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.

Back To Babel

The sky was not clear. It was a mixture of clouds and heavy wind with dust, a mixture enough to convince me of doing some adventure. I was few kilometers away from Babel. A Taxi would take me there in 15 minutes only. Was it logical that I don't try it? The US and the Polish army had left the area of Babel. Was it logical that they chose this area to put their heavy metals on? Iraq is full of empty lands. Why should Babel be a military area for the US or Polish army?

The Iraqi army man welcomed me and showed me the way and gave me the OK to take pictures. I saw a long street in front of me and I walked.

Oleander aroma mixed with a sight of old clay buildings pouring up into my nose to be dissolved in my mind in a way that harmonized by heartbeats up to the fast rhythm of love.

Some buildings were having open doors. Nothing to tell you what this building is. Neither sign nor any tourist guide. You walk and you discover. I interred a building from a back door not knowing whether this is permissible or not.

That made my adventure more thrilling. I was so happy to be so near to this greatness. Can touch it. Can smell it. Even the trees and flowers seem different.

A little by little, the ordinary buildings, the ordinary feelings I got were changing into a magical one. Hypnos, that God, was hypnotizing me. Mesmer, that magnet, was mesmerizing me. My steps were going after my steps. My breathes were getting faster. My eyes was colored with the scenes while tears were evapourizing in an aroma of love. Of belonging. Of nostalgia.