Thursday, 21 July 2011



Do you want to come shopping? So it would start, the call for volunteers, someone to talk to, and someone to help carry the shopping, company.
Usually the answer would be yes, knowing at some point on the trip there would be a treat of some sort or other.

And so we would set out, my mother pushing the pram, with someone small inside, me walking alongside, in the days before our first car.
To the end of the road, with the old water tank, straight ahead through the narrow road that led to the main street, sometimes stopping at the pharmacy on the corner, the helpful pharmacist giving advice as well as prescriptions, the store part shelves of medications part cosmetics, accessories, and baby products, cerelac for the little one, a turquoise comb with “Made in Baghdad” engraved in gold for me.

Occasionally heading to the photographer, with his window display of family portraits, smiling babies, beaming couples, the drapes in the background, the coloured-in images, maybe to take a photograph for another application, or to pick up the passport style photos, with their elaborately shaped edges, in their little white paper envelopes.

Crossing the main road, and coming close to the main shopping centre, passing the falafel shop with the massive vat of boiling oil, the small containers of 3anba, and the sliced tomatoes, with the already slit open diamond shaped bread loaves ready for the crisp hot filling.

Along a little to the corner shop with the music blasting out, we would not go in now, maybe later, on the way back, and I would go through the new cassettes, always catalogued by artist and year rather than by album title, pirated and with no front cover, having to listen to a couple of songs before deciding to buy a copy, then waiting while the cassette was placed into the double deck machine in the back and a fresh copy was generated, occasionally with the tell tale blank gaps at the end of side 1 and the beginning of side 2.

Right across the road was one of the two sweet shops, the brother Shakarchee, sweets, and treats, sheker lemma and biscuits, baklawa and zlabya, always busy taking orders, and filling the van ready to make a delivery, a fancy cake, or maybe wedding sweets.

Carrying on to the “material” shop, my mother’s favourite, we would rarely miss this large double doored store, where she would discuss and debate the cloth on sale, poplin for shirts, the cotton for dresses, and the heavy cloth for curtains with the kham il sham for the lining.

Further down the grocers, with the staples, filling bags, and the metal basket below the baby’s pram with vegetables, fruit, tins of meat, and cheese, maybe some of my mother’s favourite Jibin oo sharee or as we called it “smelly feet cheese”.

The goldsmith, rarely entered, but frequently admired.

Coming to the end of the road, and to my least favourite part, the market stalls, the live chickens in little wooden cages, the sheep heads and trotters smelling and attracting the flies in the sun, the bunches of herbs dunked repeatedly in the murky water and spread out on show on the round trays, the tilting trolleys laden with the watermelons with a choice few split in two to show off their bright red spotted bellies.

Crossing the main road, turning round and returning on the opposite side, maybe stepping in to the second “material” store and asking the store keeper to bring down the rolls of colourful cloth from the tall stacks, and measure out a few meters of the cloth with his 1m wooden ruler.

The bookstore with boxes of pens and pencils, maybe if I was lucky a boxed set of colouring pencils, and a few of those colourful fruity smelling erasers, a geometry set for school, some colourful wrapping paper to cover the schoolbooks with and those special little ready made plastic book covers with their pouches for the front and back covers, in two sizes; large for the textbooks, smaller for the copybooks.

Several more grocers, several more bits and pieces, by now the pram becoming heavily laden, the baby propped up between the cauliflowers and the tins, a stop at the bread store, maybe picking up some laham ajeen, always stacking up from the freshly baked samoon, piled up still hot into the paper bags, munching my way through the crunchy pointed tips of a few on the way home.

Winding our weary way home down the now darkening side roads, away from the bustle with the sounds of crickets, back to the main street, picking up a pink ezbery ice cream on the way, and arriving home to unpack the shopping, uncover the baby, listen to my new tape, and show off my treats to those who had declined the first offer of going out shopping.

It is possible that some old timers will recognise the street, the memories are a mish mash of several years' worth of shopping trips. Very little of this will mean anything to those living there now or recently, my family look at me with amusement when I mention the water tank at the end of the road, probably one of the first of my landmarks to disappear.
saminkie said...
me and my friend went to the market before 3 days...we walked alot...alot...and alot...till a falafil restaurqant came infront of friend looked at me...examined my mental state with a smile..then...he told me "letus go eat" was near the garage of centrwal mosul many poor people were there eating with us...but after i finished my first sanduich..i quit wondering about the cleanes of the i asked the second...then got a crush for the third..and 3mba was spilling out of my mouth (just kiding)...and after that we drunk was something 3eeraqimedic...if i was living near you I would have bring you some....
14 November 2007 14:52

saminkie said...
That crush i got for the third sandwich made me think that it can cause addiction...can it? especially that smell of the indian it really from india?....anyway...addiction to 3amba flavoured falafil would be really interesting subject...
14 November 2007 14:59

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
You made me smile, how did you pick up on the Felafil!
Yes for me this simple dish has many very fond memories
But surely it is only when the restaurant is not clean that they will taste good, I have eaten them in places where it is polite to eat a sandwich with a knife and fork and they did not taste as good, but we have managed to find one place in London that sells decent Falafel sandwiches that are not pretending to be something else, the vendor is Palestinian and offers a special 3anba version for Iraqis rather than the usual tahina dressing.
14 November 2007 23:40

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
Dear 3eeraqi Medic,
what a post !! full of memories of our good old Baghdad..
the only street with a water tank i know, is Sharea el Tankee.. and there is a mrket place near to it..
could it be the same u r talking ab?? im not sure if there were more than one in Baghdad..
15 November 2007 07:48

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Yasmin
I am not sure what exactly ,makes the street uniquely old Baghdady but it was, and for a generation of us in the 70s and 80s this is where time stopped and in that time bubble we remain.
I am not sure if the road was called Share3 il Tanky, the one I refer to was not very large on the road parallel to Omar Bin Abdul Azziz street, I get a feeling we are talking about the same place.
17 November 2007 20:06

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