Friday, February 16, 2007

Iraqi Customs

Every country has its own traditions, clutural background and own historical influence, which have impact on their behavior, dialogue, interaction with other cultures, and even the food they make. Customs is als regraded as another heritage any society or a community within the one society that influence and can be influence. Take, for example, Bavarians in Germany, they are people who are very proud of anything relates to their community; they are a proud of their accent, proud of their German Beer steins, and their special beer, of course. On their festivals, they are proud to wear their traditional customs, where men's pants are specially made of red deer leather, and woman wearing their zipper front dirndles with a colorful apronin, while all together playing and 'Yodelling' their own folk music - whom they kept on listening to them generation after generation...etc Simplicity in clothing also became distinguishable in some cultures. We find the Mexicans, for example, who are famous with their wide hats, sandals (whom they call it huaraches), and the sort of a blanket covering their shoulders with gap in the middle for the head to protect them from the cold during winter season.

However, Iraq, with its all diversities in religion, geographic nature and various societies, all that have been reflected in customs and clothing. Many factors played a role in the way Iraqis from the north or the south choose and select their clothing. Influence from other countries such as Iran, Turkey, the Hijaz (now Saudi Arabia) made its touch on the way Iraqis wear their clothes. We find the Abaye, a women dress influenced mainly by Iran. However, there are other communities in Iraq who inherited their customs from their fathers and grandfathers, this can be very clear illustrated when going to the north of Iraq and see customs of the Kurds.

Below is a number of sketches showing some of Iraqi customs from the different areas in Iraq. The custom were printed out on different Iraqi postal stamps. I am not sure which year these stamps were issued, but from the amount written on each stamp, I conclude that it is either late 1970s or early 1980s.

I want to point out here that these sketches are not entirely accurate, they have already gives the closest idea on how Iraqi custom from north to south used and still is.

Fashions and fashion shows were not something foreign on Iraqi society. The first fashion centre in Iraq was in 1969, by artist Firyal Al Kelidaar, who came up with the idea at that time during her trip back from a fashion exhibition in Rome, Italy, when she noticed that one of the customs designed during the show was inspired by the Akkadian culture without any mention to that. Thus, the main purpose for establishing the fashion design center in Iraq was not for commercial reason, its purpose and pure goal was to re-live the achievements in that regards of ancient civilizations in Iraq, from Sumer, Akkad, through the Islamic heritage, into the Iraqi folklore. The first Iraqi fashion show was in 1970, in Rome, Italy. This followed by a tour in other European countries, East Asia and North Africa. In 2003 the Iraqi Fashion Centre continued its work gradually after months of hault due to war and looting and there are plans to present Iraq and its great civilization through fashion soon.

Below are a number of pictures of Iraqi models wearing different clothing made by Iraqi fashion makers

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kahramana & the 1000 Nights

Kahramana roundabout is regarded as one of the most famous spots in Baghdad. It is located on the crossroads between the famous Karrada Dakhil and Karrada Kharij districts. People driving by the roundabout can see the Statue of a beautiful young girl carrying a jar and pouring water down and surrounded by another forty jars around her. The statue was made during the 1960s of last century, by the artist Mohammed Gheni.
Many Iraqis believe that the statue of Kahramana is somewhat related to the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, from the 1000 Night and One Night. However, there are who tell another story about the young and smart Kahramana, who used to help her father running a small hotel in old Baghdad. The father used to bring a cart full of empty jars, and in the next morning he fills each jar with oil and sells them in the market. On a cold winter night, Kahramana heard some noise and later discovered that there were thieves hiding in the empty jars. Their heads were only visible to watch. Kahraman went to her father’s room, woke him up, and told him about what she saw. They came up with an idea to make some noise in the hotel so the thieves would hide completely inside the jars. When this happened, Kahramana filled a jar with oil and started pouring the oil on every single jar with a thief hiding in it. The thieves began screaming, and one after the other jumped out of the jars, by the time this happened, the police came and arrested them.

The statue of Kahramana still intact till today. There were some maintenance applied, such as painting, and planting some flowers, but familiar pouring water from Kahramana’s jar dried for some time now.

For artist Mohammed Ghani, Kahramana’s story was not the only inspiration from him taken from the tales of Thousand Nights and One Night. He made later another beautiful statue, which became a landmark among sites in Baghdad; driving through the Abu Nawas Street, there is on the right side two big statues of king Shahrayar and his wife, Shahrazad. It is featuring a man of royal status sitting and watching a standing beautiful woman who are spreading her both hands to either side like wings. Both are the main characters in that famous tale. The story of Shahrayar and Shahrazad is about the king whose queen betrayed him and he had her killed. He decided then to marry a woman every night and kill her in the morning, so she won’t betray him. Shahrazad was the daughter of the Vizier who taught her the art of storytelling since she was a small girl. When she knew about the king, she decided to stop all these executions ordered by him and submit herself as the next bride.
She was certain of making the king changes his mind about women. On the first night of marriage, she asked the king to spear her life, and in return she will tell him a story before going to bed. The king agreed and spent the whole night listening to Shahrazad’s story till dawn time. The king fell asleep before Sharazad finishes her story, so the next day he decided to spear her life and listen to the rest of the story. The same thing happened on the second night and the third and the fourth, till it reached thousand nights and one night.

Friday, February 9, 2007


What do we see on the photos taken from today’s Iraq when they are published on TV or when we search for them on the internet? We see death, sorrow, humiliation, and loss, burned or looted buildings. When someone type “Baghdad” in Google, for example, the only photos we see are of US soldiers near a swimming pool in one of Saddam's old palaces, or standing alert at a check point ready to kill, or stretching their muscles and smiling in front of the camera while making victory signs for that they made in 2003 war! We only see photos of mangled cars, crying children and woman, men lying on hospital beds with faces full of agony, and more burned people and houses!

There are pictures of dirty streets and alleys, unrecognizable by Iraqis themselves unless someone tells them or when one of them identifies a famous mosque, for example.

This is the new Iraq the whole world knows! or let me repharse the sentence: this is how Iraq has been whon to the world! Poverty, need, destruction, violence, mosques, dust - a lot of dust, dead plants and daily death.

Was Iraq like this before, even under the cruelty of Saddam and his regime?? Does anyone or any country knew how and what Iraq used to look like before the 2003 war?