Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Streets of Philadelphia

Again, with the souls of hundreds of Iraqis leaving their bodies not due to a cause but because of some ignorant politicians locked into their narrow belonging, again, with those souls still coloring skies with some red and orange lines I passed the desert between Mesopotamia, where wine was made for the first time and Philadelphia, the place where Jesus had been baptized. Jordan is such a country that law is respected to a degree that I missed. From the border between us and them I knew that I am entering a respectable country. The taxi man who took me to Wist Al Balad (=centre of the city) refused to take money saying that I am his guest. The hotel manager told me that he loves Iraqis and introduced me to that Iraqi who aided me to exchange money with the best price, find the type of food I needed, and a kilo of Jordanian apples and gave some advices about what to do and what not to do. His advices proved to be the best as time was passing by in Philadelphia.

I was bruised and battered I couldn’t
tell what I felt I was
unrecognizable to myself
I saw my
reflection in the window I didn’t
know my own face oh brother
gonna leave me wasting away
in the streets of Philadelphia

On the exam, I was asked about Baghdad, and what mental illnesses do we have the most. We talked about PTSD and resilience. The wave of speech went little far to touch the shores of some hidden feelings when I was asked at the end of the exam: “Now would you go back to Baghdad?” I was planning that I take a plane to visit my family after those years but my family didn’t manage to send me the papers I need for the visa. “Yes, I would go back tomorrow”. I left the exam room and headed for the bath room cause I thought I needed total isolation from others. I locked the door on me for few minutes, enough to go out with my faked smile.

I walked in the avenue till my legs
Felt like stone and I heard
Voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could
Hear the blood in my veins
It is black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia

The next day from the exam my colleague wanted to go to the hospital where we took our exam and ask for the results. He wanted me to go with him but I didn’t want to. “It is too early, they won’t tell us the results only after at least few days” I said but he insisted to go. I told him that I want to visit the Roman Theatre. He took a taxi, I went walking. People were not that different from Baghdad, but the view of buildings on those mountains was unusual to my eyes. I liked how most of those building were built from stone. On the turning away from that main street I saw her, a vagabond with long black hair chasing the children that were calling her bad names. I reached the Roman theatre to see Philadelphia (=old name of Amman) and Hercules temple above that mountain, Amman with all her historical charm.

Ain’t no angel gonna greet me
Just you and I my friend
My clothes don’t fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
just to slip the skin

My colleague came from the hospital annoyed that they didn’t give him any result, and annoyed that I didn’t accompany him. He started ventilating his worries and suppressions on my ears which were getting filled every about 15 minutes so I take them off, my ears, and empty them in the streets of Philadelphia to get them filled again with complaints about how much life is difficult and unfair. He even asked me finally before we turn with the street: “is it fair that an old man die in his bed from starvation?” I didn’t want to hear that story. But he insisted: “is it fair tell me?”. “No it is not” I said while we walked near that same vagabond who was now smoking Najela and giggling. As we turned left we saw police, two cars stopped at the centre of the street and a man lying on the street covered from head till lower legs, his feet were looking at us. He seemed dead. As I noticed that, I felt for a fraction of a second that I may fall on the ground. I took hold of myself and walked while my companion found it interesting to stop and watch. I went to the hotel alone and lie in the bed wondering what to do in this cold evening.

Night has fallen I am lying awake
I can
feel myself fading away
so receive me brother with your
faithless kiss or will we
leave each other alone like this
In the streets of Philadelphia

At night my companion came to my room and said that he is “sorry for being insensitive this evening” and he offered that we go to a mall he had visited a year ago in the centre of Amman. We went and it was huge and wonderful. We walked in all its parts and enjoyed its peace and quietness. We took dinner while we were having a nice chat finally.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Since 2003, there was an implicit accord between us, my generation of Iraqi youth, that what they had told us about our history in school is not accurate. After 2003 we started to be exposed to some new theories and facts about our country, about our history, about our identity.
I can say that the most of the “new facts” about us were coming from ignorant extremist. An Iraqi would know suddenly that his neighbor since ages must be his enemy, a fact based on religious purposes, but that neighbor may seem nice and respective. Hate would be postponed and replaced by some suspicious waiting.

“The Jewish Market Quarter” by Jamal Abdul-Razaq Al Bedri is not a novel, like the cover says, but is an autobiography of the writer who was born in Samarra early in this century in a Muslim family. He told us about his mother friend “Sit (=Teacher) Najeya” who is also their neighbor. Every time she visited them she would bring candies to the children who liked her very much. Sit Najeya and her family suddenly said one day that they would leave to Baghdad. They went in 1951 and never came back. They went to Israel because they were Jewish.

The book didn’t tell us about the cause of the leaving but it is clear from other references: “Al Farhood” and the governmental new law of withdrawing the Iraqi nationality from all the Jews.
Maybe the book was described as a novel because of its lovable non-systematic narration, something more close to a novel than to an autobiography. The book tells us many things that were really a revelation for me like the origin of the name “Samarra”. They told us in our schools that it is the abbreviation of “Surra Man Ra’aa (= who saw it became happy)” and that it was built by an Abbasid Khalifa. But the writer goes more deep in history and stated that the Abbasid Khalifa who is said to built Samarra to make it as his capital didn’t built it actually from nothing. There was already there an old city inhabitant mainly by Christians and Jews. He move to it, made it larger, and made it as his ruling capital. The book told us also that Shem, son of Noah was born in that same place and from his name came the name of the city since in Arabic he is called “Sam”.

I felt that what he says is strange, I googled the origin of the name of Samarra and found that it is ancient in origin, and came from the Aramaic language, and there are many theories about its meaning and root.

The writer told us also about the founding of an original Torah by German group of excavation in Samarra in the 1930s, a version which belongs to 2000 years ago.
The writer told us that he is a Sunni Muslim, but at the same time, his city of origin, contains the graves of two of the Imams of the 12 imams of Shia. His childhood had been spent around those big monuments and his prayers and Quran reading was done under their domes (Those are the same domes that were exploded in 2006).
The writer got some interest in the history of Jewish people and he told us that he believes what Hertzel said in his book “the Jewish State” in that the Jewish people are like salt and the world cannot live without them, is true.
The book is written with love, here is a translation of some part of it:

“….and there is nothing strange about that since the holy Quran tells us in three quarters of its suras (=chapters) about Moses, the Israelites, and the Jews. When I meditate about that fact I saw it is in resonance with the water to ground ratio, three quarters of water, and one quarter of land. And from this point of view I understand the relation of Moses the prophet and the Jews with the sea.. since the sea contain the salt which protect its water from getting rotten”.

