The opening of Baghdad Central reminded me of my first visit to Baghdad, which was around the same period in which this story is set.
36.1 | Destinations
My first ever trip abroad was to Bhopal in India, to visit relatives. I was 21 years old, skinny, long-haired and ready for adventures. I travelled alone and by the time I returned home, three months later, I was a changed man.
Creativity and innovative thought have been essential tools for the flourishing of human culture and civilisation. But originality, imagination and pioneering cultural products require serious effort and hard work. So why not simply copy others or just buy the signs of sophistication.
The word destination has a polysemic power which invites thoughts from distant domains. In an ordinary sense it is a place one has to reach. But destination as metaphor packs layers of meaning.
As the years passed, my connection to God diminished as I was exposed to a dogmatic, rigid and fear-inducing Islam. At my daily madrasa lessons I learned how to read and recite Arabic, but not to understand it, a peculiarity of South Asian culture I was to learn later in life.
Although the Western imagination tended to locate the strangest and most improbable marvels in India and points further east, the Arab lands provided enough of the marvellous and the strangeness for medieval European pilgrims, traders, adventurers and spies to be going on with.
Do any of us know where we’re heading? It seems futile to contemplate destinations, physical or existential, when the world is on stuttered pause.
During August 2020, a rubber boat packed with forty-five African migrants sank into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after setting off from Libya on its way to Europe. On board, was a young Sudanese poet, Abdel Wahab Yousif, twenty-nine years of age, known affectionately amongst the young generation of African poetry fans as Latinos.