Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Obstinacy of Love in Baghdada

According to Elliot, when the Hollow Men feel a desire to kiss someone, they are unable to. Instead, they say prayers to broken stones.

Hassan Mutlak wrote in the introduction of his novel: “there is an old memory, since I was a student in the second grade in primary school; I witnessed a man who found a beautiful alabaster box and sold it to an English man for 4 dinars. At that moment I suffered.. and I am still suffering”.

“I dream of a magic wand
Which turns my kisses into stars
So that, at night, you can
Stare at them
To know that they are countless”

Those were Dunya Mikhail’s verses, said in a prayer of love.

Hassan Mutlak, and before being executed by Saddam regime, had signed a copy of his novels to Dunya Michail who kept asking about him when he dissapeared. So let me tell you about Dyam, the protagonist in Hassan Mutlak’s novel “The Power of Laughter in Ura”:

Oliver came to Nineveh to look for the Assyrian treasures. Dyam was a local boy aiding him. Oliver gave his hat as a present to Dyam, but as Dyam took-on the hat, he could not anymore see the skies, because of the hat borders, and not that only, but he started to hear about the Hollow Men of Eliot.

Dyam had seen the Assyrian tressures deep into that dark well, but he lied to Oliver saying that there is nothing in that well. Oliver was frightened to go and check by himself because of the extraordinary creatures living deep in the darkness of the well.

It was raining and Oliver offered Dyam a ride in the car but Dyam answered: “why would I came inside the car and the rain has started?” Dyam went walking “receiving the wide drops like kisses” as the novel says.

Dyam who wished to “die in a moment of a kiss” kept talking about his coming death. As if Hassan Mutlak knew that they will kill him. Dunya Mikhail kept asking people about him while people's faces were turning yellow from fear, and she was asked finally not to mention his name again publicly.

Hassan Mutlak knew about the Styx River which marks the borders between life and death, but he refused to join the Elliot’s Hollow Men in their scarecrow show as he tells us symbolically throw Dyam.

Hassan Mutlak's brother, Mihsin al-Ramli, told us in an article about their mother and her night stories and especially that story of the illiterate man who invented his own prayer and how funny and sincere it was.

Hassan Mutlak prayers were published openly in Iraq after the 2003 and I received them lately while I was making my own version to Baghdad, picturing those drowned boats, those poor people, this burned-out court of justice, and this demented river.

Baghdad, we love you obstinately.

Lag3ud bi tali el leal (= I swear I’ll wake up late at night)
Ya 3nayid ya yaba (=o you little stubborn)
Wallah wathkur waleefy (= to remember my lover)
Wib 7igat el 7alman (=and on the excuse of dreaming)
Ya 3naid ya yaba (=o you little stubborn)
Ana lamshi 3a keafi (=I will sleep-walk to wherever I want)
3eani w dhay 3eani (=my eye, and the light of my eye)
Ya 3naid ya yaba (=o you little stubborn)
Tiswa hali w kul lil garaba (=you’re equal to my kin and all my relatives; means you are more important to me that them all collectively)
Ya 3nayid ya yaba (=o you little stubborn)

Thanks to my friend who provided me with the burned-out court photo. The song lyrics and music is said by most to be made by Hudairy Abu Aziz. But some regards it as a Jordanian Folklore. Muhsin al-Ramli article about his mother is published in the Iraqi journal “Mesopotamia” in its Issue 2 December 2004. “The Power of Laughter in Ura” novel which was written in 1984 is published by the Arab Scientific Publishers after 2003 and available in the net on Baghdad was written as "Baghdada" or "Baghdado" in the writtings from the Keesh era, 1500-1117 B.C. and it was the oldest mention of Baghdad according to Taha Baqir.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hearts Splitting Apart

They are building some huge thing in Bab Al Mua’atham, but nobody is sure what it is. We got to walk a long distance till we get our bus to go back home. I passed near the Uzbek Mosque and wondered about what is happening in Kyrgyzstan. I thought about taking a photo to the mosque but it lies inside the ministry of defense and the guards are everywhere. They would ask me why I need that photo. And it will be hard to explain. I thought that I can find its picture in the internet when I will be at home but I was wrong, no picture for the mosque but a Google Earth view which has no artistic value.

Today it was very hot and dusty. The bus driver told me that he wish rain would fall. Baghdad turned her face to me and said: “me too… I wait rain… since long…” as I was searching for an answer, she turned her face and went walking, but to where? “Where are you going?” I shouted. “She’s deaf” the bus driver said with laughter!

