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Hot town, summer in the city...
For Iraqis, Progress Is Splashing In PoolFor the older kids:
BAGHDAD - Muntadhar al-Sharify stood shivering yesterday in Baghdad's searing heat, a smile on his young face.
The Iraqi boy had just completed a rite of passage known to children around the world - his first swim. But his fun also marked something broader: Another small step in Baghdad's halting progress from violence to more normal life.
Across the city this summer, a handful of parks and pools are opening to the public. And places like Zawra Park, where three swimming pools opened yesterday after repairs financed by the U.S. military, are drawing crowds of Iraqi families.
"In the last eight or nine months, life has been normal in Zawra," said Salah al-Mandalawy, the assistant general manager of the park in western Baghdad.
BAGHDAD--Iraqis no longer have to settle just for thick Turkish coffee, cardamom-laced tea, strawberry-flavored milk or bottled water to quench their summertime thirst. Beer and alcoholic beverages are readily available once again.
There are no bars outside the American-controlled Green Zone and parts of Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, for booze is sold retail only. But more shop owners are reopening behind iron gates.
Take Saif. At 19, he's barely old enough to buy liquor in Iraq; the law says 18. But the improbably young entrepreneur's family owns four liquor stores in Baghdad, and business, after years of literally being blown out from under them, is becoming brisk.
Liquor distilleries can be found in all 18 of Iraq's provinces. The most famous are in Diyala and Nineveh provinces. Iraqis are well-known among Arab countries for the liquor called arrack, made of dates and colloquially called ''the milk of the lioness.'' Abo Dawood, another liquor-store owner, noted that ``most of my customers prefer to buy arrack because it is cheaper and stronger than any other liquor.''"''It's very safe these days, and I can go back to my town even at 2 a.m.,'' he said." Some day that might be true of Washington D.C., New York, or Detroit - but at least for now it's true of Baghdad.
Iraqi law bars the licensing of Muslims to sell alcohol, and the trade is in the hands of people like Dawood, who's Yazidi, a small non-Muslim sect from the north of Iraq, and Christians.
Drinking is nonsectarian, however. Iraqis from all religions and sects consume alcohol.
Abo Do'aa is a Muslim Iraqi in his 40s who travels more than 50 miles from Balad, in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad, to Sadoon Street in downtown Baghdad to buy liquor.
''It's very safe these days, and I can go back to my town even at 2 a.m.,'' he said. ``I came to buy liquor for me and my friends. It's expensive, but we can afford it. We used to drink for a long time just to enjoy ourselves.''
Another regular is Abo Ali, 37: ``I drink only beer because I like it and it relaxes me.''
Perhaps in order to avoid being banned from the finer journo-bars back home, the headline above the "booze" story reads "Booze back in Baghdad -- but it costs". The swimming pool story describes progress as "halting" and the reduction in violence as a "recent ebb".
Here in Mudville, we remember when booze was actually news - two months ago.
RE - Someday in DC, NY or Detroit
Looking at the crime rates, you might be right for DC and Detroit, but I'll tell you that NYC is safe at 2:00am, particularly the area I live in (Eastern Queens)Posted by KG2V at July 7, 2008 12:46 PM
My sincere apologies to the folks of Eastern Queens. I'm sure there are neighborhoods in Detroit and DC where one is safe in venturing outdoors at night. Likewise I'm sure there are places in Omaha, Atlanta, and Sacramento where one is not.
There are lots of places in America (and Germany and England and Japan...) where I wouldn't want to be wandering about unarmed (or un armored) after a certain hour. My list above is by no means complete.
Thanks to the sheepdogs nonetheless - those places are the exception.Posted by Greyhawk at July 7, 2008 05:17 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(2) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)