Baghdad Market Facelift
May 31, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY - Sadoun Street in Baghdad was an important commercial district with many "chambers," or street vendors peddling their goods daily on both sides of the bustling streets. Sadly, the narrow lanes that key lodgings like the Palestine and Baghdad hotels call home became targets of car bombs in recent years.
Abu Nuwas once provided the waterfront property with fish markets, cafes and shops that catered to locals and visitors from all facets of life. Only a stone's throw from the historic Abu Nuwas Market, the two parallel streets became synonymous with good times. In addition to the numerous chambers, Sadoun Street was a boulevard lined with watch shops, kebab restaurants and theaters.
To help quell the rash of car bombs, temporary concrete barriers were emplaced for the safety of the Iraqi people by Coalition Forces on Sadoun Street. The high concrete blocks run approximately half a mile and separate traffic on both sides.
The residents in the neighborhood accepted the safety facets of the barriers, but decided to make it look a little more like home if the barriers were there to stay.
Today, the t-wall barriers that stand over 10 feet tall and five feet wide are unmistakable, as the concrete has been formed to replicate an artist canvas. The beautiful murals depict the daily lives of Iraqis with multiple water scenes like fishing in the waters, herding livestock, an array of animals and ships at sea.
Some of the scenes take up to seven barriers and are so vivid, it's difficult to grasp the surface is concrete at first glance.
Commissioned by the Baghdad Municipalities, 140 men were pulled from local areas, and employed to paint the barriers. Mainly in their late teens and early 20's, the men were hired in hopes of expanding their art knowledge, painting skills as well as giving the economy a boost.
One local store owner said the barriers are already bringing more customers into his small restaurant that had been decimated since the violence started.
"With the bombs going off and then concrete walls separating the street, no one could walk or cross the street before," the restaurant owner said. He said he was barely making it, but now people are stopping to look at the walls and getting a bite to eat in the process.
Another local business owner of a carpenter shop between Sadoun and Abu Nuwas streets said he hasn't really worked since the barriers went up. He said in the previous eight years before the barriers, he had always been busy.
He said he's very happy the walls were painted and people stop and look.
Also, he said the clean-up on adjacent Abu Nuwas Street should help the entire neighborhood come back to prominence like the old days.
Under Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon, also known as the Baghdad Security Plan, the Abu Nuwas Market is going to be re-opened for public use. This should mean more customers for Sadoun Street merchants, as well.
The rebuilding of Abu Nuwas Street has already begun as repairs on sidewalks, parking renovations, street cleaning, trash removal and overall beautification has started. In addition, barrier removal plans are being conducted by the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, currently operating as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Maj. Anthony Judge, the executive officer for 1-504th PIR, who is spearheading the barrier project said opening the market will help stimulate the economy by providing Iraqis with jobs.
Due to this barrier removal, some businesses are able to view the Tigris River for the first time since 2004 and plan on reestablishing their businesses and lives. Judge said the process of returning to normalcy is the goal of the revitalization projects, adding that it is something the Iraqi people dearly need to see and taste again.