Decades after Sit Najeya family left, the writer and one of Najeya’s son, Yousif (=Joseph) met. The second half of the book tell us what happened to Najeya family.
It was a pleasure to see that “new facts” about us are being told by some few educated men filled with love and acceptance. Iraq is still under the influence of the some bad cooks who forgot essential elements and Iraq is getting more and more tasteless. Hope Iraq would gain its original flavor someday.

The book is published by
Dar Al Hikam Publishing and Distribution in 2004 in its first edition

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Khidr Qad and the Olive-green Era" a novel by Naseef Falaq

The king with the goat ear got the habit of killing any barber that cut his hair for him so that people would not know about his ears. The last barber was imprisoned in the king’s castle but they let him only to have a walk in the king’s castle garden. In his walk he told the ground. Reeds grew up from the ground. A shepherd came one day and they asked him to cut the reeds away. The shepherd made reed-pipes from them and sold them. Every time one of the villagers plays with the reed-pipe, the pipe would sing: the king got ears of a goat. The king made a speech to his villager: “all honest people must got goat ears”. Since then and the villagers got goat ears.

That was the synopsis of Khidr piece of theatre he made while he was a student that drove troubles after him. That day of the act he had to jump over the wall of his college and run away. He was not able to go back to his college unless he sign on a paper stating that he would never write a piece of theatre. He started to write small notes and insert them in his big wooden table of writing that he made for his self. He made some secret hidden area in the table where he can insert papers. They would not go out unless by breaking the table.

It seems to me a nightmare becomes reality
The last days of the paradise are gone for you and me
We're living in the crossfire
And we'll be killed at first
Why cannot people that we made the leaders of the world
Understand that we don't wanna fight
Understand that we are mush too young to die
Understand no one will survive
Understand that we love our life

Khidr was a student in Baghdad Beaux Art Academy. He cannot kill somebody. But the regime wanted him to join the army, it was war with Iran and all men of his age must fight. He left his table to his friend Kareem and told him about its secret. He took two books with him to war, one of Albert Camus “The Plaque” and the other of Taher Ben Jalloun “The Sacred Night”. He spent most of the time in reading to the surprise of his different bosses who all punished him. He was shifted to Baghdad big prison and was tortured there till they thought someday he had died. They put him with the dead cadavers. He farted. Somebody heard his fart and came and rescued him from being buried alive.

He loved Sallama who refused to marry somebody but he. But they took him again to the front of the war. She decided to wait but her family found her a man and forced her to accept. She ran away to her widow aunt in the south who runs her farm by herself.

Khidr, seen as of no benefit, had been sent to serve in a mountain in the north as a guardian of the Iraq- Iran border and to report any Iranian troop that may cross the border. Khidr, one night, took his two books and run down the mountain and crossed the borders to Iran.

Can I trust the meaning of the life line in my hand
Which is as long as exciting hundred years
I could be a lucky man
But I'm living in the crossfire
Of a time that starts to burn
Why cannot people that we made the leaders of the world
Understand that we don't wanna fight
Understand that we are mush too young to die
Understand no one will survive
Understand that we love our life

He didn’t like Iran though he spent some years till 1991. The regime invaded Kuwait. They started to be defeated by the coalition forces and Khidr thought that they are getting weaker. He crossed the border again, back to Iraq and joined the armed men from the south who were fighting to liberate the south of Iraq from Saddam’s regime and were heading for Baghdad. Khidr joined them but he forgot the fire arm they give it to him. Suddenly the coalition forces withdraw themselves, Saddam’s regime starts again taking by force the cities of the south killing everybody who fight or may fight. Khidr was caught easily. They started kicking him till they thought he died. His body had been taken with other dead bodies in a big car and they started digging a big hole in the ground. A shepherd with few goats and a dog was watching from a distance. They put them in the hole and was about to start to bury them. Somebody saw the shepherd. No witness is allowed. They brought her by force and threw her in the hole. Sallama fall on Khidr. They looked at each other but before they can identify each other soil started entering their noses, mouths, and eyes. They were buried together.
Kareem still doesn’t know that Khidr is dead but time is going and there is nothing about him. Kareem broke the table and published this book, a novel named: “Khidr Qad and the Olive-green Era”, written by Naseef Falaq.

The song is by Scorpions and called “Crossfire” form the Album “Love At First Sting 1984”
The painting is by Faisal Laibi and named “The Funeral” 1976.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Anxious Journey

It was said that this song is about a war. Some specify more and said that it was about Vietnam war. But I have put it some way from its proposed contest, this post is not about war, it is more about a journey. It seems that writing a post while hearing a song over and over again is working for me But it is not always linked together, sometimes the link get loose, and words flow like the resolution of a grey clowd into a budding tree. This is my trip, to and back from, Damascus. I went there to take my final year written exam in psychiatry.

Us and Them

And after all we're only ordinary men

Me, and you

God only knows it's not what we would choose to do

I was in my spaceship wearing my oxygenated human-contact-proof helmet playing some kind of mental solitaire in the waiting space to take a bus to Syria. An elderly lady wearing a necklace with a cross, entered to the waiting area with a slow pace, with all her historical charm, slimness, short hair, and walking stick talked to me. I didn’t hear. My helmet is noise-proof. She held her stick up high in the heavens and with the weight of all the different Gods that people once dreamt of she centered the tip of her stick on my contact-proof helmet and break it like breaking a cover of a nut for her grandson: “young man, take this prescription, bring me this drug from a nearby pharmacy, I cannot walk anymore”. I went roaming around and around and the pharmacologists were giving me paranoid looks since that prescription got opioids in it. I went to her back without the drug. “Sorry, they don’t have it”. She took the prescription and for 12 hours of the road from Baghdad to Damascus she kept giving me sandwiches, candies, and nuts.

Forward he cried from the rear

and the front rank died

And the General sat, as the lines on the map

moved from side to side

Al Saleheya explosion was a black dot that didn’t dry I held on the back of my head. I tried not to touch the back of my head. On the day of the explosion I was going to that same area but I quitted. I was still at the street when I heard a sound of explosion. I thought it is so near. All people started looking to the direction of the sound. After one minute we heard another one. We looked down and walked in our way, each one to his way. I took a bus to my home. The radio was off. We were silent. Two men came up in the bus and told us about the site of the explosion. We sank in our silence. On the night of that same day of the explosion, I decided that I should send her a message telling her how much I like her, and that I want to be her friend. In Syria, almost all the taxi men asked me about the cause of the explosions and what is going on. I knew no more than them.

