An excerpt from my photo journal in Iraq driving into Baghdad down route Irish….
In amongst all this heat, dust and noise, the battle damaged block work, traffic chaos and tension, normal life in Baghdad seems to go on. A heavily armed soldier, gun at the ready, stands between two lanes of traffic as it approaches a checkpoint. With his eyes fixed ahead, watching the oncoming traffic, he hardly seems to notice the young girl a few feet in front of him, darting between the cars selling food from a bowl on her head to the hot and tired motorists. On the other carriageway a young boy cleans windscreens, often getting handed money for his efforts but occasionally getting nothing more than nudged out of the way by broken bumpers or clipped by wing mirrors as the traffic edges forward around him. Regardless, he moves to the next vehicle continuing his work enthusiastically and undeterred.
Watching from the roadside a man dressed in a white one piece dress, with a red chequered headband, stands beside a falafel stall as the owner is leisurely serving his customers, who seem unconcerned about the flies crawling across their food, or the dust from the road which occasionally wafts across his large bowl of falafel mix. People’s clothing, although varying from traditional middle eastern dress to smart shirts and trousers, or track suites and football shirts all seems to have one thing in common, all of it is covered in Baghdad grime.
A woman shuffles her way through the scores of discarded plastic bottles and rubbish that line the street and approaches our vehicle begging. As she leans close to the tinted window her wide dark begging eyes, the only part of her body visible through a small slot in the black burka that covers her from head to toe, show surprise as they scan across our array of curious pale white faces and western clothing. Our vehicle moves forward a car length leaving her standing alongside another vehicle, though her confused eyes follow us forward. After a moment’s hesitation she lowers her head and continues to walk between the traffic as if she had never even seen us.
This eclectic mix of sights and sounds are my first experience of unstoppable Baghdad life.