Saturday, 17 January 2009

Silent Secrets of a blossoming Baghdad



After reading secretsinbaghdad@blogspot.com, the toll fee is one secret, and this got me thinking what a great idea. No one sees the closed Baghdad, the city which holds the a million silent secrets.


After following the advice of friends, I decided it was time for me to aftar (go around). Students all over the world have the same reaction to exams it seems-staying inside until your brain turns to mush, and you feel euphoric as you realise, there is nothing more you can do. The world isn't so different after all.


Anyway, now it is time to pay my fee.




First of all, I have to admit, there has not been one day where i have been happy with electricity/water/safety in Baghdad. But you have a distinct feeling that things will improve. You see people smiling at each other now. Shopkeepers sing rather than cry over the loss of someone, or complain about the masked men.


A million fairy lights illuminate the dark that once was. The generators hum a melodious tune in the background. Now when the generators run out of benzin, or the electricity is turned off, instead of the curses and prayers, candles float around flickering as everyone patiently waits while cracking jokes.


Its friday, and there are no traffic!! Correction:less traffic. On the way back, I walked out the car and wandered while the queue did not move. I sat in the front seat, and others got dizzy as I constantly turned to try to take everything in. Cars are suddenly new and shiny. Oh, and new types of hummer have been brought into that shop. People buy them and bounce through the streets with Eminem blaring toy soldiers or some other song. Also, another improvement, I see more girls. They walk around in groups smilling and stopping at juice parlours.


The internet cafes are permanatly buzzing with life these days. Everytime i pass one, i hear the gurgling of many cans of pepsi, as well as the waft of tobacco heavily characterising these places. Oh, reminds me of a conversation i overheard, which annoyed me. Well, not one, more like many, that slapped me of the outdated and horrible view that men have of women/relationships etc etc here. I will blog about it, but now, I really don't want to think about it. I'm far too high on happiness.

My mother reminds me perhaps it is best to block out such conversations, but its pretty difficult, when a)they talk so loudly and b)it gives an insight into the reality of some things here.


Anyway, perhaps its because being so stressed lately, and shutting myself off, that seeing Baghdad today, made me gurgle with laughter and happiness like a child. Or perhaps its because i have realised despite everything, despite history, despite the world, there is Life here.


I pass through a fruit stall, and I am reminded of ani incident as a child of around 9. When I never cared about anything. I was walking slowly (i still do), and a man wearing a dishdasha and agaal was talking to abu il ragee (guy who sold watermelons).

I loved abu il ragee. He was always happy, and his shockingly white hair was so weird. (I had never seen white white hair before).

Anyway, I noticed the man said to abu il ragee..."ala sicheena" (on the knife), and the abu il ragee slapped a watermelon with a knife and gave a large slab to the guy. Seconds later, pips lined the floor, and the dishdasha guy was walking off with the melon.

I wanted some melon.

I walked off while my parents were trying to make my brother happy (he had held onto one of the stalls and refused to move until he could drive a car. i think he was 11 at the time, and toy cars simply were not enough anymore).

Bravely, I walked up and stared at abu il ragee. I'd forgotten the phrase that would get you melon. So I stared trying to remember how i could get melon. Abu il ragee waved to my parents. "Your daughter walked off". My brother ran to me worried i was lost. My parents laughed as my brother forgot all thoughts of cars. I badly pronounced "ala il sineena".

I got my melon slice. It was honey sweet, and of course i made a mess.

The whole incident came flooding back as i realised that even though sometimes hope in iraq seems lost, the result can be honey sweet. In the end we can all get our melon slice, despite things being a mess at times.

Maybe I just want melon now, and this story has no meaning whatsoever, but it was fun reminiscing.


Oh, i noticed something that the restaurant guys have started doing. They throw some meat fat onto the hot coals. The smell draws people in. Well, it drew my family in anyway. hahaha. :D. Below is Cuzi. Basically meat on rice. My mother ordered it for me, as apparently i need more 'protein'. I never realised my mother's hopes were for me to become a body builder. :D
Anyway, the waiters now have uniform, and as well as that, i thought you get what you order. But no. You don't. They bring soup starter, and salads all with a smile. And to the annoyance of my father, they serve all the women their food first. We had to listen to my brother and father complaining of starvation as they waited for the impossibly long time it took for all their food to be brought. The impossibly long time of 5 minutes. During which I praised the deliciousness of the food with every good word in the dictionary. What can i say..evil gets the better of me sometimes.


