Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
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IRAQ: Hotel California in Baghdad

October 5, 2008 | 10:38 am

Hunting_club_2_4_2By Saif Rasheed in Baghdad

As a tradition during the feast of Eid, my family used to visit the homes of relatives and relax amid the wide gardens at the social Hunting Club in Baghdad's Mansour district.

Then came the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and many of my relatives fled the country.

These days, with fewer family members to visit, we find ourselves spending more time at the Hunting Club. It is protected from gunfire, serves alcohol and steers conversations away from sectarian politics. 

The Hunting Club is different from what it was just a year or two ago. Security is better in Iraq.

Those who fled are returning home. Now, you see many high-class families, young boys with colorful shirts and heavily gelled long hair and unveiled girls wearing fancy and tight clothes with a lot of jewelry.

The club has a new hall with a chic cafe and restaurant, a Spider-Man ride for kids and a huge high-definition TV screen.

And then there's the singer, a man with a Spanish guitar. He strums Arabic songs and does a mean version of the Eagles' "Hotel California."

You cross your legs, sit there and remember, watching boys and girls gather around him, enjoying the songs while also exchanging jokes and cellphone numbers!

Download video from The Hunting Club here

Photo: The Hunting Club in Baghdad. Credit: Saif Rasheed

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