madly in love with Iraq



I was sitting among a group of Arab women the other day; the topic was about the most famous traditional dishes.
While each of them was proudly describing her country’s speciality, I and my other Iraqi friend made eye contact, as we both recalled an earlier discussion between the two of us. She insisted then that we do not have any pure Iraqi dish apart from big chunks of meat with bread; every other dish we cook is originally Iranian, Turkish or Mediterranean. I was on the defensive, “What about okras stew? Or our tasty aubergine dish?”. We argued for a while and then skipped the subject. I was worried she would say something similar in front of these women and belittle our cuisine.

When our turn came and all eyes and ears were focused on us; I was about to open my mouth, when she interrupted me and replied “Our traditional dish tastes like Iraq; a mixture of all races and religions. You have to manually mix inconsistent ingredients for thousands of years, and every now and then you would be forced to add some exotic elements, which might not blend easily, but with a bit of patience and a lot of love; the outcome will become homogeneous. You might not agree to the flavour but that is the only recipe we have!”

My friend who is originally from Hilla; a city south of Baghdad spoke about how when she was a child, her best outing was going with her siblings to play near the ruins of Babylon while listening to stories about how 6000 years ago there were children her age in this exact place and probably playing the same games!

My friends’ words reminded me of how uneasy and apprehensive I feel when I visit new and modern cities. I cannot even identify myself with the people who live in there.

As much as I am proud of being from a country so old and so diverse, it makes me wonder sometimes whether this was a blessing or a burden.

We Iraqis cannot deny that we are part of the Arab world, I myself am definitely an Arab, somewhere we have a tree…and it goes back to nearly 1000 years.

Islam unites its followers in faith and considers it beyond race and beyond borders. In practice this doesn’t work.

I feel for Lebanese Christians much more than I do for Indian Muslims, and my heart goes for an Iraqi Christian much more than for a Lebanese Muslim! Don’t we all?

Those fundamentalists groups are trying to wipe off the history of Iraq and the whole area and minimize all achievements outside the circle of Islam. They are overlooking the Arab scientist, poets and musicians and accuse them of being a bunch of heretics.

The whole Middle East has been governed by repressive and corrupt governments for so long, and for them to secure their chairs, those rulers fought against any change and did not allow educated people to have a role and a say in any aspect of life. It was always the wrong person in the wrong place.
As a consequence people followed the unknown and they found it to be the only light in the end of the tunnel.

Arabs who hail Al Zarqawi don’t hate Iraqis, they hate their own failures and they are expressing their own frustrations. They are trying to give excuses to themselves; sometimes they are fighting the super power and sometimes by fighting the Shia Muslims (I bet they don’t know anything about them) and so on.

When I am angry I loathe the Arab countries for their weakness and stupidity and cruelty; Where are they from our pain, Why don’t they recognise our daily tragedies.
But when I am calm, I try to forgive and understand and meanwhile I dream on.

Tonight I am imagining with John Lennon so imagine