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 café 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.