Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Number 42..

We were in the mid of our studying years..
The trip to my college I used to take alone by myself.. I first take a rather long walk to the bus stop, and stand waiting there.. many of students in university used the Bas at the time..yes it was crowded, yes it was late, but it was there for us, and it was Fun..
On the way back home, I would share the ride with my best friend at the time.. we would walk to Bab el Moadhdham, and stand waiting in the crowds (there was always crowds, never a queue !!).. we never minded the dusty, dirty pavement.. we never minded the strange mixture of humans.. we would stand chatting on and on, waiting for our Bas to appear .. number 42 that was..
And so our awaited number 42 arrives finally .. and my friend and I , both short sighted, would try to approach the front to read the bus number and make sure it’s the One..if we were lucky (and, fast enough) , we would finish our checking to get on the Bas just before the crowds block the front Bas door.. if we hesitated for a minute , we would be blocked from the door, and so we suddenly find ourselves standing last in line ..
Once on the Bas, we would pay for the ticket happily and climb the short stairs quickly to the 2nd deck (yeees Abo Tabiqen our Bas was..).. we always loved that.. we would then pick 2 seats in the middle and sit with our books and files in our laps.. preparing for a Looong ride .. feeling so happy and content .. waiting for the Bas to move..looking down through the window at the people still crowding in the bus stop..
The ride starts, and so does our long chat.. endless chat.. we were best friends..and also students in the same department.. so the topics are endless..
How many times did we take a Vow to visit Al –Mathaf el- Baghdadi?? As many as our rides back home.. how many times did we laugh at the funny names of the shabby hotels? (Qamar el Karkh) is a name I don’t forget.. and the Bas would crawwwwl in its slow pace , people get off, people get on.. and we never took notice of the time passing.. we would be so deep in conversation , we hardly notice anyone else.. It was such lovely times..
As my stop gets closer, I say a quick bi to my friend, and climb down the stairs to b in time in front of the back door .. u never needed to press the half broken buzzer to attract the driver's attention.. ev body downstairs would start shouting at him (Nazel Nazel).. he then would stop the Bas and open the door..
And another studying day has passed..
My friend and I kept in touch for a long time after I left Baghdad.. but were cut off after the war and the disconnected phone lines ..
About a year ago someone sent me her mobile number, she was still in Iraq.. I wrote only one line in my first text msg. to her, didn’t even write my name : Bas 42 yesallem alech.. and the reply was So quick, So happy .. and So full of old friendly warmth..
Bas 42 held so many of our beautiful memories in Baghdadna.. it witnessed a big part of our dreams, and happy, better times..
To my dear friend (N) .. in memory of our shared rides together on the Bas Abo Tabiqen..

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Om Abbas

Om Abbas was our Farrasha in my old work in Baghdad..
She was not old .. maybe in her late or mid thirties.. a widow, always in black (long black dress + black socks and thick black Foota) .. She was in charge of the Tea ceremony in our Daera, along with her other duties such as cleaning , taking files up and down the Daera floors..
She was very poor, but very proud and honest.. she had 2 adult sons, who brought her nothing but misery and sadness, coming to work with a pale face and red eyes from crying because of their reckless and bad behavior, one of them even used to beat her, she being so thin and petite..
She used to have a big bag of nylon in which she brought us hot Sammoon, the famous (Sammoon Hajari), we used to race when we first smell the Chai being done (Yetkhaddar), in fact now when I look back it was always very burnt or shall we say over bolied (mahroogh) I don’t why were we so keen to drink it , afterwards she would start her round, giving each her or his tea as required (with sugar, without sugar, light tea, Verry drak tea, etc..) .. me and my colleague - friends would gather around one of the desks and exchange the latest gossip, the latest engagements heard of of any staff member (announced + not announced) , sipping Om Abbas's Chai along with the hot Sammoon we have snatched from her bag earlier.. it was my favorite hour of the day.. sometimes on of us would bring a treat, a home made cake, or a box of sweets, etc.. ev thing was joyful at the time..afterwards.. we would each start working on her tasks and so the working day begins..
When I think back , I feel maybe it was a hundred years away.. was I really there ? did all the memories that r still so live in my mind, did they really exist? I feel its hard to tell.. we had so much fun.. I used to love my job ..meeting all kinds of people..all sorts of personalities..i had great friends.. it was another life back then..
As the day goes by, we start to feel hungry , and so , a funny protest starts ev where, Om Abbas, how can u not go and buy me a Falafel Sandwitch? Om Abbas, cant u see im so hungry I will faint? Om Abbas? I had so many (Chayat) today I will pass out if I don’t eat something.. and so on.. and the poor Om Abbas would try hard to tell us that she will be missed and then reproached for going out without leave (she was to sit all day on a chair in the corridor, in case anyone calls her out or needs her to do something).. and we would use all our convincing methods to make her go buy us whatever we want.. poor good Om Abbas.. she was such a kind lady.. we treated her like one of us, we would go visit her if she got sick (yes we did!) and help her as much as we can.. she used to say to us (u r all Banatee..) ..and she took so much pride in that.. she used to share her problems with us , her fears, her worries.. and we would listen in compassion and try to help solving them..
Years after I left, I heard she almost lost her sight.. the news brought me such sadness.. I wished she would get well..she was another symbol of the time we left behind and still cherished so much.. the time that we can never have back, when we once had a life..

