PREPARING THE DEFENCES
Al-Taee’s worst enemy, salt, is evident everywhere.
Modern maintenance work on some of Babylon’s monuments used concrete and cement to repair damaged facades and fill cracks, a method he said had exacerbated damage arising from rising salt levels combined with the region’s high humidity.
Another of the projects that Al-Taee works on involves removing concrete from around the ruins and replacing it with more porous material, such as river stones, another construction technique employed by the area’s residents in past millennia.
“Humidity doesn’t like cement and concrete. It can’t get out of it, so it began going after the weaker places. Of course, mudbrick is weaker, so it started exiting through it,” he said.
That accelerated the erosion of the mudbricks and the numerous engravings that once adorned the walls next to the Ishtar Gate, a colossal structure that towered over Babylon’s main thoroughfare.
An inscription of Marduk, Babylon’s chief deity, still decorates the walls leading to the gate, depicting the god as a hybrid sphinx-like creature with the head of a snake, the front legs of a lion, and a scorpion’s tail.
But below him, an image of Adad, the god of weather, is barely visible – lost to the ravages of time and climate change.
Of the original engraving of a bull, only a hoof can be seen today, and the lower parts of the walls are stained with salty white veins.
Despite the magnitude of the problem, Al-Taee said he receives no support from the Iraqi government. His current projects depend entirely on foreign funding.
“The lack of support and investment from the government is our biggest challenge,” he said, pointing to the high cost of basic supplies – even clean water, which has become more expensive in drought-plagued Iraq.
The Iraqi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.