The human cost of war in Iraq has been devastating. But Iraq has suffered economically too. As its economy has crumbled, so too have its once beautiful cities.
In an annual survey of the world’s most liveable major cities conducted last year, Baghdad ranked dead last at number 223 on the list. And that was before the recent chaos with ISIS.
But Baghdad was beautiful once. The Iraqi capital was peaceful, elegant and prosperous. Think of Baghdad, or any Iraqi city, and you likely conjure images of bombed-out buildings, rubble and dusty streets lined with beat-up vehicles. But Baghdad was once the flourishing capital of a fledgling democracy.
There’s an excellent video doing the rounds this week which shows life in Baghdad in 1956. It’s quite the eye-opener. Girls play volleyball, men play board games in open air cafes while sipping strong Arabic coffee, the police force looks purposeful, the traffic is orderly.
Was Baghdad really once like this or has the internet unearthed some strange old propaganda film?
“It’s not propaganda,” Ali Al-Hilli, Melbourne-based secretary of the Australian Iraqi forum, tells news.com.au.
“Baghdad was a modern city by 1960s standards and by Middle East standards. It was one of the best cities in the Middle East. The city was very flourishing, very clean, and had all the western standard amenities.”
Baghdad can reach up to 50 degrees in summer, and the famed Tigris River is very muddy. So you can imagine how popular this pool was.
Mr Al-Hilli has lived in Australia for 24 years but was born in Iraq in the 1950s. It was a very different society then to the one the world sees now.
“Society was very simple,” he says. “I never saw women wearing scarfs or veils in the 1950s. Even in the late 1980s the Islamic trend was very minimal. It only started in the early ‘90s, and now it’s just a different society.
They even had horse racing, although whether that’s evidence of a civilised society or not is obviously up for debate. Source:
“In 1950s Iraq, you could walk around the streets at night. You had bars, women didn’t wear veils and it was a very open society. Women could go and learn at universities and be part of the workforce. My mother was a lawyer and we even had women who were ministers in the government.”
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