Monday, June 30, 2008

Between Salim's Freedome and Kahramana's Jars hide all my personalities

Those were pictures of the freedom monument made by "Juad Salim" as far as i can remember the name as my father used to say his name over and over to me and to his friends. The monument contain many symbols, each one with a story, that my father can tell you. Unfortunately I cannot remember them so good. It is here that my first contact with monuments started. My father used to take me here every time he got free time to talk a walk. It was here that I knew that my country got great artists. Juad Salim, as far as i remember the name, took a well known award from Italy, as my father was repeating. My father would add something like: "Italy, Italy, you know what is Italy? they gave him an award! Italy gave him an award"..

And I feel so proud of my father and of my country when I hear that.

My father had a friend who lived in an apartment in al Sadoon street. Al Sadoon street was loosing its importance in Baghdad. During the 80s…. during the Iraq-Iran war…. Al Sadoon street started loosing its significance as a centre of attraction. During the Iraq-Iran war, which lasted 8 years, men were taken to the battle field. Baghdad was running out of working hands. Men from Egypt mainly, and Sudan to a lesser degree, came to Baghdad to find job. Many of them found shelter in cheap hotels of Al Sadoon street. They tended to crowd in small rooms. Al Sadoon street was changing its mask from a one that was symbolizing Iraqi originality and art, into a centre providing low price shelter for strangers. My father was always arguing with his friend trying to convince him to leave the area and find a better area. I cannot remember what was that friend answering my father in detail, but it was something about that “he doesn’t want to”.
That friend was always using some perfume that I can still find some traces in my nose memory. An odor that is not feminine at all. An odor I found strange by then. Like some smell of alcohol, cigarette smoke, and sweating mixed together, but then imagine that the man with this odor take a shower using a very sweet smell shampoo. When he came out you will smell some traces of alcohol and cigarette smoke but now they are so sweet. That was how my father’s friend odor was. It was very special. He was white and little puffy. He had no moustache. The area between his nose and upper lip was big and shining. I cannot remember what he was working. I think I never knew. I never asked. But that man represent, in my mind, the symbol of an Iraqi from the good days.

Battaween is a quarter were there are old houses. Their architecture is a special one, similar to that of Al Wazeerya. It is called by lay people as “Jewish houses”. They mean by that that they were built by the Jews. When the Jews left Iraq, there were no new Jewish building. A whole school of architect was lost in Iraq.

I went to Al Sadoon street for some work which I failed to complete due to some lack in my papers. I went walking down the street. I had my camera in my pocket but I didn't like to bring it out. I didn't feel safe to hold my camera in my hands there. Somebody may think I am a journalist, and this is dangerous. Or somebody else may think I am preparing for something bad, who knows, may be an explosion. We are getting paranoid and this is normal. Baghdad is not that safe that you can hold your camera and take photos.

Al Sadoon street starts with a square and a big monument, and ends up in a small square and another nice monument. The first is about freedom, and the second is about 1000 nights and a night and kahramana.

My father used to take me for long walks here. But it is changed now. I was containing the largest cinemas in Iraq. With the most numerous doctors and lawyers private offices. Now they are closed. Not here anymore.

In al Bataween lived the lady that was taking care of me when my parents aren't home. She educated me in her way. She talked to me about Al Bataween and about Sami, a man with a name like mine whome she was deeply in love with. She talked to me about how strong and brave he was. And how hadsome. She talked to me about cinemas and Indian romance films. And she was christian, so she talked to me about christianity. I remember once, a young woman, who didn't like that lady who took care of me, taught me two lines of rhyme and showed me how to sing them. It was something about the Virgin Mary. She told me to sing it for her (the lady that I don't want say her name but her name is written in my heart) and that she would be happy. I went to her and sang that song, she started crying while the woman who taught me started laughing loud. I knew it was something bad. I knew i just humilated my lady and her religion. My lady took me away, I started crying.

I intered Al Mada publishing company and my eyes were caught by a book at the far top of the wall. The worker was busy showing some old men some books written by "Hadi Il Alawie". I started walking around in the big book store. I didn't like anything but that cover of that book up there. I went back and stood like a statue with my neck hurting while I was looking up at that nice cover. I even couldn't saw the cover in detail. It was so far. So high. But the colors were telling me: "come and get me, you should read me, you should have me in your hands".

The old men went out and the worker came to me and I told him that I need that book. He brought his stairs and went up. I added at the moment he touched "my" book: and I want to see that next book, Presto and I? Platero and I? what is that?

The worker asked me: this brown book?

I said: yes, the brown book please.

I came home with Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde of Robert Louis Stevenson and Platero and I by Juan Ramon Jimenez.

I didn't know them both before. But now I know that I should have know them both earlier. Anyhow it is not late to know them.

Jekyll and Hyde is about a man with multiple personalities. If somebody had told me about this book i would have travelled earlier to Al Sadoon Street to buy it. But it came just by accedent. And what an accedent. I just fall in love with the book from the first sight with no clear cause. I think the single cause was the cover and how it is different from other book's covers. Another possible explanation is that I have read the title somewhere else and had known that it is about multiple personalities but that this information had passed with time from my conscious to my unconsious. Does Elton John have a song with "Jekyll and Hyde" in it?

When I took a pause from reading Jekyll and Hyde and was thinking about how it was a happy accedent to buy this book, I thought about me myself and whether I may got a double personality. do that exist? I said to myself. And how it would be if I have another personality, what kind of personality it would be?

Then my thought stream reached an area where I start thinking about the other book, Platero and I by Juan Ramon Jimenez. Why I chosed it at the last moment and i didn't know about it anything. (I still don't know anything about it cause I didn't read it yet). Then an idea came into my mind saying: "both these book talks about 2 identities, one is clear to the other, the other is hidden or mystic,..., if I have another personality, could it be a donkey?... that could be, actually I hope so.... to be an animal with no much worries.... that would be so nice and easy,...., but I got to wait till I read Platero and I and see what it means,....., i may change my mind, i will read it and write another post, till then see you soon all of you and all of your personalities, old ones, new ones and coming ones...."

To see some wonderful pictures about Jakyll and Hyde visit this site


tracy said...

Hey Sami,

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"...very cool story indeed. i really like the movie they made, based very loosely on the novel "Mary Kelly" with Julia Roberts. i love "period piece" films, especially of this was rather bloody, and panned by most critics, but i liked it. Thank you for the stories of the monuments and how your father used to take you to see them...and how you felt/feel your "personalities" intermingle with them...a touching and fascinating story.

Blessings, tracy

tracy said...

i'm so sorry about how Bagdad has changed...for the worse. And really, it is Our fault...America. i mean...there, i can now officially take some of the blame......personally. i will send you something, a short piece from "Six Feet Under" to show some of my emotion about the situation...

Don Cox said...

Robert Louis Stevenson was a great writer. I have a collection of all his stories, and they are all good. Of course, classic writers like this are mostly available as text files from, but it is much nicer to read a printed book than a computer text file.