Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last Days in the Market Maze of Erbul

I spent the last of my days lounging around Erbil.  There is not much to do during Ramadan in 118 degree heat, so I took it slow.  Yesterday, I wandered through the nearly empty markets.  Nothing more depressing than sullen shopkeepers and empty rows.

I stopped for some lunch contraband in a kebab shop shielded by a blue curtain.  I sat next to a civil engineer from Baghdad who was now working in Erbil.  He had worked with the Americans in the Green Zone, which meant his chances for work in Baghdad were now slim.  It seems no one know what to make of me here.  I look like a Kurd or a Turk, with Moroccan and Fusha Arabic pouring out of my mouth.  An American? No, you can't be American.  Where are you really from?  A Jew? Mashallah!  We chatted over kebabs, and he was kind enough to buy my lunch as a welcome to Iraq gesture.

I spent the evening over in Ein Kawa at my favorite Turkish restobar.  The proprietor Ahmed gave me a warm welcome, and I sat drinking Tuborg and reading Robinson Crusoe.  I was flooded with memories when I read that Robinson had been imprisoned in Sallee, the twin city of Rabat where I once lived.  I know Sallee and its market mazes well.  I used to sit on pillows in a kasbah fort, sipping sweet moroccan spearmint tea and eating sugar cookies as I stared across the Bourgreg River at Sallee.

I hopped a cab to the Sami Abdulrahman Park, named for the Prime Minister of Kurdistan who was killed in a suicide bombing.  The park was cool and pleasant, and families with their kids were running about.  I saw something that left me a bit hopeful for Kurdistan: young trees.  I have seen lots of trees being planted here, and I consider that a good sign.  A place with hope for the future plants trees, and I have seen many young orchards in Kurdistan.

With little else to do today, I returned to the market to buy some shoes and other stuff.  Kurdistan gets shoes made in Turkey, and they are sold here quite cheap.  I got a nice new pair of dress shoes for a modest price after some modest bargaining.

I then headed to Shariah al-Sar, the street of the barbers, for a shave and a haircut.  As I like to do at the end of a journey, I had my head shaved.  I also got an immaculate shave for my bearded stubble.  The fellow did an excellent job as he deftly wielded the blade across my cheeks.  He pinched my jowls as he whisked away my whiskers.  Just a reminder that I need to get working on The Barberess of Antigua.  He finished shaving me, and then did something I have never experienced in all the shaves I have had around the globe.  The barber took a piece of string in his teeth, and looped in his finger and somehow whisked away whatever peach fuzz was left on my face.  Threading?  I don't know.  But it left for one of the better shaves I have ever had.

I then finished my wanderings through the market maze, which was more alive this morning.  I passed by women in sparkling sequined abayas and shops selling the latest abaya fashions from the Emirates.  I was reminded of Emriti soft power when it comes fashion in the Middle East- fashion trends that start in Dubai filter their way across the Middle East.   And I passed through the Street of Gold, where elegantly-scarved women held their habibis just a little tighter as they window shopped through the refulgent alley.

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