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


When we did our exams, long ago, when we had a real Watan, the greatest tragedy was the (40 days) of Morajaa before Bachchalorya, how one feels prisoned in his own room , study and study and study (I, was locked up in Ghurfat el Khottar, the room being a bit isolated in our house) order to get a high average and afterwards get to go to a decent college..
Students around the world, have only one fear on their minds, Failure. Iraqi students on the other hand, regard that as the least of their fears, for the endless possible dangers on the way to school are endless.
A relative of mine has a son doing his Bachchalorya exams this year.We speak on the phone, we exchange msgs, we speak of her concern regarding this subject, starting from Her own worry of him not doing so good ( which is the minor fear I could think of) , to her major concern as to how will he avoid sudden bombings, crazy extremists from whichever side (Sunni or Shia, you never know nowadays) who might shower the streets with their guns, the possibility of getting kidnapped, and the list goes on and on..
I keep thinking of him going to school, him and all the other Iraqi students, who still work hard for their exams, their worries: Will there b an exam tomorrow? Will there be a curfew instead? Will they make it to school? Or will a fanatic come out of the blue to color their innocent dreams with blood..
What a life.. what a sad sad life..
Our parents dreams were that we get (ninety and up) .. so we can make their dreams come true.. and in a few years graduate to be someone successful..
I could not help feeling deep sadness when receiving her text msg. telling me : No, the exam is postponed.. there will be a curfew..
Every time I call her I feel a cold fear that grabs my heart, I don’t really care to know if he did well , I just want to know that he made it home safe..
I keep asking myself how does she spend the time waiting for him? Does she really worry that the questions would be easy enough for him to solve? Or does she spend the time praying that he comes home on his feet..
The Baghdad I write about, does it really exist anymore? Or am I just re living an old dream? I really don’t know anymore..
While I admire so much how our people in Iraq continue to go on, I fail to understand .. I suppose no matter what, for iraqiyeen, life always must go on.. Dreams for a better future must exist, no matter what..
May Allah almighty preserve all our students, in every city of Iraq .. ameen..

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Haleeeb Motaam..