Black and Blue

And who knows which is which and who is who

Up and Down

And in the end it's only round and round and round

In the exam there was a question about Digoxin and whether it causes confusion or not. I wondered for some few seconds and then wrote: “yes, it causes confusion”. Then came another question: “by what mechanism?”. Oh God, and what the hell I know. Ask him, ask the Digoxin why he causes all that confusion and by what mechanism I am little tired for this. They told me that it was me who asked to be examined. “Really?”, I said “I cannot remember, my memory is tired, I want something to drink please”. Godot opened the door of the examination room and offered me a walk in Damascus.

Haven't you heard it's a battle of words

the poster bearer cried

Listen son, said the man with the gun

There's room for you inside

Damascus was rainy but Godot put a rule if I want to stay with him then I must go silent for a while. We walked till we reached Al Hamedya market. He stood and looked at me. I knew he was examining me: will I chose to enter the market or walk by the old walls.
I walked by the wall. He followed me with a smile of victory. By the wall we saw that statue of Salah Al Deen Al Ayoubi. Godot stopped and started talking: “Al Ayoubi was born in Iraq, went to Syria, then Egypt. In Egypt he had to enter the war with the crusaders. Many Egyptians are Christians and they were not sure what to do. Should they fight with Al Ayoubi against the crusaders, or should they welcome their brothers in religion. Al Ayoubi said his famous saying to them: “Religion is for God, and nation is for everyone”.”
“Godot,…” I said and looked in his eyes seriously. He held his breath. “Get lost!” I said. He disappeared at once while I was trying to fixate my attention and to maintain my concentration in resolving some other questions. With time, I felt I am more into the game of answering questions. With time, my divergent squint into a convergent one.

Down and Out

It can't be helped but there's a lot of it about

With, without

And who'll deny that's what the fightings all about

I took the bus back to Baghdad. Gladys Matar took it with me and told me that story of that valley of the Ash she thinks worth to talk about. People living there were called “the Grayish People” and their society was “Unsuitable for Adults” as she said, and she seemed to liken it to a circus, as the circus was mentioned in each chapter of her narration. They were having constant war without a clear cause with people who came from the desert who finally invaded their city, the Grayish Valley. The invaders were of a different religion. She told me about Thu Al Hak (=Of the Right Justice) who is shy, suspicious, and impulsive. Who loved an ex-prostitute and married her. Told me about their city sultan who every time he overtopped the pulpit and starts talking, a crowd of dinosaurs invade the city in a chaotic running shaking the earth beneath them and swaying their bodies. She is good in some parts of her narration but I was lost in some of her circumstantialities and tangentialities. While she was talking I remembered some of my dreams and wondered about their meanings. She kept talking her thousand and one night while I slept in the chair of that bus. I woke up with a neck pain. She was still talking. “Gladys, listen”, I said while she stopped talking stunned, “your novel got some unnecessary details and some of them are misleading, you called your novel as “Velvet Revolution” and there is no Velvet, nor Revolution, and somebody had put Delacroix painting of “Algerian women in their apartment” on the cover of your novel but why?”. I said that to her in some anger. I got the sense that I was rough on her, in spite of the fact that her narration is one of the few Arabic female narration that doesn't feel "female". I felt I should show her some respect. But I added with some calm and a smile while my eyes were looking at the desert from the window of the bus: “Woody Allen got a film named Shadows and Fog, it is of the same theme of your novel”, then I looked at her and said while my smile turned into laughter: “but it is much better”. She stood up, pulled her shirt down with anger and went to the desert alone leaving me to my neck pain and fading smile.

Get out of the way, it's a busy day

And I've got things on my mind

For want of the price of tea and a slice

The old man died

I reached Baghdad to know that I failed to pass the Iraqi board exam. I was so tired so I preferred to take a deep sleep and spent some time in yawning. My friend phoned me and asked me about the result of my exam. “I failed” I said. The other day he phoned me again and said: “Sami I decided to give you a present because you failed.” We went by a taxi, the taxi man was talking too much. We went back home by two new bicycles. I reached home very tired. I took a very hot water bath that washed the dead leaves from my growing tree.

"Velvet Revolution" is a novel by the Syrian Gladys Mattar.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Jack Abboudi Shabi, between an Eggplant and a Squash

".... and he told me have you drunk Shabi before? yes it was own by them, it was their family name, such a long time... he looked sadly at his wife. She was smiling widely..."

I don't know how much my neighbour was right in his recall of Baghdad history. What I was sure of was that Jack Abboudi Shabi was very famous and known to all the elderlies that I have mentioned his name to. His mention to my neighbours tempted them to tell me more about their old Baghdad and their peacful quarters. They would argue with each other on tiny details

"... the bakery shop was next to the barber and you are the one who got dementia, not me...what was his name?....that one with that nice car..."
"... what are you talking about... barber and a car and what else?....a love story?.."

Al Mada Paper had re-published an interview with Jack Abboudi Shabi, the Iraq first psychiatrist. It was originally done in 1957. Al Mada paper published weekly a bulletin entitled "Iraqi Memory" and is given freely to any one who buys a Mada Newspaper. It is available to be downloaded freely on its site:

Thank you Al Mada, you are one of a kind.

With the doctor that lived a half century with the insane

By: Saeed Al Rubaie

I entered Doctor Jack Abboudi’s hospital (house of Al Rasheed) and I had intended to ask many questions to him, but he started to raise a question and answering it there after, the questions he raised and his answers were up to the point and as I hoped it would be.

Treating disease by a disease
Words started flowing fluently from the doctor’s mouth and I found it difficult to follow him writing everything he was saying. He talked comprehensively about history of psychiatry in Iraq and abroad especially he had had a scholarship to the UK in 1932 hence he said:
At that time there was no true treatment for mental illnesses in the world but on type of treatment of the General Paresis of the Insane which is the resut of brain infection with siphilus and that treatment was injecting the patient with the microorganisms that causes Malaria, causing malaria in the patient, increasing his temperature hence cured from his original disease, then malaria is treated thereafter, hence it is treating one disease by another.
While other treatments were concentrating on putting the aggitated patient in a small room lined by soft tissues so that he won’t hurt himself if he hit the wall, or he put in a hot bath continuously, or he is tied by the strait jacket.

Sheikhs and the water of squash
The doctor came back to Iraq in 1934, and the patients, were under the mercy of Sheikhs like Al Tuayjuri and Sheik Gumar, who were treating their patients with violent hitting, because they believed that the illness is caused by a Jenni inside the patients body, and they were using what was called as “water of cheese” and it is a big dose of milk mixed with a laxative, and there was another widely used treatment and it is the “Squash oil” which was used after the patient head is shaved totally and then oiled, and the believe was that Squash is cold and hence decreasing the heat of the head, while the eggplant is hot and it causes the mental illnesses.

