Friday, January 15, 2010


Today was a rainy day in Baghdad. A malicious girl invited me to an adventure in which she stolen my time, worries and boredom.

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things

I walked in town on silver spurs that jingled to
A song that I had only sang to just a few
She saw my silver spurs and said lets pass some time
And I will give to you summer wine
Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

I woke up on a strange tune, a tune of something like when a metallic spoon hits an empty wine glass. The house was dim since there was no electricity and I thought that it was dawn. I went walking dazed to the kitchen. Nobody was there so I drank a glass of water to hear again that same one note tune: “TINN”!

“Who is there?” I headed for the hall to find a strangely tall white cigarette lit next to a wine glass with few deep red drops. I took the glass and started to smell the wine. “He He He” I heard my front door shut with that malicious laughter. I run to my door to find it half opened, half closed. I wanted to open it but she was holding the door from the outside and pulling it. We fought on the door but her laughter was so loud threatening that my neighbors may woke up from this unbelievable incident in this early cold dim morning so I let her close the door on me and heard her steps going down stairs. As I tried to check the time, I discovered that she had stolen all my clocks and watches.


Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring

My summer wine is really made from all these things

Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time

And I will give to you summer wine

Ohhh-oh summer wine


My eyes grew heavy and my lips they could not speak

I tried to get up but I couldn’t find my feet

She reassured me with an unfamiliar line

And then she gave to me more summer wine

Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

Was it a dream or not is a question to answer before I get enough deep sleep so as soon as I knew that it is raining in Baghdad I took my leather jacket over my sleeping pajama and held my blanket and said to the minibus driver: “Take me to her!”
The bus driver stopped his radio from all that religious shouting while I passed into deep sleep in the back seat. As we reached the river he said: “She said she would be by the river”. As I reached the river I found her gone leaving me a book on a seat near the river. As I was about to worry about where to find her, I found that she had stolen my worries.


Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring

My summer wine is really made from all these things

Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time

And I will give to you summer wine Mmm-mm summer wine


When I woke up the sun was shining in my eyes

My silver spurs were gone my head felt twice its size

She took my silver spurs a dollar and a dime

And left me cravin’ for more summer wine

Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

She left me an apple next to the book which was so funny and fruitful and it was time to ride my bicycles in rain. I ride and ride till I felt thirsty. They told me to go to the well next to that old church. A wise man was waiting for me with all his calm and patience. “It easy young man, just close your eyes and you would drink water!” and as he was departing with his malicious smile he added: “never open them till you are not thirsty anymore”. I stood in front of the well and closed my eyes. Her hand approached my mouth full of cold water, I drank from her hands, it was so sweat. When I opened my eyes, she was gone stealing away my boredom.


Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring

My summer wine is really made from all these things

Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time

And I will give to you summer wine

Mmm-mm summer wine

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tishreeb History

It was another Friday and Baghdad is not crowded again since it is a holiday and people are spending their time at home, so we chose to go for a walk. As we passed from Al Meedan Sequare and saw what they are offering to sell my friend commented: “as if a deranged memory”.
“What do you mean?” I asked. He explained while asking me to look at those things they sell: “look at these things…

… they look as if a symbolism to a deranged memory. As if somebody is trying to remember his history but things are in a mess!”.

What my friend said was so right and I decided to take pictures. We then headed to Um Kalthoum cafĂ© and took a cup of tea hoping that this dose of tea mixed with Um Kalthum songs might brought us back to something that can hold about our history. Um Kalthoum was singing her slow calm repetitions symbolizing what may time means to an Arabic, something that goes round and round slowly while you’d better sleep after eating your lunch and drinking a cup of tea with a cigarette whose smoke gather up under the ceiling while all the dust is falling down to the ground in silence if you don’t snore, and in a hypnotizing manner if you do snore.

We reached Al Mada institute and there was a symposium about Abu Gati’a (Abou Ga4i3), that simple farmer who started to have a program in the radio and gained big reputation since the people liked what he was saying a lot at those old days (in the 50s I think) then he started to write in that paper that belongs to the Iraqi Communist Party, that famous line that me, nor my friend, had ever heard about. We didn’t know who is Abu Gati’a. I remembered that in spite of the efforts I made I will still know a very little about my country, and wondered what if I didn’t make any effort at all, then what I have known?

Well, we walked in the commercial centre of Baghdad and it was in a mess. We passed near in Al Shorja, behind Al Souk Al Arabi (Shorja is the commertail centre of Baghdad and Al Souk Al Arabi is mainly for clothes) and I noticed that we were between the old mosque of Al Khulafa and Al Latin Church. I remembered that there was a stork living in an old church in Baghdad and that when I was kid I was very interested in knowing about him. I smiled while telling my friend about it. I wondered if it is the same church.

