madly in love with Iraq

8.4.06

No one loves Iraq anymore

This time last year, I was preparing to go home. Just thinking of it now fills me with joy.

Once I paid for the ticket, I started to have sleepless nights and became very anxious. The saddest part though is feeling afraid. I tried hard to dismiss this mood, it is home after all, but how could anyone?

The taxi-driver who drove me from the airport was called Saddam!! Not a very encouraging start I thought. He asked me to sit next to him in order not to raise any suspicions on route! He literally interrogated me all the way, and I could hear my heart throbbing with fear. Could this be my end? In the hands of the Mujahideen? Oh God let me at least see my family first, why did I choose to come alone?

All the worries of the journey disappeared, once I sat a foot in our house.

There were a lot of new etiquettes I had to learn about. It looks like every year is worse than the one before. New regulations in the house were introduced; all revolved around the electricity, water supply and fuel. How to take a shower, when to do the washing, when to cook, when to go out etc.. And still, even with all my mothers’ contingency plans we couldn’t win!

Our kitchen smelt differently, with all the new primitive cooking and water heating gadgets. Only a few days before I left, I managed to grab the old smell, or at least got used to the new one!
Till this day when I cook in here, I use the old methods of my mother and grandmother just to get the magical smell! It somehow makes me feel more confident in my cooking and part of it is probably to torture myself.

The first day I took a long walk with my brother. The main road looked like a market; stalls of all kinds, the noise of the electricity generators was deafening, people walking in masses just to make use of the last rays before the sun sets. I was trying to cross a barrier of barbed wires when I got my skirt trapped in between, and later torn to break loose. I felt so embarrassed, why am I being so clumsy? Why am I behaving like a tourist?

It does hurt me when I feel that I don’t know anymore, the new dialect, the new wit, the new short-cuts and the new agony. When I tried to share with others, I looked like a hypocrite; When I suggested something; it sounded so silly; and I could see the ‘What do you know’ in everyone’s eyes.

My friends came to see me; all looked weary in spite of the efforts they made to look nice and elegant, all covered in hijab. All have surrendered to their new fate. I kept on bringing the past up. I was searching for any glow in their eyes; I could see none. I felt so alone. And yet, who am I to speak, what did I expect?

Two of my closest friends insisted on taking me to Buratha Mosque (attacked by suicide bombers yesterday), ‘I have to drink water from the well in there!’ they said. ‘Why is that?’ ‘To get married of course’ one of them answered back.
We went, and I did drink the water; for a different reason though. I prayed selfishly to whoever is up there to bring me back home and make it a safe place for my sake.
Now it looks like I was a bad omen.

The down town of Baghdad city looked so different to the lively place it used to be. The market parallel to the river was nearly empty. The few goldsmith shops had armed guards outside their doors. The fabric and carpet merchants were more relaxed and I could see their features soften up a bit when speaking nicely to them. But I cannot forget the worried looks they all had.

My city is battered, dirty, full of concrete blocks, no- through roads, closed bridges, chaotic and unsafe. The people I know looked haggard and helpless. I tried to find any traces from the past, I searched all corners; I opened my drawers and looked through my old books and diaries. I stayed awake all night, not to waste any precious moment, I struggled to leave an optimistic impression on my friends and relatives…but in vain.

All the people I met wanted to leave and never come back.


This electric palm tree just few meters from our house captured my heart, maybe because it was full of lights in a very dark city, maybe because the natural palm trees looked so sad to me. I just don’t know.



When my time was up, I behaved like a child who doesn’t want to know, I made a big fuss over silly things, I provoked a fight with my mother, and when everyone was silent trying to absorb my fury. I finally cried.

13 Comments:

  • All of us who pretend that Iraq was a model of success and prosperity in the mideast at one time are really fooling ourselves. For too long, the tranquility and prosperity that we knew was nothing more than an artificial creation and it came at a terrible cost to certain segments of the population.

    Iraq as a society is going through what I characterize as a juvenile growth stage which is manifesting itself by being unable to handle responsibility. Whether Iraq will learn from this painful experience and lift itself from this dark period remains to be seen.