A friend of mine has stomach Ulcer.. Doctor told her that milk is good for her, she is to drink as much milk as she can . In order to be able to consume the big quantity of milk required to heal her poor stomach (my friend is very Aqla and very much listens to what the doctor has to say ), in order to do that she was inventing new tastes of milk , she adds all sorts of fruit to it, orange, grape fruit, bananas, pineapple, etc..
Up till now, I can never drink flavored milk, ok maybe once or twice with strawberry flavor , but never with orange or banana flavor, etc.. never ever.. I hate even the color of the flavored milk.. let alone the fact that I hate milk as it is growing up forced to drink at least one glass of milk per day in order to stay in good health..
This brings back an old but vivid memory of my school days..My primary school which I gave a quick description of in one post..
At some time back in Iraq, healthy nutrition in schools came of big interest, I don’t quite recall why.. so they started to serve flavored milk to pupils .
Each one of us pupils was to have a Very large bottle of milk, it came in 2 flavors, banana and orange.. I remember Fawzeyya, the cleaning lady (el- Farrasha ) or the (Butterfly) as 3eeraqi Medic once humouredly called her, would sit cross legged in front of the big black boxes of the milk bottles (I still remember them), and starts opening the bottles one by one for us – pupils, as we come out of the classrooms to the school yard, running and shouting, (Forsa) time ..
I used to take one, force myself to take a few gulps of the colored milk (now when I think about it I don’t know why did I ever do that.. were we watched or what? Cant remember) and then walk slowly and cautiously towards one of the many Dinghas and leave the almost - full bottle behind it discreetly.. then come back walking so relieved .. pretending to have finished the whole bottle.. and my stomach felt sick ..
God, I hate even the memory of that milk ..
How strange that even such simple and perhaps insignificant incidents would still be so bright in our minds after all these years..i even remember the exact shade of orange milk , with its artificial orange smell..
The milk too took me back to my old school , I can clearly picture the yard, el –Saha and the pupils with their grey uniforms , the Dinghas and the pale grey walls (why were they painted grey anyway??) ..i remember the teachers (they were all women, no men) , set Amal, set Zeinab, set Nasima, set Mithal, set Moneeba, set Hanaa.. they all were such kind ladies..
We were so carefree, we had our problems of course (they seemed so big at the time no matter how silly they were),, but they were ordinary children problems, like any at our age..
I so much miss those days, maybe wish to go back in time and just be a tiny little girl in (el –Awwal – Baa), who has the big dilemma of having to drink her milk at school, but will never b able to drink colored milk, neither orange, nor yellow..

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Mahar ..

An Iraqi friend of mine, has just Ghetaat Mahar, she lives in an Arabic country..she sent me the fotos to share her happiness.. as I was not able to be there in person..
The fotos were indeed So beautiful.. u can read the happiness all over the Bride's face.. el –Aroos..and the Arees was Iraqi too (Tabaan..) and their families and a short list of close friends whom I know most of them..
I opened the fotos one by one , i got them by email , the great invention to keep us "almost" close in our "scattered being" around the world.. I couldn’t wait for the download.. why was it so slow? (I thought to myself) ..i was so eager to see Iraqi faces glowing with happiness..
The nice thing, they tried to do everything as if they were in Baghdad or Iraq.
My friend sat wearing a white Ghallabeya, decorated with golden designs.. her hair half covered with a white veil , in front of her was a circular big silver Seeneyya - tray (how nice.. how did she get it.. I thought, it looked old like an antique) ..
The following items were upon it :
- Mraya Faddha , a silver mirror (so the Aroos looks at herself on this special day, I also think some say its for good luck) ..
- 7 Kasat (small bowls) with some white material in each, sugar, flour, rice, etc.. so all her coming days are white ..
- Kasa filled with chocolates (bowl) and another with toffees or something sweet ..and a 3rd one with Henna inside..
- White candles..with green leaves almost covering the silver tray ..(obviousely she could not find Yas, the scented green plant used on these occasions..
- The Holy Quran opened in her lap , as she tries to read some Ayat (I hear sourat el Fateh is to b read) .
- One of the fotos, 2 ladies held a white scarf or shawl over el -Aroos's head, a 3rd lady was scrubbing 2 pieces of (Qand) (the Sugar Cones.. wonder wher did she get that ??) and so sugar was raining over her .. so that all her coming days are showered with happiness..
My friend looked so beautiful .. I thought ev body looked beautiful in the fotos .. or is it that I miss looking at Happy Iraqi faces ?? don’t know.. I just wished I could ve been there to participate in such a lovely iraqi occasion..
There were fotos of dancing.. all Iraqi songs were played, she wrote to me..
There was once an old Iraqi song , quite sad in fact .. by Fadhil Awwad.. im sure u all know it.. La khabar.. la chiffiya la hamedh heloo la sharbat .. so old I know.. but I love it still.. I love the verses..
لا خبر لا جفية لا حامض حلو لا شربت
لا خبر.. كالو صوانيهم شموع انترست
والتمت الحلوات من كل بيت حلوة التمن
thats what i still memorize..

Well.. for a while I lived a beautiful Iraqi was So touching I thought.. i feel so happy..
Yomel Elkom..