Two hours later, we left the restaurant.Leymouna time (the people in leymouna are now on first name terms with me, I think i visit everyday) then Clothes time. All I can say is clothes here are unique. I can now expertly tell which country the clothes are from just by looking at them. Its either Syria, China or Iran. Occasionally some from Turkey. Here's a summary of how I do it:
Turkish clothes
tends to be floaty material, with flowers, and large floaty sleeves. The colour is pastelly but bright, and it is satiny or silky. Includes designer brands such as Dolchi & Gabana, and Luis Vutton.
Syrian clothes
Bright clashing colours and comes in 2 sizes; small and smaller, for that classic syrian look. The designs are very creative, and unique. However, should not really be worn outside, as the designs can be suprisingly revealing. In the window, they look 'modest' etc etc. You wear it, and you realise they tricked you into buying tight clothes.
Chinese clothes
Normal clothes. They come in a wide range of styles and colours. Always seem to have a large eyed cute cartoon character on the pajamas. Wrapped in thin clear plastic. The sizes are incorrect. Whatever size you buy, it will undoubtedly be too large or too long for you.
Iranian clothes
Abbayaat. They come in the classic plain black with a simple 'made in iran' tag in white...or they come in the weird abbayat design. They are heavily embroidered and shimmer and glide. I have a need to buy one, spread my arms and jump off some steps. i really want to try it. Seriously.


I need to stop analysing everything. Maybe i should write a guide: "Touta's Iraq: an acute almost obsessive analysis of clothes, food and people".
Basically, i enjoyed Baghdad, and its convinced me to go out more.

Oh, and my secret? Hmmmm. I do actually believe a lot of things that have happened in my life are miracles from Allah. There. I defy logic! I have not been able to find an explanation for soo many things that has happened. And for future reference, this is not up for discussion. I believe it, and anything anyone says will not change my mind. :D Oh, and since I am feeling generous, my other secret is that I hate money. And mushrooms.

-------------------------
side note: few days back(almost a week), I wrote there had been unrest over the situation in Gaza. Many, including family members said iraqis were to daykheen (dizzy) to know what was happening outside there own doorsteps. Hate to mention it now, but unrest has turned into potential violence.

------------------------
side note 2: clearly me confessing that i as a logical person believe in miracles, is not a good enough secret for some *cough cough*
So here goes secret number 4/5? Another secret I have is although I don't flinch when I hear bombs or gunfire, I keep thinking of how many times my family who stayed here had to suffer the worst of it. And I feel guilty.

Another secret, since the one above most people probably share with me. Hmmmmm. My multimedia player is my most guarded possesion. It reveals too much about my personality.It has the soundtrack of my life. It has the photos of the best and worst times. And when i can't go to sleep, it is my bedtime companion. Although once, i almost strangled myself with the headphones while sleeping.

Final secret, so people don't accuse me of being mean-I used to write a diary. At the end of the year, i read every entry and realised how whiny and negative i sounded. From that day on, i wear a smile even if i am shouting insults at a person i despise. It looks creepy, and scares them. :D You don't mess with the touta!

44 comments:

JG said...

Touta,

Interesting post. I like the way you write.

On the Gaza issue, why do you say "unrest has turned into potential violence"?

Did something specific happen to make you think this?

Jeffrey said...

Touta,

Salam Pax, the first Iraqi blogger, has now returned to Baghdad and reports of the improvements there much like you are doing here. Check out my last two entries at Iraqi Bloggers Central.

*

Touta said...

JG,
*bomb explode* hhhh, violence is an everyday occurence here.
I just repeat what i hear from the mouths of people. basically, some people are worried that because of the atrocities of gaza and lack of anything helping them, some may decide to be violent.What's left of baghdadee jews now have to be more careful.
But hopefully, expectations and coming elections might bring some calm to the situation...

JG said...

Ok, I understand.

