Day 20 Baghdad: Martyrs’ Memorial, Souk and Shopping
I’m more used to Baghdad now but I still think the city is in big trouble and will implode soon. It has too many power cuts, derelict buildings, rubbish and traffic jams.
We drove to the Post Office so that our cards could be stamped at the counter and sent off (there’s no post boxes here). We have to go through several layers of security to get in and the female staff are delighted to see us.
The Martyrs’ memorial is a stunning blue tiled split domed museum, built to commemorate the 600,000 who died in the Iran/ Iraq war. We spent several hours being escorted around (after the customary 20 minute wait at the gate to get in). The depiction of torture and mass graves is graphic and gruesome. There are hundreds of personal possessions and photos. The architecture below the dome is stunning ( a Japanese architect and built by Mitsubishi) but we were the only people there and our escort Captain told me that Baghdad people don’t like to be reminded of the war. On closer inspection outside, the tiles are falling off in patches and there’s one gaping hole that exposes the structural skin. It’s supposed to be one of the wonders of the Arab world and it’s already suffering from lack of maintenance.
We had been expecting to walk through the souk to do some shopping but when we got onto the coach the Captain looked confused and asked “what souk?” This was to cover up the fact that the souk at closed at 3pm and the Captain had not informed us that we’d need to go in the morning rather than visit the memorial first.
Instead we went to some of the remaining “antique shops” selling Chinese fakes, Syrian boxes, Afghan jewellery and Iraqi silver. Iraq expressly forbids antique exports so it was pointless buying anything that might be seized.
We confirmed our flights at the Turkish airline office, impressed by the ultra-efficient young women who took only 5 minutes to complete the transaction. This country needs more women in charge.