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Al-Mutanabi, the mythical street of Baghdad booksellers

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Inaugurated in 1932 by King Faysal I, the street takes its name from the great poet Abul Taieb al-Mutanabi (915-965).

With fireworks and concerts, the street al-Mutanabi de Baghdad, famous for its booksellers, was reopened on Saturday December 25 after some works that have allowed this mythical artery of the Iraqi capital to recover part of its luster of yesteryear.

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Inaugurated in 1932 by King Faysal I, the street takes its name from the great poet Abul Taieb al-Mutanabi (915-965), born during the Abbasid empire in the territory that would become Iraq.

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This place, frequented on Fridays by students and groups of young people, also regularly receives artists and intellectuals of the old generation.

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On Saturday, to celebrate the end of the remodeling works that began in August and have been financed mainly by private sector banks, the Baghdad City Council organized a carnival, of course, under great security measures, the participants entering with a dropper.

“Since the 1960s, I have come here every week to look at the books on the shelves and meet friends,” explains Zoheir al-Yazairi, a writer and former journalist who raves about the renovation.

Among luminous garlands decorating the brick facades and freshly washed wrought iron balconies, visitors wander phone in hand documenting the improvements to the street that has just been paved, although most of the shops were closed.

“It is an island of beauty in the heart of Baghdad. You realize the difference with the rest of the city, ”laments al-Yazairi, alluding to the general neglect when it comes to the cultural and historical heritage of the Iraqi capital.

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This street, less than a kilometer long, empties on one side into the Tigris River, guarded by a large statue of the poet, and ends in an ornate arch with a quote from al-Mutanabi.

In it, the visitor can find the latest bestsellers from the United States in Arabic next to university textbooks; there are volumes in French, English and German, rummaging through can find real treasures.

But even literary Iraq is not safe from the tragic reality that the country is experiencing. For example, On March 5, 2007, a kamikaze blew up a truck loaded with explosives at this location, killing 30 people and wounding 60 others.

Mohamed Adnan, 28, took over the bookstore owned by his father, who was killed in the attack.

“He died, our neighbors and several loved ones,” explains this graduate in History, who nevertheless is happy for the renewal.

“I would have liked those who died were still alive to see how the street has been transformed,” he adds. On the banks of the river, a singer hums traditional ballads under fireworks. (I)

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