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June 5, 2004

Pictures in Baghdad
Posted by Teresa at 05:00 AM *

Pictures in Baghdad is a photoblog from an Iraqi family: Faiza, Khalid, and MajiTriX (Majid). I don’t know much about them. Faiza wears a headscarf and works in a well-appointed office. Majid is a big fan of The Matrix.

One of the things that startles me whenever I see pictures of Baghdad is how much it looks like Mesa, Arizona did when I was growing up. There are photos of women sitting around a kitchen table, roadside watermelon stands, boxy little commerical buildings, loose light-brown soil, a few keenly-felt trees. If you’d showed me the photos of the PiB family’s garden and told me it was the back yard of a house a block away from my grandmother’s house, I’d have believed you.

It’s funny. I come home from work to a neighborhood that’s nothing like what I grew up with, except that both places are part of the United States; and look at snapshots of a foreign country, some of which look more like my vanished home town than anything I’ve seen in a long time.

Oh, well. Brooklyn’s a nice place too.

Other BiP photos of highways and a gas station have that peculiar desolateness of urban concrete and asphalt under the midday desert sun. They show a summer sky that’s flat and metallic, a pale grayish-blue that makes me want to reach for the AC knob on my nonexistent dash. Looking at that sky tells me that anyone who doesn’t have some shade, a good supply of water, and a cool place to sleep at night is going to be debilitated and miserable: Wait until the car’s cooled off before you get in. Don’t step on the pavement barefoot. Stop playing and come inside, your face is red. Don’t drink out of the cooler hose. Whatever it is, it can wait for evening.

(Anyone who thinks there’s something suspicious about celebrating a wedding at night must have grown up in a different climate.)

Check it out.

Comments on Pictures in Baghdad:
#1 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 11:58 AM:

Lovely pictures. I started to wonder whether hijabs ever grew oppressive when looking at one of them. Headcoverings in high heat are actually helpful, but still ....


#2 ::: Jackmormon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 12:42 PM:

Faiza posted some earlier photos in the May archive, labelling them as from "our old life," in which she's out in public wearing cute calf-length dresses and no headscarf.

#3 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 01:54 PM:

The "Pictures in Baghdad" are actually part of the blogsite A Family in Baghdad which is a blog by Faiza (a biochemical engineer) and her three sons. The blog says father Azzam did not wish to blog. It's worth reading Faiza's blog, including the War Diaries. We find that she is like women everywhere in what interests her, what she worries about, what she enjoys.

#4 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 02:06 PM:

IIRC, Three Kings chose an Arizona location to shoot in precisely because it offered a very similar environment, including quality of light and the color of the dirt, and the director had done his research on this.

That film has a lot to say presciently about the mess we're in today.

#5 ::: Anna in Cairo ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 01:48 AM:

I am getting ready to host my mom's cousin who is from Ohio but lives in VErmont right now; ever since she visited us last year she has been hungering for that desert sun. If you feel nostalgic for sun-baked landscapes, Teresa, do come to Cairo for a visit. My 13 year old is reading Dune right now and he would just love to discuss it with real Sci-Fi buffs (I read it when I was about his age so he feels frustrated over the fact that I really can't discuss it in any sort of detail).

Also, of COURSE weddings in hot climates have to be at night. Out in the street. With lots of speakers turned up full blast. In the summer, you are supposed to stay up all night and socialize. Sleeping can be done at work during the day.

#6 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2004, 03:28 PM:

The Family in Baghdad site also links to the blog of Raed, another son. This is the same Raed from Salam Pax's "Where Is Raed?" blog.

#7 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2004, 03:29 PM:

The, er...the cooler what?

'round here, a "cooler" is aka an ice chest. I'm guessing you mean something different.

#8 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Skwid, probably a "swamp cooler" hose. A swamp cooler is a cheap alternative to an air conditioner in hot dry climates. It's a big box (2-3 feet on a side) with absorbant material lining the insides of the walls. There's a pan of water at the bottem, I'm not sure if there's something spraying water on the insides of the walls, or if the water just soaks up into the absorbant material by capillary action. Anyway, the box is arranged with intake vents on all sides, and one side open and connected to the house, typically like a window air conditioner. I think there's a fan blowing air into the house. The idea is that the evaporating water cools the air. I don't know if the "cooler hose" is the hose feeding water into the swamp cooler, or if it's a drain hose. In the latter case, I _certainly_ wouldn't want to drink from it!

Personally, I find swamp coolers make the air too humid, but maybe that's just because the LA basin isn't really dry enough for them (too much water evaporating from lawns, etc.).

#9 ::: Nell Lancaster ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2004, 08:40 PM:

Faiza is Raed's mom. Raed as in

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