Et comme toi j'attends la pluie
Pour lui dire toutes mes peines
Tout comme toi, je lui souris
Quand elle tombe sur la plaine
Quand elle tombe sur la plaine

وإنني مثلكِ أنتظر المطر
لكي احكي له كل أوجاعي
ومثلكِ تماماً سوف ابتسم له
حينما يتساقط على الأرض
حينما يتساقط على الأرض

Once upon a time in history, centuries ago, some Uzbeks didn’t find shelter for them but to live in Baghdad. They immigrated here and found it a good place to install their life in. They knew that the place in enough good to start their manual works. Then they needed a mosque, and they built one near the gate. The Iraqi historian Abdul-Razzaq Al Hasany says that Baghdad was just a small city which extends from Bab el Mua’atham, to Al Sinaq, surrounded by a tall wall. The only functioning gate of Baghdad just before the British army entered Baghdad early in the 20th century was a gate called Bab Al Mua’atham, and when you just enter through the gate, you would see the Uzbek mosque to your side. I wondered about that time when Baghdad was receiving immigrants who seek stability. There is no Baghdad that receives immigrants these days anymore, but there is one that expels her sons out.

Uzbeks and Kyrgyz people, you got some huge mountains and wonderful music, so why don’t you play some music for the world and show them how diverse and rich this world is?

Trop de souvenirs gravés
De cours d'écoles et d'étés
Trop d'amour pour oublier
Que c'est ici que je suis né
Trop de temps abandonné
Sur les bancs de ma cité
Trop d'amis pour oublier
Que c'est ici que je suis né
Que c'est ici que je suis né

كثير من الذكريات المحفورة
دروس مدرسة وأصياف (جمع صيف)
كثير من الحب للنسيان
هذا لأنه إنني وُلِدْتُ هنا
كثير من الأوقات المهجورة
فوق مصطبات مدينتي
كثير من الأصدقاء للنسيان
هذا لأنه إنني وُلـِدْتُ هنا
هذا لأنه إنني وُلـِدتُ هنا

Picture taken today from Bab El Mua’adam bridge. Part of Faudel’s Mon Pays song in which he sings his confusion of belonging to France Vs. Algeria from his album Mundila Corrida and film made by Windows Movie Maker.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Un village chrétien au Kurdistan Irakien,
By: Ephrem-Isa Yousif

After the First World War, the borders between Iraq and Turkey had been drawn and specified. With a line, Herbool started to belong to Turkey, and Sanate to Iraq. His mother Yorina was from Herbool, while his father was from Sanate. He is Esho, the Chaldean-Assyrian, talking to us about his childhood in Sanate till he left Sanate in 1956 after graduating from its primary school, he left it at that time to Mosul to complete his studies, and since then he misses it. He misses the fresh air coming from the mountains, the Gods of Nineveh embodied in nature, misses the freedom, and the perfumes of Sanate in an elegant 117 pages book, which misses, unfortunately, 17 pages in Dar Al Zaman publication edition which I got (from 48-65).

Da3ouni ajoodu beel buka’a (=Let me give generously with weeping)
3ala wa7eedie wa7die ( upon my only son by myself)
Fanhameri ya dumu3 3ayni (=So pour down, oh tears of my eyes, )
Wa athri fi kabadi (=and reach my heart (literally: my liver))

Foa’adi enkawa (=My soul (literally: my heart) was seared)
3ala el 7abeeb (= on my most beloved (meaning: "my heart was injured badly because of what happened to my beloved"))
wa khananie jaladie (=And my patience betrayed me (meaning: "and I couldn't take it" or "my patience didn't hold up"))