We passed by Soog El Ghazil (a market were animals are sold) and I remembered that about a year before an explosion occurred here and they have accused two women with mental illness to commit that suicide bombing so I left my smile behind me again. It seems that you cannot hold your smile for some continuous time in Baghdad.

Suddenly a two rows red bus passed us and that was something strange because I didn’t see such an old bus since long time. I remembered my father who used to take me in a bus like this one to Al Sadoon Street and I loved to press that red bottom to emit that buzzing sound which means that we need the bus driver to stop in the next station. My father would ask the driver: “my son wants to ring the bell but we don’t want you to stop, ok? He just wants to ring it!”. “ok” the driver would say with a smile. My father would hold me high so that I reach the red bottom and “Ding-Dong”, wow!! “Again!” I would say while I am going down away from the red bottom to feel suddenly that I go up fast and “Ding-Dong”, wow!!
We walked and walked till our legs started to complain from us. It was at that time when I saw it, that big building with that statue holding a flame, as if victories flame, at the corner of the building. I took a picture for it once and asked my neighbor about it and he said: “ohh, it is the cinema, Cinema Roxy, one of the first cinemas in Baghdad if not the first of them, beautiful picture. Don’t loss it!”

My neighbor then told me that he was once taking a photo to an Iraqi flag which was torn and dirty. A strange man stood in front of him and asked sarcastically: “YOU LOVE IRAQ?”
My neighbor answered that man: “Let us say that I love reporting things, so that people would come after me and knew what was going on here. Now look man stand little to the right because I am going to take a picture of you next to the flag. I love reporting as you know.”

We laughed. I didn’t ask him if he took that photo to that man or not. We just laugh and eat the Tishreeb Bagella (=kind of an Iraqi dish) he prepared for us.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Those people that I adore

A painting by Sabti Al Heeti symbolizing Al-Sayyab poems, on the sun he wrote Al-Sayyab famous lines:

"The sun is nicest

in my country

And the darkness
Even the darkness in my home is sweeter

Because it embraces Iraq"

31 Dec 2009

A dreamy night walk in Al Rasheed Street

Salima Basha Murad took her left hand out holding a big white veil and started waving for me before she stopped her Oldsmobile and said: “I have taken off my veil and took a new hair cut, look how beautiful is my hair!” she moved her head from side to side very fast once to look at me with great proud and eyes that caught me from my yellow shirt and drew me towards her kingdom while people around us were just passing by paying no attention to this strange unexplained incident in this full moon night at the very end of 2009. “They got creative coiffures here. Do you want a hair cut?” as she ended her question a rush of about 31 men screaming “we are the ever fast changing raging days” and 12 obese breathless sweating women screaming “we are your boring months” came running towards me holding their scissors. Muayed Neama (the well know Iraqi cartoonist who was assassined) came and took a huge breath in, then blew them away. He rescued me and I was about to thank him when I saw his eyes glistening as if there are some hidden tears behind his glasses. He smiled to me and put his hand on my shoulder while handing me this

At the same time of that miraculous incident, Fuad Al Tikarly went out from one the nearby cafes and said: “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you as my friend Sartre had said”.

Salima whispered while she quieted her engine: “you are not lonely anymore babe” I smelled her perfume and it was not threatening at all. She smiled a childish smile. I saw a green dot between her front teeth. That was strange and I thought for a while that she is just a girl in her 12th anniversary and her legs weren’t tall enough to reach the break and the accelerator pedals. “Come in!” she ordered me as an old friend and I sat next to her in her wide Oldsmobile.
Well I was right about her being a child. She was very short and wearing a childish rosy bride dress and her legs were not reaching to the pedals. “What is this?” I asked her while my smile departed my heart like a drop of black oil from an old engine “your feet don’t reach the pedal and you are wearing a silly rosy dress”.

“My right foot reaches the accelerator pedal but I cannot reach the breaks. This is to your bad luck young man (malice in her eyes) and my wedding dress is no rosy, it is white but the rosy streets lights are reflecting on me…” she took a pause and looked at me with her smile and that same green spot on her teeth then added with singing some unknown tune: “streets lightssss… reflecting on meee… and yooooo”. That was so silly and funny to a degree that I even laughed, how strange. Sometimes I get annoyed from my laughter especially when it means some success to some others, that I don’t like, jokes, but some jokes are irresistible unfortunately.

