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Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeIraqBaghdadBaghdad, Iraq Day 2: Welcome to the Jungle

Baghdad, Iraq Day 2: Welcome to the Jungle

Baghdad Day 2 is part of the Iraq Homecoming Trip Report. Read Day 1.


Welcome to the Jungle is the appropriate name for my second day in Baghdad, Iraq following Baghdad, Iraq Day 1: Over Stimulation.

a street with buildings and cars on it
The calm of Baghdad in the morning.

Street Market

Though I did stop by Times Square for New Year’s in 2021 (see Happy New Year! TPOL’s NYC NYE Party Guide), I avoid it at all costs when I go to New York. The same is true about the markets that take over the city streets. In Baghdad, the markets pop up on Friday. It’s a literal zoo with all sorts of animals from snakes to birds being sold in one area to hundreds of people bargaining for useless junk. With hundreds of people jammed in close proximity, all I could think of was how as recently as 2016, the country was on edge as ISIS had held Mosul hostage and bomb attacks were not uncommon (see Dozens killed as bombs tear through packed markets). While Baghdad is safe, I would’ve fled the scene if I had been on my own. Instead, we spent the next few hours in the scorching heat pummeled by merchants peddling everything under the hot Iraqi sun.

a group of people walking on a street

a crowd of people walking on a street

a large crowd of people outside a building

a group of people in a crowd

a group of people standing in a street

a group of people standing around a table with a pile of potatoes

a group of people standing in a street

a group of people standing next to a pile of knives

a group of people looking at shoes on a table

I had a brief respite when I stopped for freshly squeezed OJ. The kind merchant didn’t bother charging me upon learning I was Iraqi American.

a man making orange juice at a fruit stand

a crowd of people walking on a street

a man pushing a cart in a brick alley
A quiet corridor.

From the jammed street markets, we went to the souk. It was unimpressive. All I saw was useless junk leaving me unable to test my bargaining skills (see Bargaining Price Guide: Bookmark It!).

a pile of money on a table
Bought Saddam currency when I was in Qatar in 2014. I don’t think it has gone up in value.

I did purchase one souvenir. I will display it at Bachuwa Law’s domestic headquarters, Rio Mar, Puerto Rico. Hopefully, it does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

a close up of a banner

a display of necklaces in a store
Gift for my uncle.
a group of people walking on a road
Space! Get me out of here.

Kubba Break

Before going to the famous Muttanabi Street, I saw a place selling a traditional Iraqi dish, kubba. I had to stop for a sample. Not as good as grandma’s, but it did bring back memories.

a man cooking in a large pot

plates of food on a counter

a red bowl with food in it

a round white ball on a red and white plate with brown liquid

a food on a plate

a man standing in a kitchen

a group of people eating at a restaurant

Muttanabi Street

Before my trip and in my quest to become a polyglot (see TPOL The Polyglot: A Better Way to Learn Multiple Languages), I learned how to ask, “وين شارِع المُتَنَبّي؟,” which means, “where is Muttanabi Street?” Al-Muttanabi was a famous Iraqi poet and the street that bears his name still sells books, though some are of questionable quality.

a group of books on a table
Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a terrible book. Read my book, Everyone’s Advice Is Wrong . . . Including Mine instead.
a crowd of people in a street
Muttanabi Street

a group of people outside a market

An obligatory stop on Muttanabi Street is Shabandar Café (مقهى الشابندر) which opened in 1917. It is what Kasalta is to locals of Puerto Rico, a place to go, chat, relax, and perhaps, write poetry.

a group of people standing outside of a building

a group of people in a room

a bird cage from the ceiling
Take note of the high top relaxed hair look. Every young man wore it proudly.

a group of people sitting at tables in a restaurant

a group of people sitting in a restaurant

a cup of liquid on a plate

a glass of liquid on a plate

My hookah days are behind me, but I received enough second hand argheli smoke and cigarette smoke regardless. I also had one of many chai’s on my chai crawl troul of Baghdad. The lemon style had a kick to it.

Mikey Spotting

A fun activity while in Baghdad is Mikey spotting. I couldn’t help but notice how many Iraqi men look like my Palestinian golf extraordinaire friend, Mikey (see Since I cannot personally go to SE Asia with Mikey and show him the ladyboy bars in Bangkok…).

two men taking a selfie
You can see him working in the photo above.
two men standing on a golf course holding a flag
Wait, How did Iraqi Mikey get to Puerto Rico?

TPOL’s Trivia: Shabandar Café is also called Martyr Cafe because a suicide bomber killed including many civilians including the owners’ sons in a cowardly attack in 2007 following the US invasion of Iraq. Like the open market, it was eery to know I was in a place that had witnessed so much carnage.