Advences in treatment
In the year 1935 some medical journals started publishing articles about new treatments among which was treatment by seizure, a seizure was induced in the patient by injecting epileptogenic substance and soon there was evidence that it helps in treating acute depression, mania, and schizophrenia.

Other treatments
In the year 1936 another treatment was discovered and it was by insulin coma in which the patient is injected with insulin that is used normally to patients with diabetes. The patient is injected with huge amounts till his body contains no more carbohydrates and he would be in a vegetative state, then he would be given glucose intavenously, and this operation would be repeated 30 times, after which the patient condition improves and he regain insight.

After the appearance of these new treatments, doctor Jack thought about going to the UK to get the experience of applying these new treatments because it wasn’t a good idea that he starts applying them from merely reading journals, but with the coming of professor Hoff to Iraq in 1938 doctor Jack cancelled his idea of travelling abroad and they started together to apply the new treatments in Iraq.
There were many other advences in psychiatric treatments in Iraq since then and the doctor thought about opening a new treatment centre and it was opened in 1943, in which over 3000 patients were treated.

Cutting brain fibers
In 1964 an iraqi doctor named Najeeb Al Yakoubi had done the first operation in brain in Iraq and in all the Middle East and that was by cutting the nerve fibers that connect the emotion centre to the brain cortex hence abolishing the effects of aggitated emotions on the brain and mind and doctor Al Yakoubi is still doing this operation to the treatment resistant patients.
And lately new tranquilizing drugs were discovered in the USA and its use is widely spread these days like the spead of using Aspirin.

New association…
Doctor Jack Aboudi then opened a subject rarely opened by other doctors and that was when he started talking about the Associations and Organizations that is present in great number in Iraq and they are about many physical diseases and social problems and the doctor raises a question why don’t we in Iraq start an association of mental illness prevention? Since the Iraqi law has stated how much mental illness recognition is important to the criminal laws and the government had recruited a psychiatrist as a member in the court of the adolescents but still there are no efforts to prevent mental illness.

Faking madness..
Till now it was doctor Jack raising questions to himself and answering them thereafter. Now I have asked a question:
How can you differentiate between a really mad one and someone who is faking. The doctor smiled wide and answered:
Some fake madness when they are confronted by a crime of homicide since the patient with mental illness is not guilty. Since the person who tries to fake does not know much about the types and classification of the mental illnesses he would act different roles from different illnesses and he would exagurate things and act as if a mentally retard hence if asked what is the sum of one pluse one he would answer eight.
And that way we would know who is faking.
In rare cases we inject the person with a drug making him loosing control over his deliberation and hence his faking.

Women more affected
I asked him another question:
Who are affected more with mental illnesses men or women?
He answered: women… due to social causes related to culture and tranditions, and in many times the women is affected by a mental illness during pregnancy and delivery.

Al Usboo’a magazine

That was my translation. Forgive me for my ever lasting bad english.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Kiss to Mankind

I decided to took a rest, opened the T.V. on the BBC ARABIC channel where there was a document about some religions and beliefs of some tribes living in Philippines. They were really strange. The man making the travel and documenting for us is a Christian feeling so estranged, and sometimes he passes us the feeling of how funny their beliefs were, in spite of the respect he is trying to show. The document then started to go south to tell us about the aboriginal people of Australia. He left the aboriginal people after seeing how they put their children in a smoke they made from setting fire in some herbs so that their children become stronge. He left them to go to Sydney. What he saw there made him look so serious.

I hesitated to buy his book. Malik Al Mutalibi is a well known poet, university professor, and a literary critic that writes in a very classic Arabic. I don’t understand most of his writings but that old man of that small library near the garage told me with his husky voice: “you should have it, it is a pleasure to read”. He rarely says that to me. I looked at the book and it is so elegant and with a clever cover and what a title: “the Abandoned Excavations of the Unconscious”.
In the minibus, I didn’t enjoy the first chapter which was a letter to both Gunter Grass and Kenzaburo Oe telling them about Iraq. I didn’t like the beginning much.

I put the book aside for some days.

I went back to the book in an afternoon. Malik Al Mutalibi tells us in one of his excavations about that Mandaean teacher they got at school in Al Mushrah (a city in the south of Iraq in the governorate of Umara\ Meesan). Malik Al Mutalibi was a student making a speech to welcome the visit of minister of interior to their school:

- God send our prophet Mohammed to Quraish in Mecca to invite them to Islam. Few believed in him, most did not at first. The apostates tried to abort his mission. The apostates…
- Are there apostates in Al Mushara (asked the minister of interior)
- Yes!

The minister of interior looked then looked at me with a waiting smile:
- Yes?
- Yes
- Now?

I shook my head with: “yes”.
- Who?
- Al Sub’ba (= the Mandaean)

On the next day the English teacher who was a Mandaean was upset. I raised my hand and asked him:

- How can we say minter of interior in English?

He sulked. Took some time then turned to the black board and wrote in bold letters: MAN KIND. I copied that in my copybook. After years, I understood what he meant.”

The trip went to Australia and suddenly the face of the man making the travel changed. He looked serious while looking at the Mandaeans making their baptizing in Sydney. They told him with the most kindness about their beliefs and about John the Baptist among other things.

They were having a marriage and the BBC was invited. In spite of my sadness that such peaceful people are away from their land, I felt happy for the peace they found in that far continent. Love and Respect for you Mandaeans.

Pictures taken from the T.V. (the first is taken from the Mandaeans marriage and is of the kiss of the new husband and wife , the second a young lady making some explanation about her religion, and the third is a scene from the mariage). The words in rosy color are my trial to translate some of the lines from Malik Al Mutalibi latest book: "the Writing Memory: the Excavation of the Abandoned Unconsious".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is Art For?

“O village songs,
You kinship bridge between generations!
Nation hides in you
Its threads of destiny,
And its arms of victory.
O village songs,
O guardian of memories.”

Adam Mickiewicz

I was just a teenage and he was tall and old and he chose one day to sit next to me and I felt so happy for that. He asked me: “what book are you reading these days?” I liked that kind of question. I opened my mouth proudly to say: “a Russian novel of… (I forgot the writer) entitled the white dog with the black ear”. I was surprised by his sarcastic smile which was turned a little by little into a sardonic smile and he told me with anger that I should read something worthy!!
During my life, I have faced recurrently the question of why do I read novels, and why do I hear music. What is art, in general, is for. And what do I gain from it.

Have seen the film “the pianist”? How the Nazis occupied Poland and what they did to the Jewish population there in World War II? That was the main theme of the film, but what was in between the lines? What was the soul of the film?

Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish pianist survived till a Nazi soldier found him wandering in aplace he should not be. Clearly, the fate of the pianist was to be killed. A question slipped from the lips of the Nazi like a slow black serpent about to kill:

- Who are you?
- I was a pianist.
- Play something, the Nazi said challenging.

Szpilman answered him by Chopin’s Ballad no. one. It is music. A human thing. It is why animals feel small next to human. It is beauty mixed with smartness, wisdom mixed with childhood. It is communication travels through space and time summarizing our history into a sweet song. It is why animals feel small next us, it was why the Nazi felt small next to Szpilman:

- What will you do when it is all over? Asked the Nazi.
- I’ll play the piano again. On the Polish radio.

So what do we gain from art. We gain our dignity. We tell our story. We share existance. We pass by the reason of why we are humans, and what we are doing here, on this earth.

Photos taken from the film, music is Chopin's Grande Polonais Op. 22 which was played in the film in two scenes. Mickiewicz is a Polish poet and the lines above were tranlated by Kudri Kalachi to Arabic, and by me, to english cause I didn't found it in English and I don't know the name of the peom these lines taken from, so pardon me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Day Dream

I walked to the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, went to a neglected area, felt frightened from the possibility that a snake would come and bite me, went back, felt tired then walked aimlessly and I was suddenly next to Marduk who gave me energy to go for a second walk and I found that neglected building.
It seems like that it is of the temples of Ishtar worship. Its neglected gate got iron sticks that prohibit entrance in a very primitive way. I looked right and left, nobody was there. All this neglect from those in charge and they still feel that they should prohibit me from entering the temple, Ishtar temple, my love temple?
From the first steps and I regained my nostalgic breathlessness, a kind of shortness of breath that I wantted it to last long. My ears caught a piece of music played at a very low intensity, as if for a child to sleep. The old brick floor, the silence, and the sun light were inviting me to a dream. The walls were so old and I wondered what they were made from. I looked close at them and found a writing on one of the walls: “Hassan”. Hassan is an Arabic name written in Arabic on one of the walls. So it seems that people are free to write on these walls. It is neglected and abused. I felt sad. The music stopped.
Walked few steps and I saw a dim corridor with a source of light at the end of it. As I was walking in with cautious steps I started feeling in love again with Babel and smelled the glory of Ishtar. The music started again. I reached the end of the corridor and it was a room with a destroyed ceiling and the sunlight is coming from above. A new unexpected wave of disappointment hit me. The music stopped again.

I wanted to leave but I heard a whisper: “wait”.
I stopped stunned and saw Ishtar coming from the sky. Her feet were about to touch the floor but she stayed still in the air and said: “you can feel sad and can get disappointed although I want you to make it, to make it…. um, how is the exact word?” She lost her words. I was stunned that a Goddess could lose her words. “How could you lose your words and you are a Goddess?” I asked her.
“I am an old fashion Goddess you know, and my age has gone too far, reached 7000 maybe? So ..look don’t interrupt me when I talk ok?” she pointed her index finger at me in an act that made me smile. She looked like my primary school teacher. “Hey be aware I can read your thoughts!” she said. My smile vaporized but the scene was full of comedy. She looked so funny.
“Ehm ehm.. temporary, . make your sadness” she opened her eyes widely, moved her head in front and to a side, make a smile of proud of the philosophy she was teaching me pointed her finger again and added “and disappointment temporary!”.
“That is it?” I said feeling disappointed of what Ishtar can say.
“You didn’t like what I have said?” she said sadly with a childish tone.
“It seems easy for you to say it while you live in the sky with your deep purple custom. After all I think our problem is that we forget. We forget too much. How many explosions have hit Iraq? How many crimes? We were never sure who did them. We ask for a day or a week. Then we forget our sadness as you say and quit asking. Our souls had become ambiguous political letters from one ambiguous sender to an ambiguous receiver.” I lost my temper and I noticed my hands shivering.
She froze. She looked down for a while. Raised her head and said: “but don’t lose your faith in me, cause I love you and I do believe in you.” She put a kiss in her hand and through the kiss to me. I took it and put it in my heart. Ishtar started her journey back to the sky. I went back to my bed after that daydream. The music started again.

The music is of Marcel Khalifa named "King from Times Past". The description of "our souls had become an ambiguous messages from ambiguous sender to an ambigious reciever" is taken from an article of Haider Sa'ad on the occation of assassination of Kamil Shya'a

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

no comment

The painting is of Faik Hasan. The music is taken from one of Chopin "Polonaise"s which he composed for the love of his country. The writing on the wall in the last picture reads: "Iraq"

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Dishdashat subgh il nilli

Dishdasha colored indigo

Gumi gumi ib4aragha, hallo

wake up wearing only it, hello

He was a Guns ‘n Roses fan with his long hair and deep blue jeans. He hated her at the first place because she got a strange ritual; she would reach the house of doctors with her Abaya full of dust and mud. She would took off her Abaya and wash it and hang it on the palm to dry. “Our houses are of mud, our streets are unpaved so… I get all the dust from there you know”, she comment once to him when she noticed how he looks at her when she do that.
He hated her more when he smelled her body as she passed next to him and asked: “do you want breakfast doctor?”. He nodded his head “yes”. She brought him a dish of an omelet of two eggs. She said: “I made only one egg for all the others but for you I made two because I want you to get fat”. She was happy and smiling. He said: “I hate eggs, they smell like farts, and I like my body, I want to stay thin, I don’t want to get fat”. He put a dot at the end of the sentence, stood up, took his white coat while she was frozen from sadness, and he went to the ward.
She had a very poor salary. The doctors, his colleagues decided once that they give her an extra salary gathered from their salaries. He was the only one who refused. He said: “it is not my duty in life to aid a woman went poor due to her ignorance”. His colleagues new that he is tough minded. No argument would help. But one doctor said: “her husband is a martyr in Iraq-Iran war when you were still a child, she is so alone and poor, show some empathy”. Instead of showing empathy he raised his shoulder and went to his room.
That was enough for her to avoid him. Till one day he could not sleep at noon from the heat of the weather. He asked her while she was washing the dishes: “how can people sleep at noon in this abyss?”. She smiled and said: “they wear Dishdasha, and their houses are from mud, it is so easy”. She raised her shoulders while talking and left him alone. He started wondering about the way he dresses usually. He remembered how hot are the walls of his room which were built from concrete and metal. Would mud be colder? How could people live in them when they even don’t have electricity? He wondered.
He went after her and gave her a sum of money. She refused angrily. He insisted. She was almost to beat him with the knife in her hands. He put the money at the sink and went murmuring: “I won’t accept it back”. She spent a moments of shaking. But finally she found a solution.