    Iraq is facing the moment of truth and if it chooses to self-destruct, then it will leave us all to ponder the thoughts of what if.

    By Blogger Antar, at 1:44 am  

  • Maybe God will be Merciful to us and turn us ino Dogs so we can Roam the streets again Freely...

    By Blogger Zappy!, at 7:12 am  

  • Your words are heart-wrenching. They inspired a painful nostalgia in me...It makes me wonder if we have lost Iraq forever...

    By Blogger ZZ, at 6:27 pm  

  • I know EXACTLY where that pic is! my grandparent's house is to the left of that place, just after the big t-walls (the american company).. couple of houses on ur right-hand, not gonna tell which, but it is near the the barricade on the right-hand branch of the street, close to the s... consulate..

    (area name and consulate name omitted)

    welcome to baghdad friend, but please be extra careful while posting pics of places, you do not want 2 b kidnapped! take care!

    and welcome again.. keep ur fighting spirits up, ur gonna need em.

    By Blogger aNarki-13, at 10:14 pm  

  • r u daughter of dr. h. t. (the surgeon) ?? if so, ur very close friends of my grandparents' ppl!

    cheers!

    By Blogger aNarki-13, at 10:16 pm  

  • Your style is quite catchy and interesting.
    And by the way I always get my clothes torn by the barbed wires. It didn't mean your clumsy but they are quite mean.

    By Anonymous miraj, at 12:09 am  

  • Hala, I just wanted to say that your blog is really very good. Please keep it up! Fancy the coincidence of living so close to Anarki13!

    By Blogger Bruno, at 12:14 pm  

  • Antar,
    You are absolutely right.

    Zappy, so it is you then!! thank you for commenting. Nice blog.

    zz,
    I have no answer to your wondering,

    Anarki,
    Welcome to my blog.
    All your guessings are right, apart from the most important one!
    Try again I am no doctor's daughter.

    Miraj,
    Thank you for your words. So it is not only me after all!

    Bruno,
    Hello again,I will do my best to keep it up.

    By Blogger hala_s, at 4:23 pm  

  • Ok! next time i'm visiting my grandparents' i'll ask!(on my mother's side... my father's side -the people i'm living with now- are in A'adhamiyah, but i spent more than half my life in that area near ur house! exactly in front of it to be precise!)

    cheers!

    By Blogger aNarki-13, at 8:56 pm  

  • Hey Hala,

    I just stumbled on your blog - and now am hooked. You have a very good writing style - keep it up.

    I'm an Iraqi girl from London too, although at the moment working in Canada. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

    I am jealous that you got to visit Iraq. I still dream of that even though I have read so much to put anyone off ever going there, but I guess it is in my blood.

    I love Iraq with a passion even if I didn't grow up there and I will hold on to my dream to go back to the place I was born.

    By the way, I really liked your post on 'women' and I have to say that I am very blessed because my father is a wonderful Iraqi man who totally respects women and encourages me and my sisters to be the best and to have an open mind and not to allow anyone to treat us in a disrespectful way.

    Iraq is in my blood and I love it with all my heart :)

    By Anonymous Miss. Blue Eyes, at 3:16 am  

  • Just cruizing by, usually I hang out at Treasure of Bagdad's blog. As someone who wants to get paid for writing some day. I like your writing style...one comment you can still capture the same feeling without having to write so much, if you concentrate on going into more details with one scene. In this way you don't use up all your ideas in one pass through. Though as a student-writer I am very comfortable with reading and even rereading other's rewriting of some place and time they wrote about earlier. Other readers probably don't want to do that. Any case keep it up ;-)

    By Blogger EdoRiver, at 11:08 am  

  • Perhaps M. Al Dam....y had a different idea about Baghdad than yours when she first returned there...with a help from a BIG friend!!!

    By Blogger AL Tarrar, at 2:20 pm  

  • I think youre making it sad and harder for yourself, yes Iraq isn't the happiest country but if its own people lose hope how are we to move forward. i think you should post the beautiful parts of Iraq and what you love the most and what makes us Iraqis so patriotic, be careful with what you deliver as youve got a large following and if anything you need to spread positivity.

    By Blogger wot, at 11:50 pm  

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