Monday, February 16, 2009

Baghdad of june 1970

I flew from Karachi to Baghdad.It seemed like a nice city.River tigress was very nice and people assembled on its banks every evening.Some families ,Mostly men who drank very sweet tea in small clear glasses poured out of large metal kettles.I not being used to tea without milk could not enjoy this local drink.I forgot now they also served some large chapati,now thinking back it seems like it was like a large PITA OR LABASH.
I walked all over Baghdad i had received a free stay in a fancy hotel i think named Rasheed.
I as young man tries to understand this place. i was very impressed .every body knew about Hindi movies and did welcome me.It impressed me even more that many youth i spoke with learned other languages like German,French and Russian.I coming from India had to struggle to learn German in India and had not known many who could speak many foreign languages.
Other thing what i noticed was in stores huge rotisseries with what seemed like hundreds of chickens.Large chickens may be 6 ponds each.I have never seen such large rotisseries before and since not even in Germany
I wandered in markets of Baghdad and was told it is famous for silver ware as handicrafts of the place .They used some technique to embellish the silver black with line arts .checking this was fun for my inquisitive mind and made my time pass better.In the city i visited some business house ,which was largest sports store i had seen.My memory has it it was about 15000 square feet and had a mezzanine .They had many Iraqi employees.
I soon found out that my stay in Iraq was for five days and my hotel voucher was only for three days.I asked the owner of the sports store what should i do he offered me to stay with him for those days.I got a chance to stay with this gentleman whose family was visiting India for those days .he took me out to eat and finally dropped me at the airport.It was good that he was my guide as i became aware that i needed exit visa from Iraq even though i was only in transit.He went to proper office and got me the same ,now i think without that may stay in Baghdad would have been extended by a week.
I was told by Iraqi's to visit Karbala ,did not understand importance of it and had not heard of hanging garden and its story. so i missed out on all the history of Iraq.Naturally it was before Saddam' time.I did not know about importance of Iraq in Shia Islam and knew very little of ancient Iraq. Another peculiarity, nobody wanted to talk about Israel or Israel Arab conflict.People were afraid even if word Israel was used in conversation.For a naive kid from India it was a strange experience.

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