Wil guthla sit 4ayat w

And the front hair got 6 folds

mandel mandal faregha, hallo

I cannot find when it starts (the fold of the hair), hello

The next day she told him she would wait for him in this noon to give him something. He kept thinking about her. When he came back she told him to wait till every body is asleep. WOW, he started to think about sex. Will she do sex to him?
Everybody went to sleep their siesta his heart started pounding. She showed up and asked with one word: “hungry?”.
He almost swallowed his heart from lust. She laughed. She went to the refrigerator and brought him a deep red watermelon. She said: “you would not eat this until you do me a favor”. When he was about to open his mouth she went to the kitchen. She brought with her a blue stripped dishdasha and said: “go to your room and wear this, you would feel cold inside it”.
He was surprised by these rituals. He went to his room and took on that dishdasha and felt how much cold it is inside it. He smelled her odor in the dishdasha but now he likes it. He went back and she clapped her hand from happiness, in spite that she was in her 50s but she was still a child at these special moments of happiness. While he was eating that cold delicious deep red watermelon she went to her house. He had a good siesta that day and spend the night longing to see that beautiful lady again the next day to thank her and his longing started to be like a small fire of love lit kindly into his love naïve heart while she spent the night alone in her room poorly lit by her lantern longing to meet her martyr in heaven.

ya baba khuthni wiak

You Dadi take me with you

sa3a magder beleyyak, hallo

I cannot stand one hour without you, hello

itwa3idni ween ween algak

you gave me a randez vous but where can I find you

ruhi el 3aziza tifdak, hallo

my only soul is all for you, hello

The song is a traditional Iraqi song performed here by Ilham Al Madfa'ai. The first picture was taken by me during my rotation in Hilla. The second and the forth painting are of Mahood Ahmad, a famous Iraqi painter. The third painting is of Jawad Salim, a famous Iraqi painter.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bon Nuit

I don’t claim that the lyrics are something with deep meanings and insights. It only says that don’t hide your love, show it, we all need others. This is all the philosophy in the lyrics. Are simple words not important? Should words be complex as if made by a stubborn long beard man with serious frightening look that we should take it as a deep insight? Naaaaaa Axel Rose and Slash are so much enough for me these days to give me philosophy. After all it is not only the lyrics that made a song. What makes a song is the music, the voice, and the memory attached to it.

Hey I almost forgot, and the video clip. This song got a video clip that lasts for about for 9 minutes and few seconds. Something stuck to my memory, especially when the one of the guests of the wedding jump into the cake. Was it the bride who jumped into the cake? I cannot remember.

These days are really hot and dry here in Baghdad. You know what? Our local electricity generator had made a DOOV! An ugly explosion with some dark black ugly smoke and stopped working like a donkey that is trying to be stubborn in his attitude she never agreed to work again and this is the third day that we are, the neighbors, hot, lazy, trapped, and drowsy.

This night, Sunday night, supposed to be an Ugly one as the next day is a working day, the national electricity came and my air conditioner is blowing cold cold air into my sleeping room and I tried to get access to my email. I did then I tried to google something. I wrote NOVEMBER RAIN. And for over an hour I started singing the lyrics and trying to imitate Axel Rose’s voice, and movements. He got a nosy quality of voice, do you agree? I like how he moves his body while singing. Hey, have you seen Slash’s face? I never did. I always wonder how his cigarette never set fire in his hair.

Bon Nuit.

Friday, July 10, 2009

To Bridge Or Not To Bridge, this is Victoria

Holako made the first bridge in Baghdad from the books he took from its libraries and threw them in Tigris which was colored with ink. Till the start of the 20th century there seem to be no bridge in Baghdad. It seems that bridges remembered the Baghdadies back then of Holako. Before the 20s century people in Baghdad were crossing to the other side of Tigris using Al Quffa, a circular boat, like in the picture above.

At the start of the 20th century Baghdadis started to make boats floating next to each other, the put longitudinal woods over them and the first simple made bridges were made. I wonder how the early Baghdadis back then saw these bridges. They were regarded as unbelievably huge and great. I cannot be sure how they looked in their eyes but this is how they look to our modern eye:

I've seen the bridge and the bridge is long
And they built it high and they built it strong
Strong enough to hold the weight of time
Long enough to leave some of us behind

So when Victoria saw this bridge she thought it is high and strong and she started thinking about suicide for the first 78 pages of the novel entitled by her name and written by Sami Michael that novelist born in Baghdad in a Jewish family to leave Baghdad in the 40s and go to Israel to keep writing his novels and he was the one who translated Najeeb Mahfooth’s novels to Hebrew. You can easily know that he got a degree in psychology from his narration which is full of symbols, psychodynamic symbols. I like how he concentrates on the body language. He would write that Toya put her thumb in her mouth when she saw Rafael, or how the family lit the candles before it is dark at that day when the flood started in Baghdad making the sorrow and fear more intense. The characters have clear fixed traits and each one stands tall as living individual in front of you while you read the novel. They are vivid to a degree that you can imagine what he or she would do when this or that happens. He never forgets to make me laugh or smile at the appropriate time. He is the kind of a novelist that I like, that I hope I can be someday.

So it was 78 pages of Victoria walking along the bridge and thinking about her life and its worth. She would think of suicide for a while then remembers something and the narration takes you in a wave. This is maybe how the bridge looked like in Victoria's eyes back then:

Standing on the bridge looking at the waves
Seen so many jump, never seen one saved
On a distant beach your song can die
On a bitter wind, on a cruel tide

The first 78 pages I just finished is talking about what how the life of Victoria came into her mind while she was planning to throw her body into the mad water as there was a wild wind that day. As she wanted to end her life she remembered her childhood and the words came as water taking us to a house of a Baghdadi Jewish family living in the early years of 20th century. They were a crowded family and their dynamics were so vividly drawn by that expert writer in my mind. He made me even imagine the walls of their big old house. Even the smell. Najeya who prefers to wear her unclean clothes, Azeza and her malice, Izra and his stubborn religiosity and thick beard, and the poor sensitive soul of Victoria among many others.

And the bridge it shines
Oh cold hard iron
Saying come and risk it all
Or die trying

Baghdad got 12 bridges now I think. And she is still not happy with them. They misbehave. That old one, al Sarrafya, which was the longest in the world at its time, is no more carrying the trains with their loud whistles. Al Ahrar (free people) bridge seems trapped between ugly buildings and car crowds, and the others have military check points that made the cars stops in the hot weather and their horns would inter your skull and teach you the concept of headache at its highest tension mixed with hotness.

