hotel fell into disuse. Today, with the infrastructure destroyed and even the foundations of the building in a state of disrepair, it stands as something of a symbol of the fall of Iraq.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4091225 fb49413494440a8c383bceea794f71c9 MEEX Iraq Yazidi Hotel Saddam Hussein Iraq Middle East
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