Are you a book lover? Do you wish you had an entire library to yourself that you can access anytime?
Do you dream of having a huge cupboard full of books in your room? I bet if you even have the slightest regard towards reading, the place I am about to show you will pique your interest to the max.
Welcome to the ‘Book Market of Iraq, where books remain in the street at night because Iraqis say: “The reader does not steal and the thief does not read.”
I know you don’t expect this kind of thinking coming from a troubled country like Iraq, but here it is. The Mutanabbi Street which is located in Baghdad, near the old quarter at Al Rasheed Street portrays the most unbelievable of book markets that have ever existed.
This Iraqi book street is referred to as ‘the heart and soul of the Baghdad’s literacy and intellectual community.’
It spreads all along the street and thousands of people gather here every day, to bag in some of those prized books that are laid out unsupervised most of the times.
But no one steals them, no one grabs the books and run away without paying. That’s the beauty of this Iraqi book street. And it is every bit magical considering the amount of violence present in the country, don’t you think?
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Sadly, the history of this street is not as beautiful and peaceful as it looks.
On March 5, 2007, a car bomb exploded on this book street and killed over 26 people. It left the area littered and unsafe for shoppers and destroyed many businesses. But the locals didn’t lose hope. After a year of repair and clean up, the street was reopened with the same enthusiasm about literature.
Apart from being famous for its book market, the Mutanabbi street is also known for a cafe. The name of the cafe is “Shabandar’s cafe”. And the manager ‘Al Khashali’ is also one hell of a personality.
In the bomb blast that happened on this very book street, he lost four sons and a grandson but somehow he survived.
He is now 85-years old and sits at the helm, exactly a century after his great-great-great-grandfather first founded the cafe in 1917.
This cafe used to be a well-known gathering place for intellectual people back in its glory days. It mostly included Iraqi poets, playwrights, philosophers, dissenters, and even politicians.
Today, it is the beacon of a reminder of those times and has turned into a famous tourists attraction.
Even though this Iraqi book street hasn’t got entirely back into its former glory, people are trying their best to keep up the liveliness. By promoting tourism and the love for books through this book street, Baghdad is doing pretty well.
On the other hand, it really ignites respect in my heart for people who live and work for the betterment of the future of their youth by offering them such an inspirational market where books are left unattended.