And every one of us has to face that day
Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away
And every one of us that ever came to play
Has to cross the bridge or fade away

I was worried as I was reading the novel about the fate of Victoria till I reached the middle of chapter seven, page 78, when she quit her plan to suicide and she aimed to go back home. I decided that I should stop reading now and told you about this magnifisant novel, “Victoria”, written in Hebrew by Sami Michael, translated to Arabic by Raja’a Naqqash.

The words in italic rosy font are the lyrics of elton John's song the Bridge which seems to talk about the Golden Gate Bridge, the most site in the world that witnessed suicides, pictured above as the old Baghdadi bridge in Victoria's eyes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

When on the Highs there was no Sky

There is a book I see every now and then named “inventing Iraq”. The cover contains something like a war scene. There was something British in the cover but I cannot remember what it is now. And I got a friend with a big belly who said once: “Iraq is a wrong name, it is the wrong Arabic utterance of the word Iran, it is Iran where it came from, it is the origin”. An Arabic journalist asked Mithal Al Alusi once: “have I heard you saying the Iraqi Nation? Is there an Iraqi nation?”

After I have seen all that I wanted to go more into the original neglected part of Babel. The area was empty. With some fear in my heart I walked slowly into that area. I saw holes in the old walls, I thought about snakes. I thought about how far the medical clinic is from me. I stopped, changed my way into another area which was as old as the first but less frightening.
And in a matter of seconds I was next to Marduk.

Now that I am writing about that visit to Babel, I remembered my first experiences in Hilla. It is the Enuma Elish.

I was a young doctor & he was a worried old father. He seemed not willing to give me details of the medical history of his daughter who was suffering from a deliberating disease threatening her life. He seemed hopeless. He sat on the other side of the table and he did not make any real eye to eye contact with me. His mind was thinking away. I thought I would support him a little by talking about something else than the medical history of his daughter back at that moment. I cannot remember what I said back then that made him answer me little more lively than before with something like: “yes, our heritage is something big, we made the first creation myth!” I asked: “you mean Enuma Elish?”

His lower jaw hanged down open while he gave me the first real eye to eye contact saying in a low voice: “how can you remember its name? How come you know it?”
“I know it!” I said proudly with a victory smile.
“How come that name came to your mind so easily?” he asked seriously without any smile. He was little agitated.
I thought back then he was suspecting that I can understand the old Babylonia language. And if I do so then I might be from a religious minority still living and talking their old language. I felt annoyed a little by his insisting question. I succeeded in diverting the conversation to something else. After few minutes he started to tell me more confidently about his daughter and her suffering. His daughter succeeded in doing better after few days.

Before there was earth and sky, there was no human living, there were so many gods and goddesses, and there was chaos. Tiamat was a goddess with certain power she seemed to like that chaos and she wanted it to continue. Marduk defeated Tiamat and her dragons of chaos, and thereby gained supreme power. He started to have the names (and hence abilities) of the other gods and goddesses.

His name was Ahmed. He was a new doctor who prefers to stay silent in his room that he shares with other three doctors. He greeted me and went back to his bed next to the window to let his eyes fly free. One of the doctors was talking to me about something I can not remember and said while looking at Ahmed: “I swear by Hammurabi what I have said is true”.

The doctors all started laughing while Ahmed smiled at us. I understood that he was talking to them about Hammurabi and they found that very strange and funny. Ahmed joined us silently at our dinner in the house of doctors. I asked him: “So, Ahmed, if you can tell me how Enuma Elish starts I would be your friend”. He was shocked, stopped eating, widened his eyes and then looked at his dish again.

I gave him enough time to answer. He looked at me as if asking: "do you know it yourself?" I whispered to him: “When on the highs there was no sky”. And our hearts met.

And when on the highs there was no sky my friends, Iraq was already there.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Free Association (He’s Me Pal)

Back then we had only two T.V. channels and they were BORRRing so we had a video and few tapes. We used to record some films and watch them again and again. E.T. and the moppet show and some songs were the mixture that made me laugh and comment: “E.T. phone home!! No he says it like this EE TEE PHAN HAAM”. The starting music of the moppet show was something that altered my taste to music. Seeing a movie was a noisy happy experience for me. But when Rain Man was shown for the first time in the 80s, and I succeeded in recording most of it apart from its first 1 or 2 minutes, I learned how to watch a movie in silence. I didn’t know Dustin Hoffman back then and I thought that the HERO was Tom Cruise. I loved his sun glasses and his hair. I wanted to be like him. But when I saw Cramer Vs Cramer I was shocked to see that man, same man, Rain Man, acting as a normal man. I knew that Dustin Hoffman is not abnormal “that was how I call Autism”. So all Rain Man was just acting? Was not true? How can he act like that? Every time I see Rain Man again I get amazed by how he can imitate Autism. Oh God, he is really an actor. He knows how to wear a personality. He is not naked at all that man. Have you seen his black rain coat and black and white hair lately in “last time Harvey”? I wanna be like that.

Seen her? Knew her? Look again.

Yes she is Meryl Streep. Her film “falling in love” was the first time I saw her in my life, and it was the first time to see Robert De Nero also. I was little older when I saw her. I saw that film and recorded it in the 90s, and I fall in love with my fantasies again. And you can imagine may be my day dreams back then. To be lost in the urgency of time running after the metro which would take me to my boring work as a, as…a….. an magazine photo editor, and that woman with that hesitation and that peculiarities of movements, especially when she touched her neck would agree to spend some time with me chatting on a cup of tea while we are both stretching the time into an Arabic thousand seconds and a second….

I have seen many films of Meryl Streep and lately I felt that she is repeating herself. Well, I was deluded.

Yesterday I saw her film with Jack Nicolson, a film talking about really lost people, what was the name of the film? IRONWEED, but I don’t know really what the name means. What interested me in the film was her acting. She is not the Meryl Streep I was deluded about, she was the real creative wonderful amazing Meryl Streep with her front teeth caries and a strong voice while she sang to me “He’s Me Pal”.

Friday, May 22, 2009


"I see no light at the end of the tunnel" I heard that for the first time in the 80s when I was watching in the T.V. a Palestinian leader talking about his negotiation with the Israeli leaders. I asked my father back then what that means. He said it means no hope.
I heard that same thing "I see no light at the end of the tunnel" when I was watching T.V. in Baghdad in 2006 when an Iraqi politician was talking about his negotiation with other Iraqis. I felt really hopeless and frightened.
I went today to central Baghdad just for a walk not knowing what was waiting for me.
The first thing I saw was that the old library of Al Fulfuli (I think it was founded in 1908 or something like that) is selling old pictures of Baghdad and Iraq in black and white. A man holding his daughter in his arms was buying.

