Friday, June 18, 2010

Sights and Sounds of Baghdad

The desert knows me well, the night and the mounted men.
The battle and the sword, the paper and the pen.

-- Abul Tayyeb al-Mutanabi

Ever hear a new sound -- one you've never heard before but you know you'll never forget? It happened to me once in Etretat, thanks to the shingle beach. The new sound then? Water crushing the small stones. And it happened to me again today, thanks to a coffee vendor who turned his two porcelain coffee cups into castanets while walking up and down Mutanabi Street.

Central Baghdad's Mutanabi Book Market -- it's named after a classical Arab poet, so it's not surprising that this is considered the intellectual capitol of the city. Scholars, students, soldiers and shopkeepers come to buy and sell magazines, maps, magnifying glasses, prayer beads, video games, stuffed animals, and--of course--books. There aren't too many women around, but men are hanging out in cafes, smoking and playing board games. Pictured: Two boys have their pet bird in tow while shopping for books with their grandfather.

All motor vehicles -- except speeding military humvees and pickups-- have been barred from the area since a 2007 car bomb.

I think the ice vendors have one of the toughest jobs in the neighborhood. An umbrella cart and wool blanket shield the ice block from the sun. But it was still almost 120 degrees today.

Below: A woman balances a block of ice on her head.

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