To be honest, I didn't think there were any Jews left in Baghdad.

Jeffrey said...

Touta,

I just added an update with a clip from this blog entry.

*

C.H. said...

Touta,

If you have the chance, Iraqi Mojo has a very interesting post about the relationship between Iraqis and Palestinians. Mojo has always been a supporter of Palestinian rights, but he is equally outraged by the large number of Palestinians who have thrown their support behind Saddam Hussein and other thugs, like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

My only conclusion is that they are misguided, because Zarqawi is one of the greatest enemies Islam (and the Arab world) have ever faced. His deranged antics still ripple across Iraq to this day. How anyone, particular the Palestinians Mojo mentions, could ever carry a banner supporting such a subhuman is beyond me.

I would love to see the day when Palestinians rally in Gaza city to condemn a suicide bombing against Iraqi civilians, as Iraqis have done when Gazans are killed by the IDF.

khalid jarrar said...

:O

**turns red, blue and yellow all together, jaws hit the ground and starts drooling, eyes popped virtually out of their place, stares at the amount of secrets in front of him trying to think how is he gonna carry them all home**

:D

A wonderful post, thank you very much for telling us all these beautiful things about Baghdad, you make me high on happiness myself, your happiness and high hopes are infectious:)

Oh man Quzi, oh man oh man, there was a shop, that makes Quzi only for parties and such, y3ni tawa9i mako?, in 14 Ramadan street close to where we lived, owned by a christian family, i cant remember their name now, the shop is called Azzawraa, it was the evil source of the obscene amounts of Quzi that passed our door step over the years. I hope its still opened and that they are well.

And you'd better believe, that miracles happen to you,i give you full permission to shoot any doofus that tries to tell you otherwise.
Allah sub7ana o ta3ala takes care of us, always :)

Thanks for the post, its such a treat :)

**gives Touta a gift that makes her happy**

ps: you should totally write that book, i am buying the first 100 copies myself!

attawie said...

Miracles do exist :)

So touta, hold on to what you believe in and enjoy it.

I hope el qoozi was good. bil3afiya :)

Jeffrey said...

Khalid,

Too bad that you and your brothers supported the "resistance" that killed so many Iraqi citizens. No thanks to you guys that Iraq has started to turn the corner.

*

Touta said...

khalid,
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Sadly, I've wrote the address of the quzi shop, and i have every intention of visiting it now. :D
ya gift? waeen ha? :D

attawie,
:) Wa shukran, i will hold onto what i believe in. ma adri schlon akamil il qoozi though. I just kept chewing for half an hour. hhhhhhh

jeffery,
let's not turn this into a reinactment of the salem witch trials. iraq is improving because iraqis everywhere wanted it to prosper and get better. :)

Touta said...

JG,
suprisingly, there are some jewish people left. We know of one family in baghdad, and they told us they know quite a lot that have moved to more rural places. :)

jeffrey,
*rushes to read article, head enlarges in size*

ch,
politics can be complicated and misguide the wisest of people. :) Will read when i have time, and figure out why my bloglist keeps deleting iraqi mojo's blog link. :)

Jeffrey said...

Touta,

Fair enough. Khalid can reply over at IBC, if he wants. My charge remains the same.

*

Touta said...

:D

JG said...

Fair enough. Khalid can reply over at IBC, if he wants. My charge remains the same.

Like anyone cares! :)))

Of course Jeffrey really does care about Iraq though, there's no doubting that. Or is there?

Jeffrey to Dr. Mohammed July 10, 2008 8:24 AM

http://last-of-iraqis.blogspot.com/2008/07/living-hell.html


"Mo Baby!

LOOK OUT! Here's comes another sandstorm!

Heh heh heh.

I always enjoy listening to your feverish tales of misery. Iraqis always get the leaders (and blistering heat and sandstorms) that they deserve, it seems.

And no, I will not be going to Iraq. Why in the world would anyone want to go to that hellhole? I've traveled in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, but no thanks on Iraq. There's a good reason Iraq will never be a tourist destination. Satan's sandbox is only for those like yourself, Mohammed."

programmer craig said...

Oh, and my secret? Hmmmm. I do actually believe a lot of things that have happened in my life are miracles from Allah.

