Friday, February 23, 2024

Saddam’s Great Iraq – 10

We continued the projects throughout the war. Projects were kept running at all costs. There are compact raised embankments on the banks of River Dajla and River Faraat, tops of which are used regularly as motorable tracks. These are very good communication source. These link almost all villages with the metalled roads and there from over to the bigger towns and cities of Iraq. During summer the banks of River Faraat near Fallujah are filled with natural fragrance of trees and agricultural growth. I cannot forget the fragrance in the entire atmosphere while driving along the river banks.

Arab AftarAn Iraqi team member invited us for the third time to lunch. Hours before one such invitation when we reached his home very near to the river Faraat, and also very near to the highway bridge, he came near the wagon to board it for leaving for the site work in the morning. Just before stepping in the vehicle he shouted a few sentences about the arrangements of the feast, announcing the number of guests and approximate time of lunch. For my knowledge of etiquettes of Iraqis, it was something very unusual and to some extent a bit uncivil. To my mind he should have discussed that arrangement inside his house with his wife. Later I came to know the reason for his odd behaviour. He had been on bad terms with his wife for the last many months and such type of communication was the matter of daily routine i.e. standing in the courtyard of house and shouting for whatever he wanted to be done about the household affairs. I smiled about his way of communication. It looked quite funny and quite a new method of conveying instructions. Anyway necessity is the mother of invention. And he had the right to invent new categories of delivering messages. In the afternoon, however, we found the dinner ready with all its formalities. A big circular tray of about three feet diameter was placed in the center of seated guests, on the ground. It was highly piled with pieces of beef, chicken, rice, full size local breads and variety of salad. Everything appeared to have been taken just from hearth. The whole material was more than enough for four times the number of guests. Out of the tray, you had to pull out whatever you liked most. Everything was in abundance and everything was extremely tasty. I was the only Pakistani amongst Arabs. Pepsi was served at the end of the feast along with fruits. Pepsi is the most favorite cold drink of Iraqis. Our host was a qualified scholar of Islamic studies from Al Azhar University of Egypt. I don’t understand his choice of surveying as a profession. His family women were completely veiled. On the whole Fallujah and surrounding villages and towns comprise of conservative Muslims. I could not see even a single bar that is i.e. liquor shop in the bazaars of Fallujah, whereas, these were in abundance in Bagdad.

My Iraqi driver Mr. Kamal invited me to dinner or ‘Aftar’ during the month of Ramadan. I hesitated quite sincerely because this time I had to be the only guest and even that a single foreigner guest and there was no second person to accompany me. But Mr. Kamal did not surrender to my refusal. So I had to surrender. For Aftar invitation I found an old man in the room. Mr. Kamal introduced him to me as his uncle. The gentleman was fairly smart with short white beard. He seemed very courteous. There came the announcement for the Aftar. We all three broke fast and prepared for evening prayer. They offered me to go ahead far leading prayer. I told them that in presence of Mr. Kamal’s uncle I could not deserve it. The old man finally agreed to lead. I was astonished to know that he could not recite Holy Quran correctly. I could not imagine that an Arab could make so many mistakes in reciting the Holy Quran. I understood that Arabs not properly educated could not recite the Holy Quran correctly. I had been taking it from granted that an Arab could not make mistakes in reciting Holy Quran. After prayer we had the dinner consisting of many dishes. At the end I thanked Kamal for his dinner and left for my residence.

I was on a stroll with a Pakistani member of the team when he asked me to look at the group of the donkeys in the street. Very healthy fat donkeys were enjoying at kitchen waste piles. Iraqis used to waste a lot of eatables in those piles, including rice, bread and cooked vegetables. My friend told me that those healthy donkeys belong to nobody. In poor old days somebody might have owned them for conveyance of daily necessities and building materials. After discovery of oil wells these animals became worthless because these were replaced by vehicles. So they were let loose to move freely from kitchen pile to kitchen pile. My friend also told me that in areas of narrow lanes anybody could simply use them and then again leave them loose.



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Category: Travel

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