“A Bedouin that sells Jibin Arab (a type of Cheese) in our quarter every early morning advised me to take off my veil and come to Al Rasheed street at night and to eat a half shish of kebab with fresh celery then to come in front of that bar you like and wait for you to come out and take you there”. A malicious silence position she took waiting what I may say. “At last I know that what was between your teeth was celery” I said while she burst into laughter.

Off course I didn’t believe her, especially that she seemed drunk from the way she moved her hands. “Did that Bedouin advised you to drink Arak (=kind of alcoholic beverage) too?” I asked. “This doesn’t need an advice you boy!!” she laughed while she parked her car near the river and we went upstairs in that big house where she opened a drawer and handed me a book saying “somebody had forgot it here”. She stood in front of me waiting for me that I leave as I deduced. I was so tired and little lost so I said: “I want to sleep”. She looked right at her bed, then at me. She looked little down and put her right hand on her lips thinking. I felt I should not have said that. She gained again her age and now she is tall and old and wearing something dark colored and her face was getting older and older when she said finally: “sleep here I would spend the night downstairs” and as if I was knowing that that would happen I went to my bed and slept.

Ya hala ba7bab galbi
Oh welcome, you that my heart loves

Rou7i raddat min shifitkum
My soul had came back to me since I have seen you

4abat ayam el talaki
How blessed are these days that we meet

min ba3ad ma faragetkum
We meet after parting

Ya hala ba7bab galbi
Oh Welcome, you that my heart loves

A song of Salima Murad with picture of my walk with the people that my heart loves

1st Jan 2010
A real walk in Al Mutanabbi

I woke up the next year and took a minibus to Al Meedan. I sat near an old man. When we approach Al Utafiya (a quarter in Baghdad) he touched my shoulders and said: “Just for the history, here, look there” he pointed by his finger to nearby palms and old buildings “just there was the house of Abu Buneya the famous Baghdadi merchant and his neighbor was Al Sadr house who was a member of the government by then, and I was just a child below 10 years of old and was living in Al Shawaka. Bait Abu Buneya were selling that summer a new kind of ice cream named “Eskimo”. I went with other kids walking from Al Shawaka to here, to his house, he gave us wagons full of ice, and inside it there were the ice cream, he told us if we like to go and sell them to people and then gather the money and bring it back to him, he would give us some money. I took a wagon and saw it full of ice cream, so I ate 2 pieces thinking that he would not notice that. At the afternoon, I came back to his house and I knew that he had counted the pieces he gave me and he made me pay for the 2 pieces I ate.” The old man laughed then continued: “we were bunch of kids and we were tired and wanted to wash so we headed for the house of Al Sadr cause we heard that he got a big garden and a big water pipe that irrigate his garden. The guardian of his house didn’t let us in but Al Sadr came at that same time from his car and he criticized his guardian angrily and let us in to wash. We washed with our clothes on, but as we reached our houses in Al Shawaka walking in the burning sun of Baghdad summer we got dry.”

We reached Al Meedan and went out from the bus, the old man greeted me saying: “such beautiful old times” then he departed to that corner near the main Baghdad public library, in front of the ministry of defense and started pissing.

I headed to Al Mutanabbi Street.

I had asked Naim Al Shatri before 2 weeks about Khudair Meeri’s books and he told me that Meeri himself had gave him one of his books entitled “Honey and madness days” and that he would found it for me next week. But Naim Al Shatri didn’t remember me and asked me to wait for another week and he said: “consider the book is between your hands”.

I went to Al Mada institute to find them making a symposium on Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab with some symbolic paintings about his life and poems by a painter named Sabti Al Heeti, and a lecture about his life by many lecturers but the most vivid and memorable was of Al Fareed Sama’an who had many shared memories with Al-Sayyab.

A painting celebrating the famous poem "The Blind Prostitute" with some lines from the poem written:

"And you are prostituting to buy

what fills the lantern

from Iraq oil

to illuminate a gleam that you

don't see"

I went for a second walk and heard a reporter asking Al Fulfuli library owner who sells among his books some old pictures of Bagdad a clever question: “Do you think if you sell some photos of nowadays politicians that people would buy?”. It was a funny question.

While I went in my way back I saw Naim Al Shatri who forgot me surrounded with a friend of him named Saif Al Deen Al Jarrah by a bunch of people while they were saying some famous parts of famous poems from Al Mutanabbi to Al Jawahiri. Nearby and I saw somebody selling scissors in the ground. They were not threatening at all the people kept listening to poetry.

I wondered if the last night was a reality or dream while I was leaving. Suddenly I saw the book Salima Murad gave me last night “Autobiography and memories, Fuad Meesho, the engineer and the musician”. I held the book and kept walking behind those people that I adore.