“Spanning over 79 square miles, Baghdad is diverse and too large to fit into one image. Additionally it is the second-largest city in Western Asia after Tehran. Houston is ~600 sq miles, to put that into perspective , yet has its population is only around double that of Baghdad.
Baghdad is a crash of two worlds. Urbanization brought the rural farmers into the city a few decades ago, causing a strong battle between two somewhat different cultures with the state–tribalism vs. urbanism. Luxurious houses and lavish hotels just minutes from dwellings encircled by mountains of junk. Porsches and inexpensive Iranian-made Saipas drive alongside each other on the roads.
Most of the infrastructure was built during the 60’s and 70’s. Some infrastructure was built by Saddam during the 80’s, but lots of it was lost during Gulf War I or degraded during the 90’s, and–of course–Gulf War II.
Now, if you lived in Baghdad, you might find driving to work in your 2010 car somewhat unusual. At one point, you’d be driving on a very fine road, with green trees and the lovely Tigris in your side. Afterward, only minutes later, you’d hit on a busy place– an undesirable neighborhood where kids play soccer in the street or perhaps a busy bazaar, not minding the passing traffic. But most importantly, your journey is not going to continue long without reaching a checkpoint.
You see, the approach of fighting car bombers of Baghdad would be to intentionally create traffic jams–that is, large gatherings of machines loaded with petrol.
To that end, they use a hand-held device called the ADE 651, a bogus apparatus promised to have the ability to detect volatile material. The procedure required because of this device to “work” is painfully slow.
Unless of course, you don’t have a permit, which is totally normal, in which case you can present your ID instead you present your permit and registration–,. But you only play along, and it is OK, he’s actually illiterate, so he is going to pretend that he’s capable to read and illustrate having the mental capacity as to know your own name.
Ultimately, it works out that what triggered the apparatus was your regular window cleaner, or your tooth filling, or a cologne, or your car distant, because every one of these are said to trigger the apparatus… and you can now go on with your journey.
Now, as you go from one neighborhood to another, you will find that each and every building that questions (ministries, elaborate resorts, etc.) and all the busy regions are encircled with high T-wall fences, some with pictures painted on them and stylish square planters near them in a hopeless attempt to make them less dull and blue. None of those locations had said T-walls prior to 2003, and the fact they do now means that every one of them endured a bombing attack and many were killed.
Four, five, or ten checkpoints after, you reach your destination. And if you chance to work for the authorities, then you’re most likely to spend a really unproductive day attempting to do as little as you could get away with. You might as well take two-hour lunch breaks like everyone else, that they should go wait in that other long line, and while people are waiting in line for you yourself to tell them that what they needed isn’t in your job description.
A couple of hours afterwards, because you have an empty tank you get off work and, unless there’s a fuel crisis, which really occurs a lot in the nation renowned for oil, you go to a gas station to fill – up well. If that’s the case, you would have to wait for a few hours in line for gasoline.
And then you get home. Grid electricity’s out, but that’s okay; you have a subscription with a “neighborhood generator” that runs 6 hours/day.”
It just goes to show what a mess we’ve caused and what the Iraqi people have to endure.