After all those mysterious exchanges with Khalid, I thought the "secret" was quite different! :o

Jeffrey said...

JG,

I asked you to take it to IBC (in deference to Touta's wishes).

*

khalid jarrar said...

haha :D

The shop is a little place, fat7a wi7da 3alshari3 but kollish deep inside dakhil bil3iara lilakheer. its exactly in front of rokn il mabani il namoothathiyyah. about a 100 meters before you reach almawj icecream, right beside the thorayyat place..what was it called.. almohannad lil 2inara? :) yalla go check for us :D


JG,

"Fair enough. Khalid can reply over at IBC, if he wants. My charge remains the same.

Like anyone cares! :)))"


indeed JG, indeed.

and for everyone, just to clarify since jeffery wrote a lie about me here, i ask your permission Touta to have the shortest response, 3amalan biqawaneen 7orriyyat innashr, law enables you to have space to reply for any articles addressing you:P i will keep it very short, i promise! :)

Jeffery: That is a lie, i only support resistance that kills occupying forces, anybody that targets civilians is a terrorist, not a part of the patriot resistance. but you already know that because i explained it to you and in my blog 100 times dont you?:)
Didnt we agree you are not allowed to lie?

Sorry Touta! that was it! :)

khalid jarrar said...

"ya gift? waeen ha? :D"

oh its a virtual gift of your choice, you can choose anything, as long as it makes you happy! :)

JG said...

Touta,

This will be my only comment to Jeffrey. And, like Khalid, I'm just clearing up a lie.

Jeffrey,

I asked you to take it to IBC

No, you did not. As you well know I posted the same comment at "IBC" and you deleted it and banned my IP address, just 30 minutes ago.

Why are you so afraid of me repeating your own words?

I'm going to post it at Zeyad's too.

Later....

Touta said...

Programmer carig,
i updated this post just for you. And trust me, once you survive some things, I as someone who has not experienced enough of life, cannot place it down to coincidence or luck.

Khalid,
thanks for directions, i'll post the shops news, and the cyber present can be world peace.

Jeffrey,
appreciated

JG,
no problem, finish here, then do your thing.

SIDE NOTE:
its okay, i'm not offended yet. I get offended at lack of respect. Everything else...meh. :)

C.H. said...

Hmmm...

maybe you should hire a site monitor touta, lol! :D

But then again, these occasional exchanges certainly make your blog entertaining, don't they?

programmer craig said...

And trust me, once you survive some things, I as someone who has not experienced enough of life, cannot place it down to coincidence or luck.

Without going into detail, let me say I know EXACTLY what you mean, and I agree with you. Some things cannot be explained by anything except divine providence. I would never dream of making fun of you for feeling the same way about things that I have myself in the past :)

programmer craig said...

On your updates... hmmm... I still think you are holding out on us! But it's OK, a girl has to have some secrets :)

khalid jarrar said...

**looks at that new load of secrets, looks makhroo3, runs home to get sa6la to collect them**

JG said...

From that day on, i wear a smile even if i am shouting insults at a person i despise. It looks creepy, and scares them. :D You don't mess with the touta!

Hahaha... hilarious!

I have to say I don't really belive in miracles/divine providence/god etc... but I would never make little of anybody else for believing. If we all believed the same things life would be boring.

madtom said...

"Jeffery: That is a lie, i only support resistance that kills occupying forces,"

Sure, that why you can read all about the dead Iraqi that Khalid attributes to the MNF on his own blog. When everyone know those Iraqis where killed by the very "resistance" he supports. All you have to do is close you eyes, and make a wish and Khalids lie is a truth. Like all the other communist

khalid jarrar said...

"Like all the other communist"


HAHAHA :D :D :D

so now i am a commi all out of a sudden? :D :D :D

madtom said...

No, no Khalid, I was not calling you a commi.
Just comparing you to one, maybe I misspoke.

While we're on the subject, how about the collaborators?
Don't they count as Iraqis.

programmer craig said...

Khalid is an Islamist, so that would put him more along the lines of fascism.

(Just stating the obvious, not looking for trouble, Touta!)

Michomeme said...

