So the prodigal child doth returneth. And I have to admit, the trip was great (definitely better than-I-thought-it-would-be). Some reflections (i.e. unsubstantiated opinions) upon returning from the warzone, in no particular order:
- Arabs (the male of the species) have a sleazy kind of aura. Something about the way they move, their body language and the way they talk is distinctly suggestive, in a very uncomfortable kind of way. Also, Arab taxi drivers are convinced they are grand prix contenders.
- It's scarily easy to get used to wearing a burkha. But I'm glad to be in real-world clothes again. It's also much nicer walking around without someone-or-the-other looking at your forehead and attempting to save you from eternal damnation by asking you to put your hijab over your hair.
- Iraq (well Karbala and Najaf at any rate) is a shopaholic's nightmare. Imagine having a decent supply of dollars and a strong will to shop only to be frustrated by markets filled to the brim with Chinese D-grade products. Imagine walking from shop to shop completely determined to buy 'something' only to walk off a little while later knowing that you probably wouldn't know what to do with these products even if they came to you for free. From what I've found out Iraq produces NOTHING. (Case in point, even the sewer caps (gutter ke covers) around Ali's Haram say in big bold letter "MADE IN IRAN") Shopkeepers tell us that the things they sell come from from China, Yemen, Turkey, Iran and Thailand (among others). Often you look around the shabby stalls and you think you've reached one of the dingier corners of Zainab Market, complete with overdone, blingy cell-phone pouches. It's enough to make any devoted shopper cry. Truly.
- I've learned enough Arabi/Farsi to maneuver my way around: shrines, marketplaces and restaurants. I think I'm good to go as far as the Middle-East is concerned :P
- Despite evidence of war and destruction, Iraq was surprisingly peaceful. It seems that resident suicide bombers succumbed to my desire for them to have some much-needed RnR. There's a lot of military running around, and a lot of men with big guns sit idhar-udhar, but to tell you the truth you see something very similar when you drive around Quetta. From warzone to warzone, it's more of the same my loves, more of the same.
- Iraq has fabulous tourist potential, particularly for history buffs. The mother, the brother and I went for a walk through a graveyard that stretched for miles. Aside from some beautiful old graves there were also a huge number of catacombs with carved doors within which generations of families are buried. This same graveyard is home to the graves of two Prophets: Hud & Saleh. My friend google tells me that these gentlemen lived (and preached) in the region around 500 BC and 300 BC. And that, my loves, is how old I-rack is, if not older.
- Iraq Air went missing again. Seriously. On Thursday morning they tell us there IS no Iraq air flight for Karachi on Friday. We call Karachi, and they say there is most definitely an Iraq air flight. After sitting at the regional office in Najaf for the longest time we manage to convince Iraq Air that they ARE in fact flying to Karachi. The fact that we made it home at all via this damn disappearing airlines is in itself a miracle!