Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Chiefly about mosquitos

Yes you read that right, because as it happens mosquitos (or fleas or bugs or whatever) now play a huge part of my daily life. I'm blogging from lovely Basrah again and the heat is 30 degrees. The irony of it all is that Basrawis lovingly refer to this time of the year as 'spring', which is kind of making me dreading the thought of July and August. Everyone I have complained to about the heat snickers back at me and says: "Just wait till summer then, oh you will love it here" or "You haven't seen the sharji yet". No thanks, I'm not sure I'm interested.

Which brings us to the topic of mosquitos/fleas/bugs. Those adorable flying creatures. I remember once asking my parents when I was a bit young and innocent, something like "Why did God create bugs?". Unfortunately nobody then had pointed me to the infamous book authored by Khairallah Talfah (Saddam's uncle) titled 'Three things God should not have created: Jews, Kurds, and mosquitos'.

Anyway, the last four nights have been terrible thanks to those restless godawful vampires. I had to sleep wrapped up tightly in a blanket and with socks on but they were persistent. Somehow they penetrated all the barriers and I could feel them all over the place even under my clothes. I was naiive enough to think that commercial insecticide sprays would work, but it seems the mosquitos over here have long become tolerant to such minor disturbances. You see the problem is that the residence is bordered by palm orchards and small creeks from every direction, so each time the door or a window is opened, swarms of mosquitos enter attracted by the lights. Our favorite game right now besides Cooncan is 'Who gets to squash mosquitos most is the winner'.

Now the area south to Basrah is known as the Venice of Iraq since there are approximately 13 thousand small rivers, canals, and creeks between Basrah city and Faw along both banks of Shatt Al-Arab. At the town of Abu Al-Khasib almost every house (some of which are centuries old) is surrounded by water. About 60% of the total Iraqi exported palm dates came from this area alone. The 8 years Iraq-Iran war and the long years of neglect by Saddam's regime contributed to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of these palm trees.

The creeks have also been clogged lately by smuggled crude oil which is spilled during loading to the various vessels in the many ports on Shatt Al-Arab. The oil is shamelessly being smuggled under the eyes and noses of the Iraqi police and British forces in the area. Each morning we witness endless lines of tanker trucks parked on the road to the Abu Floos port waiting for their turn to enter the port. On several occasions Basrah IP have claimed they are investigating and intercepting smugglers but practically nothing is being done. Months ago some large operations were carried out by Brits to put an end to it, but none lately according to the people over here.

I'll be back with more info later as I'll be visiting the ports area sometime this week.

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In the meantime check out this article by Abu Ayad, an anonymous Baghdadi municipal council member. It's about the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, and the differences between the western media image of him, and the real thing on the ground. An excellent read and I'll be sure to check for Abu Ayad's name on the web from now on.