Baghdad – Day 1

The morning I after I arrived in Baghdad, the world seemed all fresh and new. The sun was shining and everywhere I looked there were palm trees and sidewalks!!! I couldn’t believe it. Stacey arranged a tour for me, and after 2 quick hours in the office, I was whisked away on a special tour of Camp Slayer, with absolutely no idea what to expect.

Our first stop was Uday’s house – Sadaam’s son. It had obviously been quite lovely at one time, but is now a pile of rubble. We got to wander around, climb on things, and take pictures at our leisure. A tour guide told us a few stories, but she was difficult to hear, and someone was translating her words loudly into Arabic for the small group of Iraqi military that were on the tour with us.

The next stop was the Victory over Iran palace. Sadaam built this palace and it was his main residence when in Baghdad. The archway was very ornately decorated, and framed in a ‘smiley face’ over the front door are helmets from Iranian soldiers. We did not get to go inside, as the palace is actually inhabited by US troops lucky enough to be billeted there.

Adjacent to the “Victory over Iran,” stands the “Victory over America” palace. Sadaam had not quite finished building this beauty when we decided to drop a couple of enormous bombs on it. Wrong name, perhaps?

The tour was quite interesting, and culminated with a treacherous hike up many unfinished staircases leading to a rooftop view overlooking the camp and city. The panorama was stunning, and my quick video only covers about a quarter of it, due to MEMORY CARD FULL ☹

All the palaces are completely surrounded by water, for which Sadaam apparently used 8 of the city’s 9 water pumps, leaving his people in desperate want. The water is spotted with little houses where his friends and relatives lived, or that were used for pleasure. Sadaam’s brothel is right next door to his palace, and a brothel for his friends is a stone’s throw across the lake. According to our tour guide, they believed there was ‘no sin on water.’

After viewing the impressive wreckage, we made a quick photo stop and the very last mural of Sadaam in Iraq, and then went to the Baath party house, which was bombed after George Bush gave his 24 hour to evacuate ultimatum. Apparently we almost got Sadaam there, but missed him by less than an hour. Instead, the remains of 250 people were found in the rubble of the theater room, and “Pretty Woman” was found inside of the projector.

Most of the building was rubble, but it’s loveliness could easily be imagined. The pool room was still intact, although the pool was apparently never filled. An old, dried blood stain suggested an alternate and more sinister purpose.

Overall, the tour was very interesting, and completely surreal. I just kept thinking, “how did I end up here!?” and feeling very, very grateful to be me!

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