Haircut Spotting

Can you spot the cool haircut?

a group of people walking down a street

Food Everywhere

Hungry? Why wait?

a group of people standing in front of a large group of buckets of food

a group of buckets of food

a man standing in front of a large oven with a couple of men

a group of men working in a room

a tray of bread on a table

a man cooking in a kitchen

a trays of food in a store

a tray of food on a table

a display of various foods
By far the pretzel looking sugar things are the best.
a fruit stand with a variety of fruits
Healthy also available.
a sign on a building
Ice cream is better.

Architecture

Throughout Baghdad there is British-inspired architecture. Once upon a time, it was that beautiful. Now, it is a depressing sign of a city cemented in disrepair, if not despair.

a group of people walking on a street

a building with a balcony

Juice, Hookah, Cafe Repeat

On a semi-diet and without access to pubs, filling the time in Baghdad proved challenging. I found myself going from one cafe to another drinking chai and having freshly squeezed OJ. The option to smoke argheli was available. I kept asking myself if lung cancer and diabetes were better than cirrhosis of the liver.

a group of people sitting at tables in a restaurant

a hookah on a table

If you’re looking to pass the time or waste it, add in a game of backgammon, طاولة الزهر, with a few of your local friends. You will be there all day.

a group of men sitting at a table

If you’re wondering who that woman is on the wall, it is Umm Kulthum.

TPOL’s Trivia: Do you know Umm Kulthum is the most famous Arab singer of all time? Her story has a dark side, one based on propaganda. The government supported her marathon concerts as a way of distracting the masses from their actions and as a tool for promoting Arab nationalism.

TPOL’s TIP: Women are welcome in the argheli bar. No one gave Ms. TPOL or me weird looks when we joined a group of gentlemen at their table.

a woman smoking a hookah

Al-Muttanabi Statue

Overlooking the Tigris is the Al-Muttanabi Statue. Next to that is a cafe for more chai.

a group of people standing on a dock next to a body of water

a body of water with buildings and trees
Would you float the Tigris on a Friday afternoon?
a person swimming in a body of water
This guy did.
a man holding a small flag
Celebrating my Iraqi Bar Admittance

TPOL’s Trivia: Did you know I was the 24th American lawyer sworn into the Mongolian bar (see Remember That Time TPOL Moved to Mongolia?)? Along with my Achilles rupture (see TPOL Is Down, The Website, Not the Achilles), Kobe and I have another thing in common.

Abu Hanifa Mosque

Our next step was the Abu Hanifa mosque. Security was very tight. So was the dress code. Ms. TPOL purchased an abaya to enter.

two women standing on a street

a group of people walking down a street with clothes on swingers
Who’s that lady? (Who’s that lady?) Beautiful lady (Who’s that lady?) Who’s that lady? (Who’s that lady?) That real, real, real fine lady (A beautiful lady)
a group of people walking on a street
That beautiful lady (The beautiful lady)

Before going in, all phones and electronics are checked. This explains the lack of photos. Here is one before going in:

a group of people walking in a city

Modern Cafe

After that, it was back to another cafe. I substituted tea for espresso. The place, Fay, was more lively and younger in its demographic. For the first time, I saw a mixture of men and women. It felt like a normal coffee shop.

a cup of coffee and a glass of water

TPOL’s Tip: Fay’s Cafe is located at Four Streets،, Baghdad, Baghdad Governorate, Iraq

Saving Iraqi Culture

The marathon tour continued with photos in front of the Saving Iraqi Culture Monument. To me, it looked like a reminder of my Achilles injury.

a statue in a park at night

a man posing for a picture with a statue

a tall building with a large flag on it
The flag is a symbol of pride. I was back and forth between thinking this place is tragic and this place has hope.

Dinner

Instead of going for traditional Arabic food, we went to a pizza place that made Arabic favorites on flatbreads. It was very creative and delicious. Like the modern cafe, it was a positive sign of change.

a pizza with meat and vegetables on a flatbread

a pizza with sauce on it

TPOL’s TIP: I recommend the hummus with beef but the falafel was also nice.

TPOL’s Tip: Sin30 is located at Four Streets, Baghdad, Baghdad Governorate, 00964, Iraq.

Reflection

It was a day in Baghdad, one day after my 40th birthday (see Iraqi Homecoming: My 40th Birthday in Baghdad). I wondered where I would be if my parents had stayed in Iraq. Would I be this educated? Would I be alive? Would I have one of those rad haircuts?

a man sitting on a cart with a cooler on it
Where would I be?

Overall

Day 2 was appropriately called Welcome to the Jungle. Chaos aside, day 2 in Baghdad turned out quite nice.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Formidable trip report with photos to boot – thank you for sharing! Amusing to see your better half enjoying a nargela puff!

    Not sure about entering a mosque, but back in the 1960s and 70s, only the Akhwat Muslimat (Muslim Sisters) wore hijab in major cities of Iraq, and they were less than 1% of the female population at the time. Nowadays, this cultural shift in attire seems to have prevailed.

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