His father Yusuf was a farmer. He used to implant tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peas, and did not forget to implant and harvest Tobacco which he was addicted on, in spite of the recurrent objections of his wife, Esho’s mother, Yorina.
They got 50 goats that were used to graze in the mountains. Esho’s grandma, Kitro, and his mother, Yorina, used to care for the 50 goats milk, making various products from it, but mainly cheese which was a main meal.
They got a donkey named Kindo, and a Mule named Ferdo. Esho loved to accompany his father in their rides around the area and sometimes to Zaxo to buy some merchandise for their village. Such trips were not out of danger, for the Bandits were numerous and they would not hesitate to kill if the others would not give them what they want. Even gangs from Turkey sometimes invade the village at night and steal sheeps and things alike. But they couldn’t steal the beauty of the mountains with the various trees it got: the poplar, willow, fig trees, pomegranate trees, peach trees, apricot trees and others.
He tells us about the special days, and holy days they got in their Sanate. I liked the most that specific day of the year, which seems not to have a special name, when everyone between 6 and 16 years old should go in 4 groups to the wild and live a whole day without the men and women form other ages. The girls would play the role of mothers, and the boys would play the role of men. Such a great idea.
I liked also that public bath in the nature for women and children every Sunday. All the villages’ mothers would go with their children, about 500 one, to a valley in an area named Bahwari where there is a river, and they would take a bath, all naked. When male children get over 11 years of age, they are no longer taken in this common bath; rather, they can go together to another place and swim together.
Esho tells us about many incidents that reflects the social rules and values. Most of the stories he remember were sad. Like the story of Nano Kore the blind poor girl who got pregnant without marriage form a teacher, then get killed by her brothers. Or the story of Hinny and her elder husband who kept believing that she was unfaithful to him till he one day cut her nose by a knife. Or Khatoon who was married against her will to a man with paralysis, to fall in love later with amn from another religion and escaped from the village with her lover.
He told us about the names of the tribe was living in Senate at his time: Al Bou Isac, Al Bou Zaya, Al Bou Kimya, Al Bou Kinno, Al Bou Kara, Al Bou Nisan, Beshman, Al Bou Shalmoon, Al Bou Mangana, Al Bou Koureah, and Al Bou Tshina.

In 1956 Esho graduated from the primary school of his village. His father wanted him to continue his studies in Mosul. He took him to Zaxo and at the borders of Zaxo he saw a thing that frightened him. A thing moving, but was neither a human nor an animal. It was a car. He took the bus to Mosul in which he kept missing his village life, the freedom and the air and the Gods of Nineveh.

The picture in the video is for the cover of the book and you can see the walls of Al Umawie Mosque behind it. The mosque itself was a church before Islam. The Hymn “Let me cry generously” is believed to be sung by the Virgin after the crucifixion before more than 2000 years from now and is sung on the eve of Good Friday in Eastern Churches. Here it is performed by Lena Chamamian, a Syrian-Armenian singer.

The translation of the Hymn is taken and modified from the following link

Sunday, June 06, 2010

My Poor Baghdad.... I Love You

بغداد، يا أُمّاُ مخرفة لم تتعرف على أولادها
بغداد، يا ممحيّةً دعيني أقراكِ
أحب فقرك المدقع
فثرائك الفارغ كافر

Baghdad, you demented mother, who didn’t identify her children
Baghdad, you who is erased, let me read you
I love your poverty
For your empty luxury is blasphemous

أحن الى رائحة صابون الرقي في فوطة بيبي
ورائحة عرق أبو موزة الحدايقجي بعد العمل حين تصب له بيبي الغداء
أحب أن أشم رائحة أولادك الكادحين
رائحة تلك العجوز حين تتكوّم بعظامها البارزة تحت تلك التُكيّة
تعطيها بيبي بعض الكيلوات من التمن والعدس
واجلب لها الماء بارداً والشاي حارّاً كما يجب
كما علّمتني بيبي

I long for Grandma Foota’s (= type of veil for elder women) smell
A smell of Saboon Raggi (type of locally made soap)
I love the smell of sweating of Abu Moza the gardener after finishing his work and eating the lunch my Grandma made for him
I love the smell of sweat in your working sons
The smell of that elder woman who was sitting tired with her bony face under the huge blackberry tree
My Grandma would give her her kilos of rice and lentil
And I brought her the cold water and the hot tea as it should be
As my Grandma taught me

بغداد، اكره عطورك المزيفة الحديثة
أعشق أكل الروبيان من يديّ عجوز بصراويّة أًميّة
أكره وجباتك الجديدة المفبركة
في مطاعم الإجرام

Baghdad, I hate your high priced cheated modern perfumes
I love to eat shrimp cooked by the hands of a Basrawi illiterate elder
I hate your newly faked dishes
In the restaurants of crime

بغداد، اريد ان امتطي حصاناً يعبّ الخبب
وأن أصيح ديـــــــــــــــخ
وأن أسبح في نهر دجلة مع أخوانٍٍ لم تلدهم أمّي
أن أشرب الشاي مع متسوّل
واهديه حذائي لأبقى حافياً
يلسع الكًير الحار قدميّ فأُغني أُغنية لصلاح البحر
"لله يا صاحبي... ترحل وتنساني"
ثم أتلوها بـــ
"جايني وشسّوي جاي"

