"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
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.