Since my high school, where I teach English, is located at the medical university campus, I have met a lot of students from Iraq, and many of them are from Baghdad.
We made friends and often exchange a couple of words with each other.
They know I stayed in Iraq for one year, even though it was not last year, and they decided I should be their Ukrainian brother.
Abdullah and Hassan are my best Iraqi friends now. We tend to make day trips to neighboring towns or villages and explore Luhansk region together. They also teach me some Iraqi Arabic. They also tried to teach me how to smoke a water pipe that we call "Kalyan" (almost like Arabs) here.
Smoking a water pipe is something that I did not see much during my stay in Iraq, but what has become very popular now.
A Trip to Iraq –
I found this amazing page at one of the Russian web sites that you may not be able to find or to read.
I decided to translate the photo inscriptions for you here.
Please take a look at the recent pictures of Baghdad made by Artemiy Lebedev, a Russian journalist, in April 2011, who, as he put it, must have been the only Russian who received the Iraqi visa in 2011.
As he said, he must be the only Russian to have received the Iraqi visa than month.
The Iraqis have a cult of a brand new automobile. That’s why drivers stick a film on the gas tank cover not to allow an accidental drop of gas spoil the paint.
They also tend to protect their license plates and permit shields and stick plastic bars to the doors so as not to hit another car at the parking lot; they also stick film to handles and bumpers.
Therefore they also leave automobile salon sheets on window screens, which has to mean, ”It’s brand new, I have just bought it”. And they drive like that for three years.
The license plates are quite different as well. They are often attached above the old ones that can often be European or Chinese ones.
There are no big city buses public means of transportation on the country. They do nit enjoy any popularity any more. There are a couple of shuttle buses traveling between big cities and mostly taking pilgrims there. Everybody takes minibuses that are called “Kia” here. A minibus would have an inscription “KIA” on its window screen, even though it may be a “Nissan” bus.
Cab drivers tend to place their taxi light on the hood.
Sometimes a local cart can serve as a short-distance cab.
Actually, the cart is mostly used for goods. The design has been standardized: three wheels and a wooden handle.
Roadside auto workshops advertise themselves with such trees made of exhaust silencers.
Block posts are everywhere. There Americans have left only recently and there is no war, but there are terrorists and the total Arab vigilance that is expressed in the way that dozens of thousands of healthy men are not engaged in anything creative and constructive. Sometiems block posts can be 500 meters away from each other, and at each block post you are stopped and examined, your documents are checked, as though they cannot call the previous block post and ask them.
Any elevated place is used as a sniper’s nest.
You can see American military “Hummers” painted white and blue everywhere. Usually there are plastic chairs next to them where the patrolmen are sitting and getting bored.
You can distinguish more or less important installations by an additional fence made of concrete fence. This fence looks ugly, but is very functional – no tank will rush through.
Iraqi soldiers are the world’s kindest, the most cordial and the most responsive soldiers. Although they look like American soldiers in their uniforms, they behave quite in a different way. By the way, the variety of uniforms has exceeded all my abilities to identify them. You can see military, police, special detachments uniforms and so on. Every day I met new ones. But they all posed for a picture with pleasure and smiled, even those who had detained me in Babylon for there hours for taking a picture of the fence of a state establishment.
You can walk along the street and notice a soldier planting flowers… Isn’t it pastoral!
And many people think life is terrible here.
Oh, no, it is not terrible, only the energy saving lamps are terrible here.
Like in any Oriental country, all electronic and electric equipment is placed on sidewalks in boxes.
You can see placards and strips with the names of recently deceased at bys crossings.
Almost all lanterns have solar batteries with a condenser.
The Arab language is good in this: you can stretch any letter and make it as long as you need. For example, you write”Ris__________________________sia”, and no problem.
A post office used to operate here. There were French style mailboxes in the street.
Everything is different now. The mailboxes are new and unpretentious. They stand near post offices.
My guide was sure there was no post in Iraq. But I persuaded him to ask locals about it. As a result, I even bought stamps. Five men were selling them, as the custom requires.
Iraq is a leader in preserved aluminum doors. All the world outgrew these doors in the 90ies of the last century.
Imam Ali is the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. He is the most popular character of the Shiites. His portrait almost always looks like that of Jesus and can be seen in every corner and on every wall. You can make sure again and again that, although the image of God is forbidden in Islam, the images of saints or the President are not.
They often hang a ceramic flower over the entrance to a dwelling (like we do with a horseshoe).
The English style pedestrian crossing.
Only here they can place a shoe on the head (to make it look like a crocodile).
Only here a smoking boy can be a normal toy.
Only here they make tuning for a “Volga” car.
And only here they install two kinds of lavatory panss in hotels.
I would say tea is the national passion of the Iraqis. It is usually served in small istakans (glasses). Coffee is rather rare. It is served only to special guests on special occasions. I remember I drank coffee only once or twice during my entire one-year stay in Iraq.
Iraqi vodka called Arak is made of dates/grapes and is flavored with aniseed or mistaki.
It is not drunk pure and bottoms up, like Russian vodka. On the contrary, it has to be diluted and can only be sipped. When diluted, it looks like a milk drink. I can't say I enjoyed drinking it. No more of it, thanks! (
I believe Russian vodka is much better, more pleasant and much more effective :-)
Iraqi beer is surprisingly tasty and strong, but very expensive!
We only drank boiled or mineral water in Iraq, while the locals always refused to drink our water knowing it had been boiled.
Deep frozen meet, that we used to buy at the local market, was only for foreigners in Iraq, whereas the locals prefer fresh meet. They believe eating deep frozen meat is a sin.
I remember we would buy Argentinian deep frozen chickens : a dozen of them in a box. It was a good bargain.
Iraqi cuisine is extremely varied.
First of all, there are the popular places that traditionally specialize in certain dishes, such as kebab grills (including grilled liver and hearts), "guss", tripe, Mosul Kubba, etc.
Then there are the first-class restaurants where, besides Western food, delicious Iraqi dishes are served, e.g., stuffed quzi (grilled whole lamb stuffed with rice, almonds, raisins and spices). If the weather is favorable and you go to one of the innumerable "casinos" along the river-drive called Abu Nuwas Street, you will enjoy mazgouf fish, grilled on an open circular fire of tamarisk wood before you, with thousands of colored lights shimmering in the Tigris waters.
Tea is the national hot drink commonly served in small istikans.
Coffee comes next in popularity.
Soft drinks and juices are, of course, plentiful.
Liquor is available throughout the country. Apart from the usual internationally known brands served in licensed hotels, restaurants, bars and "casinos", Iraq has its own popular drink, arrak, which is made from dates or grapes and flavored with aniseed or mistaki. Iraqi beer is particularly good, and red and white wines are made locally.
The National Theater is located in Fath Square and has 1,000 seats.
It is considered to be one of the most modern and best equipped theaters in the Arab world.
It has a revolving stage with a 15-meter diameter and has two halls fitted for Movie Theater.
Plays, concerts, musical evenings and movie shows are regularly presented at the theater.
You can always apply to the National Travel Bureau in case you need some help to organize excursions, make reservations, etc.
The Bureau has a lot of branches in the country.
Women and men should dress properly but hijab is mandatory for women only in mosques. Unless medias always show covered women in Irak, lots of them wear modern clothes and don't cover their head.