Baghdad, I’d like to ride a stylishly running horse
And to yell Deeeeekh (a word usually said to the horse to run fast)
And to swim in Dijla with my brothers whom my mother didn’t born
I’d like to drink tea with a vagabond
And to give my shoes to him and stay bare-food
Ground burns by feet so I started singing one of Salah Al Bahar's songs:
“For the sake of God my companion, you leave and forget me?”
Then follow it by
“you’re are coming back to me? What for?”
(Salah Al Bahar is well known Iraqi singer and composer of some songs, and the two songs between brackets are his own)

بغداد اريدك حرة كالطير
أمينة كحمامة بيضاء
صبورة كالجمل
ووفية ككلب اسود مكتئب
ينتظر قدوم صاحبه في المطرالحزين
حكمة البومة وسكرة البلبل بنبيذ التين

Baghdad, I’d like you to be free as a bird
Safe as a white pigeon
Patient as a camel
And loyal as a black dog with depression
Waiting for the coming back of his companion under the sad rain
Owl’s wisdom and the drunkenness of a nightingale by the fig wine

اريدك ان تزهي بجمالك وترقصي
اريد المطر ان يبدأ ولاينتهي
اريد ان ارى نوح مرة اخرى يبني سفينة
لنا نحن الذين نحبك يا بغداد

I’d like you to reveal your beauty and dance
I’d like rain to start some day and never stop
I’d like to see Noah again building his ship for us
We, that we love you oooh Baghdad

عبائتك السوداء هي بساط صلاتي
شعرك الأسود هو ليلي
صوتك الحلو ترنيمة نومي
حين تغنين لي آودللو
فيما أبي في قهوة عزاوي يستمع الى الجالغي
My mother
Your Abaya is the carpet I will pray on
Your black hair is my night
You sweet voice is my lullaby
As you sing Oooh Delello (= a well known song to sleep the baby in Iraq)
While my dad is in Azzawie café listening to Chalghie (Azzawie café is well known café in bgahdad, and Chalghi is a style of singing and playing music especial for Baghdad)

لا تنسين ما كتب الأسلاف
لا تنسي إينوما إيليش
لا تنسي أُوتونا بشتم
لا تسني مكتبة بانيبال
ولا تسني أغاني جدّاتنا

My daughter,
Never forget what our ancestors wrote
Do not forget Enoma Elkish
Do not forget Utanabishtim
Do not forget Banipal’s library
And do not forget our grandma’s songs

بغداد الفقيرة احبك
بملابس غير مكويّة
بسلال خوص النخيل المليانة بهدايا عمتي
بشربت قمر الدين الذي ربّى بقلبي حصرة
بالنومي بصرة

Baghdad I love you, you the poor
With old non-ironed clothes
With palm leaf made bags filled with presents from my aunt
With Qamr El Deen juice which grew an opression in my chest
With Noomi Basra (dried lemons of a very special kind)

شاي أسود حرقته "هيلة" الجايجيّة بعد أن نسته على النار
محروقٌ ومرّ
جكَارة سومر قد تفيد بعض الذكريات من دخانها
قد لا يكون "شاكر" هناك

With black tea, burned because “Hela” the “Chaicheyia (=tea maker)” had forgotten it on fire
Burned and bitter
“Sumer” cigarette may had a memory in its smoke but
“Shakir” might not be there

بغداد.... قد رحل إيشو القادم من سانات
حاملا على ظهره نبيذاً صنعوه في بيوت بعشيقة
وقد رحل حسين مردان آتياً من بعقوبة
جالبا لنا عرقٌ خمّروه في هبهب
وها هو تائهٌ ذاك الذي يحبك
بين يديكِ
فدلّية على الطريق الصحيح
واعذريه إن رحل

Baghdad…Esho who came from Sanate had departed
Carrying in his back home made wine from Ba’ashika
And Hussein Mardan who came from Baquba
Who was bringing us Arak made in Hibhib
Had departed too
And that is your lost man who loves you
Between your arms
So show him the right way
And pardon him if he departs

بغدادي الفقيرة ... احبك
My poor Baghdad, I love you

هيلة وشاكر عاملان بسيطان كادحان تعرفت عليهما في الحلة و أحبهما بشدة
الموسيقى المصاحبة للصور التي التقطتها البارحة هي موسيقى ارمنية لفنان ارمني اسمه أرتو تونكوياسيان واسم المعزوفة هي "زيتوني زار" وقد استخدم كموسيقى مصاحبة لفلم "رحلة في أرمينية" فطوبا لهم هذه الروحية


“Hela” and “Shakir” are poor workers from Hilla and I love them severely.

The music in the film I made with my photos taken yesterday from central Baghdad is an Armanie music by Arto Tuncoyaciayan and the name of the piece is Zetuni Zar and was used as a sound track in the film “Le Voyage en Armenie”