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My 1st 24 hours with Baghdad, Iraq. 6 June 2013

My 1st 24 hours with Baghdad, Iraq. 6 June 2013

Date: 06.06.2013

Tigris and Euphrates River within a great Mesopotamian culture which  build Iraq with ancient civilization touch i was wondered to discover  with my own eyes and it was my one and only wish in Iraq. I read when i  was in class 7 about Mesopothamian and Babylonian civilization which  really moved me from my childhood. When i reached to Baghdad by flight  from Lebanon it was 2.30.

People were very interested to see my cycle. We are maybe 20-25  people at the airport and other parts of airport were totally empty. I  met  a guy, his name is Mohammad, although he can not speak English  quite well, but he wanted to help me to drop me to my final destination, embassy of India in Baghdad.

I met another person in airport who wanted to take me to South of Iraq, he is an engineer. I told him when i will  come South of Iraq, i will visit him. In the meantime Mohammad told me  to follow him to go out of airport to find a taxi. Today is  holiday, it is religious for Shea, so everything is closed in Baghdad city. Usually it is 3000 Dinar, approximately 30 dollar from airport to Baghdad city  by shared car. I could not go by shared car because i have a cycle, when everybody left i was thinking what i can do.

I gave a call to Mr.  Singh, HOC of Embassy of India, Baghdad. He gave phone to someone who  can explain how i can come to embassy from the airport. I met some  Bengali people in the airport who are working in the airport, they  suggested me to stay here one night and go tomorrow morning, because  today Baghdad is very dangerous. At last i reserved a taxi and gave him  65 dollar. It is a government taxi which took me directly to embassy. A  lonely way every 5 km a checkpost, we had to show the documents and  cross the checkpost. Sometimes checkpost was too crowdy, so it took me  15 to 20 min to cross the checkpost, it is really horrible because  outside was 40 to 45 degrees. Whole body was burning because of heat. In the same time, the taxi driver was asking every minute for his  bakshish (tip). It somehow became very crazy for me, although i paid 65  dollar for the taxi. So first  impression of Baghdad was not really  sweet for me.

Exactly how much time it took us, i didn’t count, when we came to embassy, we already passed 10 to 15 checkposts from the  airport. It is high security zone, so the caretaker of embassy, Mr.  Naher, came first take my bicycle and all luggage to entrance gate where it was checked again, i Mr. Tyaji, Mr. Singh and other Indian officials of the Embassy of India.

 

Other officials informed to ambassador  that i was already here. So ambassador soon came and met me and welcomed me to Baghdad. He is very soft-spoken, nearly 2 m tall, this is his  residence and office together. I had a nice talk with him, he arranged  my accommodation in a newly rented palacial building just next to  ambassador office, which is also a consular section of Indian embassy in Baghdad. Then all officials came with me to show the room and Mr. Naher will be my guard and outside is high security, so i can not go outside  without any confirmation of embassy and embassy officials. From last  three countries i was really tired, so this palacial building became my  jail for certain time, to overcome my tiredness. It means that this time was given to me, because i really need it.

 

Evening i came to join with them for the dinner. Here all officials evening are cooking  together their meal. So i had a chance to cook potato and soya sabji,  dhal and rice. We had a nice dinner together. During our dinner i heard  that most of the officials three, four or five months can not go outside for security reasons. Somehow one official told me, Somen, we are  living in a jail, without family, we have no friends, like inside the  jail all prisoners, like all prisoners we have food, we have work,  sometimes we can watch some movies, sometimes we can play, this is all  we can get, so it is no difference between both of us, government  officials and prisoners, just doing our work. It really touched me  because all of officials  came to help people, although they don’t have  any freedom to live. I am really sorry for them. But in the same time i  am happy because i can spend some time with them and can be a part of  them.

Again after dinner when i came out one military guided me  from ambassador residence to consular section half of road, and another  came and pick me at another half of road, although it is 10 meter  distance.  That night was nice sleep because i was tired. I prepared my  bed with my mothers bed cover, and on the top i put my sleeping bag.

Morning i wake up because somebody was knocking the door. When i opened i saw  Naher. He was asking me if i will go with him for the breakfast. It is  also not so far, it is two small shops, one is making falafel and  another one is making sweets for breakfast. But both were closed because it was too late. So we came to a shop close by where i bought some  juice, and then again came to bed and slept. I heard somebody was  knocking the door, when i wake up i saw the security official of  embassy, he is a Bengali guy, Mr. Ramesh, actually he is from Assam, but he has a home also in Bengal. So he came, gave my breakfast, it is a  falafel with bread. Other officials are also eating the same, so i was  sleepy, so i just took the food and dropped it on the table, and again  slept. I don’t know when i wake up, but maybe it was quite lunch time. I was hungry, so i ate the falafel and took a shower, here often is a  sand strom, so in all room was sand. I cleaned my room and toilet, it  took me nearly two hours. In the meantime i got a call from HOC for the  lunch, it was already 3.30 pm. After lunch, nearly an hour we set  together and watched TV, then back to room again and slept. Nearly 8 pm i woke up and come again to embassy for the dinner.

Every day, 7 to 9 pm  all officials, even ambassador, all together play badminton, so i joined them for entertainment. Evening we cooked dhal and rice, after food i  came back to my room again. I didn’t know, my body was so tired and  wanted long and deep sleep to refresh. So that first 24 hours  refreshed me with a long and deep sleep in Baghdad

About Somen Debnath

Dear friends, my name is Somen Debnath. I am a resident of the village of Basanti, Sundarbans, West Bengal, which is a great mangrove forest and the largest tiger reserve in India. My "Around the World Bicycle Tour for HIV/AIDS Awareness Programme & Presentation of Indian Culture" started on 27th of May 2004, two days after I acquired Bachelor degree in Zoology from the University of Calcutta. I have also completed 'Visarad' in Fine Arts from the Sarbabhartiya University. My goal is to cover 191 countries till 2020. I will travel 200.000 km in the whole world and reach nearly 20 million people. 118.000 km I will travel for charity, that's why I'm selling my Km to people. The support I will get from people buying my kilometres will help me fulfill my other dream: to build a Global village in my native place, Basanti, Sundarbans.

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