- Title: In the ruins of an Iraqi city, memories of Agatha Christie
- Date: 4th August 2017
- Summary: EAST MOSUL, IRAQ (JULY 30, 2017) (REUTERS) IRAQI HISTORIAN, DR. IBRAHIM AL-ALLAF SPEAKING TO REUTERS REPORTER
- Embargoed: 18th August 2017 13:49
- Keywords: Agatha Christie in Iraq ancient ruins in Nimrud Islamic State in Nimrud Agatha Christie's house in Iraq
- Location: NIMRUD AND EAST MOSUL, IRAQ / LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM / SAID TO BE NIMRUD, IRAQ
- City: NIMRUD AND EAST MOSUL, IRAQ / LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM / SAID TO BE NIMRUD, IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Books,Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA0046SQOF2F
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Agatha Christie lived here once, but only memories remain of the time the world's best-selling fiction writer spent among the ruins of the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud.
The mud-brick house where the British author of "Murder on the Orient Express" once stayed is long gone.
If she were alive today, she would probably be shocked by what has befallen the Assyrian city where she worked alongside her archaeologist husband five decades ago.
Islamic State attacked Nimrud with bulldozers, jackhammers and dynamite three years ago as part of their general assault on Iraq's cultural heritage.
Iraqi military forces retook the site early in their campaign to drive the jihadists out of Mosul, which lies about 30 km. (20 miles) north.
The house where Christie lived on site was knocked down some years before that, and the people who knew her have all died. But her name still stirs recognition among locals, although most do not know what she is famous for.
Christie first visited Iraq before it gained independence from Britain in 1932 and met the man she would marry on an archaeological dig in the south.
The couple spent time in Mosul, and eventually moved to Nimrud.
The mound on which the ruins are situated has a fresh crown of razor wire to keep looters out, and until recently, corpses floated down the river Tigris from battlefields upstream.
Colossal winged bull statues - or lamassus - that stood guard at the entrance to a palace lie dismembered in a heap.
Much of it was unearthed during the 1950s by Christie's husband, Max Mallowan, who wrote the book: "Nimrud and its Remains".
Christie's own interest in archaeology is evident in "Death on the Nile" and "Murder in Mesopotamia" and she began writing her autobiography in Nimrud.
Mohammed Saeed is too young to have met Christie, but he is familiar with her legend.
A local man, he has worked on excavations at Nimrud since 1996, and used to show tourists around in less turbulent times.
"This site was the house of Agatha Christie, the wife of George (Max) Mallowan. The house was here until the year of 2000, after that it was removed. Even her furniture was still there, but they removed everything for unknown reasons," he said.
Saeed was present when Islamic State took over and remained as a guard at the site until he started receiving threats from the militants.
Over the following months, he saw bulldozers at work on the mound, and at night, cars came and went. He suspected they were traders inspecting what could be sold to fill Islamic State's coffers. A year later, the militants blew up the site.
Saeed is clear about how Christie would have felt:
"She may have been heartbroken, or may even have died, because here in this area we were all affected (by the destruction) of these ruins. There are people who don't value these ruins, many have not even seen this palace, but this is civilisation, history."
There is hope however. Saeed said there were plans to begin excavating the southern palace next spring.
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