Iraq

The Baghdad Issue

Welcome to Baghdad: Brownbook explores the buildings, rivers and people of the Iraqi capital

Writer

Rima Alsammarae

Photographer

Ayman al-Amiri

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Order a copy of the January-February 2016 issue here.

It’s easy to romanticise Baghdad. The mere mention of it brings to mind visions of ancient cities, like Sumer and Babylon. Symbolic rivers divide its districts and aged stonewalls still speak of its former eras. Photos often capture the orange glow of sunrise as it awakens the city’s musicians, poets and artists.While working on this issue, we found that Baghdad’s culture is deeply rooted in the corners of its history as well as the hopes for its future. Today, whether you’re a chef in Portland or the owner of Al Mutanabbi Street’s most famous café, the reality of being a Baghdadi is one that largely, and perhaps surprisingly, rests outside of conflict.This issue brought us into Baghdad’s community far and wide. We begin with a visit to Farida Mohammad Ali, the legendary maqam singer living in the snowy, quiet city of Utrecht, before moving on to meet Reem Alasadi, a fashion designer who takes inspiration from Baghdad and Tokyo. In Istanbul, we meet with the Iraqi government’s former head tailor, Recep Cesur, before arriving in Baghdad for a cup of qahwa with Mohammed Al Khashali, owner of Al Shabandar café. From sheikhs to professors, the many faces that sit along the wooden chairs of the café tell a story of a community united by literature, tea and argileh. We also explore the modernist architectual movement in the Iraqi capital through Le Corbusier’s Baghdad Gymnasium as well as a supplement on the future of Baghdad, as seen from the 1950s to the 1980s. We then slow down for a plate of zalata amba at Portland’s only Iraqi restaurant, DarSalam.Kamil Chadirji once photographed unseen landscape shots that portrayed Iraqis from across the country. This issue, too, features the calm moments in the everyday life in Baghdad. A full disclaimer: as much as we resisted, we fell for the romance of Baghdad, seduced by its charms and its beauty, as many before have and many after will.

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