I woke up feeling refreshed and in those few seconds whilst my eye lids awakened the realisation kicked in that I had awaken in a bed of a luxury hotel in Baghdad, Iraq. At this moment in time I had lost track of time and day and more importantly was in dire need of food. I woke my room mate up and told him that we had overslept and missed the appointment with the PM of Iraq Nouri Malaki. As I made my way down to the lobby I was hoping that the meeting with the PM had either been cancelled or delayed as for me this was a big highlight.
The lift doors opened on the ground floor and there I stood in my casual clothes while the rest of the group were in their finest clothing along with Iraq scarfs around their necks and so the disappointment was realised and then instantly a little anger. I mean we had arrived on the same day around 12pm and were expected to meet the PM at 6pm, surely in an ideal world we would have had adequate time for rest and preparation. Anyhow it was time for dinner and so the anger was eased through ones self desire for the material of the edible kind.
The next day included a special visit to the shrines of the 7th and 9th Imams based in the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad. Imam Musa Al Khadim (as) and Mohammed Al Jawad (as). This was no ordinary visit and as special guests to the country we were given a tour of the work taking place to expand the shrine. We saw the underground area and more memorable we climbed up next to the domes upon which we asked if we could actually climb onto the dome. The reply was “I’ve taken you this close how much closer do you want”
After the visit we were then taken to the guest area where we had lunch and it is at this point we began hearing of a bomb blast in Baghdad and after a short time we were told that it was our hotel that had been affected by the blast. On our way back to the hotel we did not know what to expect many of us had only seen these bombs in the news but never actually experienced it at first sight.
We returned to our hotel to find the reception area and many of the rooms damaged, the bomb had actually gone off well away from the hotel but due to its sheer size had damaged much of the interior. My hotel room had its glass broken shattered all over the floor and onto our beds. In my curiosity I went from room to room to survey the damage and in doing so came across one of the caretakers, myself and a friend were waiting for the lift talking in shock at what we had seen when the caretaker said to us ” You are guys have come from the west and think you have seen everything, you did not see the legs and arms we had to remove, you haven’t seen anything” Those words still stick with me today and act as a reminder that I cannot claim to feel what the Iraqis in Iraq feel unless I actually live in the country
The image above is that of the reception area which shows the damage done by the bomb, the images below show the damage done to our room, being the Iraqi I am I couldn’t resist at posing with a fake upset “crying” face. (whoops)
Many of us at this stage felt vulnerable and scared, were we the targets of the attack? was it because the meeting with the PM was shown on national TV? it all became a little clearer as to why we had a dedicated SWAT team with us, but Iraqi is no ordinary country and things were about to become more surreal. Had this been in the Britain the Hotel would have been cordoned off and each and every individual from the group questioned by police and so on. This however was not the case instead we gathered our bags and belongings and headed off towards a comedy show by a famous Iraqi comedian. The strength and determination to continue a normal life is remarkable that despite such atrocities Iraqis vow to never be defeated. The journey towards the theatre was very thought provoking I sat there thinking how wrong it was that we were heading to a place to laugh our heads off instead of worrying about our safety or what hotel we would be transferred to.
Despite the events of the day the comedy show was very refreshing and took our minds off the scenes that we had witnessed it rounded off an eventful saga that would never be forgotten.
- Visiting the Iraqi National Stadium
- Attempting an Oxford style debate
- Karbala and Najaf