Al Mada institution was running a symposium on that well known Iraqi archeologist Taha Bakir who was a teacher in Al Hilla, his city of origin.

In al Mada beautiful library I saw people gathering to hear the lecture of one of Taha Bakir's colleagues.

He was talking about the first revelations of Sumerian heritage with Taha Bakir who was a pioneer in translating the Sumerian language and writings. He has many books but the book that you can find easily every here and there is his famous translation for the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The hall was so crowded and it was little hot and I started sweating profusely. I heard part of the lecture and went out to see the river.

I saw a crowd of old and young men gathering around a Santoor (=old Iraqi musical instrument dating back to the Sumerian era) and they were playing and singing old songs.

Tarik Harb approached. He started to talk about Cleopatra because the song was about Cleopatra. It was an Egyptian song performed for the first time by Mohamed Abdul Wahhab.

By the side of the river there was a young man reading poetry to a bunch of people. His sound was calm and sweat but I could not get what he was saying because I was little far.

When I started to leave, I saw big light at the end of the tunnel inviting me to embrace Baghdad and play an original piece of music for her.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I reached the procession street. The street of old Babel where they were making their celebrations and rituals. Then I reached the palace.

Wall after wall, gate after gate, I passed into the dazzling corners of Nebuchadnezzar's southern palace.
Seven walls to embrace 5 squares. Seven gates Ishtar passed to visit the underworld.

in every gate, Ishtar would take off something she wore. She asked the guardians of the gates why she should do that the myth say. They answered to reveal the truth.

When I passed the last gate, I found Saddam's palace above a hill. They say under his regime, he ordered to renew the buildings of Babel and to put his name on the bricks.

Were all these buildings real?
I saw dead palms.
I felt sad.

I felt disappointed but when I came closer to Saddam's palace and I saw many young people walking happily in its gardens I remembered how much people of Hilla are practical, they made it a hotel. Wow.

I hope that new palms will be planted here.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Eros and Thanatos

War is like love, it always find a way.
Bertolt Brecht (1898 – 1956)

In a French film of Claude Chabrol I forgot its name but it was about Hiroshima, a love story between a French man and a Japanese woman started with the time of war. They were both married. Both separated from their families. Forced to spend some time together to pass the dark moments of war they fall in love. When the war ends and they started to leave each other he asked her:

- Would it be possible that we meet again?
- Only if another war starts. She answered. And the film ended.

I asked someone who saw the film with me, what is the relation of War and Love? He answered: in wars we get rid for a while from our commitments, feel little free, a love story may find its nest in our frightened little hearts.
Is war a stress that affects our psychic development causing us to regress to an earlier stage of development? Make us more nostalgic to our safe mother's womb? Does it uncover the hidden in our psych? Take off the persona (=mask) from our feigned social personalities?
Questions I never sure of their answers but the Sumerians chose a Goddess, Inana, to be called later Ishtar, as the Goddess of love and war.

Celebrate the most monstrous Goddess
Ishtar who covers her body with glee and wears love
She wore lust and love
She is filled with life and kindness and seductive to desire
Ishtar wore lust and love
In her lips lies honey and the life is in her mouth
When she comes happiness become completed
And she is wonderful if she wore a veil
Her shape is beautiful, her eyes are glistening
Destiny is brought to everything she holds with her hands
Rich in desire, sexual delight and lovers pleasure
Who is as great as she? Who?
Her orders never shake, awesome filled with radiation
Ishtar is special among other Gods
Her order is the reign
All humans are dread of her
From all the women's name, her name is the only one
from Stephan, F. J.; Hymn to Ishtar, (James, B. Prichard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Text), 1969.

Ishtar. Seems familial to you? Its Sumerian name is Inana. It is a name for a planet called nowadays Venus. Its worship extended from Iraq to the Mediterranean areas.
Because the Babylonians loved the study of stars and planets they chose a planet or a star for each of their Gods and Goddesses. Venus was Ishtar. The moon was her father "Seen". The word Ishtar means in the Akkadian language as: "the star which appears before aurora, before dawn". Her older name, the Sumerian name Inana, means literally "the Lady of the Sky".
The Goddess Ishtar passed in different stages: she was a teenager once longing for a husband, then a wife more confident in herself, and finally the widow which is the most important of her phases, in which she lost her husband Dumozi who went to his trip in the underworld.

The original Ishtar gate is in Germany. But here in Babel I found the original context. Everything was speaking to me.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Loneliness of Babel Theatre

I entered into a world of another time. From my very first steps I felt isolated from my place and time. A thrilling lust of what I may find was running on my spines. What I feared the most is that a wild dog may suddenly jump in front of me and started his/her angry defense on his place that I invaded. All I was hearing was sounds of birds.
I found a stairs. I stopped. Took a breath. Went up to see this:

When I finally reached this my heart sank deep into some sorrow when I saw the theatre backstage. I remember seeing the Algerian musical group practicing here their piece of music from Sahara before they would perform their piece at this theatre stage on that same day in the 90s when the security man asked me to leave Babel as soon as possible or he would do something "BAD" to me that would make me regret my intensions. My intensions were that I ask the Algerian group to give me some notes of their music pieces. Or just to talk to them.
But it was prohibited in the previous regime to talk to a non-Iraqi without permission from the regime.
An Algerian violinist came and saluted me. He must have heard what we were saying. He invited me in the backstage. I went and saluted all the musicians and I told them about my love to Algeria and to Sahara music. They told me that they got no notes to give me, and that they play without notes. They asked me to play a piece of Iraqi music for them before their show would start. I played in their Aud the well known Iraqi song "Wif Raghum… Bech chain…(=and their departure… had made me crying…)". I left the backstage wishing them good show. Saw the angry security man who told me to leave Babel at once. I left at once with sorrow.

Seeing the backstage destroyed was better than seeing it living with Saddam's security men. At least the backstage can take the shape it wants. This is an early stage of freedom when some chaos rules the place. Let us just hope that order will come as fast as possible and theatre backstage would be full again of the chaos of artists and not the chaos of neglect.

From that scene my tour continued to see the whole theatre. I didn't know whether to feel sorry or lucky that I was alone at that time. This big theatre which makes me feel tiny.

After leaving the theatre, and leaving my sense of anxiety, that sence which came from that sad annoying memory, and the fear of encountering a wild dog, after leaving all that I looked at the theatre from a distance and felt strange of how much it is neglected. No sign, nor any guide to tell you about its history. But in spite of that, it looks wonderful. Take care of yourself dear theatre. Let the 2 fallen angels of Babel taking care of you too.