Iowa City mayor says trip to Baghdad was "once in a lifetime experience"

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- An invitation to visit Baghdad, Iraq, for a once in a lifetime experience.

It happened for the mayor of Iowa City and the director of the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. The invitation came from the first woman to serve as the mayor of Baghdad. At first glance, the invitation seems random but there is a connection.

Baghdad and Iowa City are both UNESCO Cities of Literature. Mayor Throgmorton and Mr. Merrill were invited to attend Baghdad's International Flowers Cultural Festival. The event aimed to strengthen international cooperation between UNESCO cities.

During the trip, Mayor Throgmorton and Merrill visited museums and toured the city. They met several times with the city's first female mayor and other delegates from various countries. Mayor Throgmorton says it was a privilege to visit a city with so much culture.

"We were treated with enormous generosity and warmth so it was really a great joy to see that but it's a very devastated city that's trying to recover and they've made significant strides over the past three years or so" said Jim Throgmorton, the mayor of Iowa City.

Before the trip, Mayor Throgmorton proclaimed the week of April 23rd-29th as a "week of peace and friendship with the people of Baghdad." He read that proclamation to the mayor of Baghdad on his visit. On the last night of the trip, Mayor Throgmorton and Mr. Merrill witnessed a car bombing a few hundred meters away from their vehicle. Neither of them were hurt but several people died in the explosion.

Iowa City will host the 2018 annual meeting of the 20 UNESCO Cities of Literature as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of its designation as a City of Literature.