The journey to salvation for the ancient Mesopotamian town of Al-Qurnah, 75km (47 miles) north of Basra, has been a long one, though.
A Shia rebellion was crushed by Saddam Hussein near here in 1991 – apparently after a tip-off by politicians who still wield power here.
Al-Qurnah has also been a target – and recruiting ground – for al-Qaeda, with the Iran border just 23km (14 miles) away and the nearby meeting of the Tigris and Euphrates useful for arms supplies.
Until recently, mortar attacks, roadside bombs and gun battles were a regular feature.
'Not so long ago, we couldn't stand on the streets like this. Everywhere you went, you'd find fighting and killing,' said Abdulla, 18.
But, today, shops are reopening and marketplaces are bustling as Iraqi and British soldiers construct new river bridges.
And a £350,000 indoor fish market is being built, providing relief from street traders' dusty, fly-covered offerings. 'Most importantly, we feel safe now, though we do need new roads,' added Abdulla.
Yet, basic problems, such as an unreliable water and electricity supply, remain. 'Yes, we have food and medicine and the streets are safe,' said Mo, 40. 'But we're still missing things like power for lights, water and air conditioning.'
Maj Mohamad Hassan, whose 120 soldiers occupy the Eden Hotel, insisted life has been 'heaven' since the stranglehold of Shia militia the Jaysh al-Mahdi was broken.
'They used to kidnap our families if we went into the army,' he said. 'Lots of my friends escaped to Egypt or Syria. But, despite all the difficult times, I stayed – and I'm glad I did.'