I liked they way you write and explain everything going on here.
from your words I understood that you were not here for at least more than two years ago. as many things especially in 2008 have changed.
you can see stylish young girls walking and shopping, many ice cream shops, restaurants..If you want I can lead you to many good restaurants in Baghdad.
I'm sure the situation will be imporved, but gradually, so we must be patient..

be safe

C.H. said...

We all have our disagreements...but I truly believe that everyone here wants the best for Iraq, I don't perceive any of touta's readers to want the opposite.

How about we agree to disagree and accept the fact that its going to take many different Iraqi voices (Khalid, Touta, Micho) and many international voices (myself, JG, Jeffrey). No one view is going to make Iraq into an even great nation :D

What do you guys think?

(I'm trying to be a peacekeeper, Touta...I would like payment though, haha) ;)

khalid jarrar said...

MadTom :

:) Collaborators, as in spies and such? yeah Iraqis, but ones that deserve a warning and then a severe punishment if they dont stop it. those in my opinion are worse than occupiers themselves. still they deserve a warning first.

Programmer Craig,

oh wow how open minded and tolarent, well informed and loving you are! i see you are still effected by the christmas spirit! :D

Touta,

halaw! :D

madtom said...

Spies and such? how about Iraqi police, Iraq army, members of parliament, the original governing council, translators, members of the awakening, all legal targets are they. I see.

programmer craig said...

oh wow how open minded and tolarent, well informed and loving you are!

Do you think that describes YOU, Khalid? lol. Yeah, wouldn't it be great if everyone was tolerant of your intolerance, and open-minded towards your close-mindedness!

That's the best weapon of an Islamist. Western leftists who are deluded enough to think that if they treat you "fairly", you will reciprocate.

programmer craig said...

yeah Iraqis, but ones that deserve a warning and then a severe punishment if they dont stop it.

Maybe some rooftop flying lessons? Or maybe their families should be kidnapped and tortured to death, eh?

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Jeffery: That is a lie, i only support resistance that kills occupying forces, Khalid

Most fortunate that the United States military is not an occupying force, then, no?

I wonder what punishment Khalid would choose for saboteurs?

Touta,

Miracles? But of course there are miracles. :) Just ask the passengers of Flight 1549. That could have ended so differently.

JG said...

Flight 1549 - That was the pilot's skill.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

One of the definitions of "miracle" is: "an extremely remarkable achievement or event". And, that it was indeed. :)

For those who choose to believe that it was the result of divine intervention, I will not rain on their parade. I think we can all agree that it was a happy day when that incident ended as it did. And there have not been a whole lot of happy days lately.

programmer craig said...

For those who choose to believe that it was the result of divine intervention...

Can't speak for anyone else, but I don't believe in "divine intervention". For me, it's more of a "fate" kind of thing. Some things are supposed to happen (or not happen) and so they do(or don't). I don't like to get all religious about it, I've just come to the conclusion from things I've seen in my own life that there aren't natural explanations for some things.

Bruno said...

Interesting to see Jeffrey and Craig so concerned about possible casualties caused by resistance groups opposing the occupation of Iraq, but no concern whatsoever to the carnage unleashed by the actual invasion itself, nor concern for the deaths caused by the perpetrators of the invasion, the Americans.

Then again, it is not entirely surprising, since the warmongers have the nasty little habit of claiming that any Iraqi killed by American arms must of course have been a "terrorist".

programmer craig said...

Dunno what you're talking about, Bruno. I didn't say anything about the resistance or the Americans, in this thread. I just made a comment about Khalid's belief that Iraqi collaborators should be "punished". We all know what "punished" means to somebody like Khalid, and we all know that someone like Khalid would classify most of Iraq's population as "collaborators".

Or will you deny that, Bruno? Do you still think the majority of Iraqis support the resistance?

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

But, I wonder, what determines what our fate is to be?

Did you ever hear the story of the American soldier who saved the life of the German soldier in WWII? The German soldier went on to become a doctor after the war, and many years later he ended up performing an operation on the same American soldier, saving his life. Coincidence? Or fate?

What would have happened after 9/11 if Al Gore had been President? Was it George Bush's fate to be the President at that moment in time? Was all of this meant to be?

Hmmmm...

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