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Rain over Baghdad

Rain over Baghdad: A Novel of Iraq

Hala El Badry
Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 490
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7f85
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  • Book Info
    Rain over Baghdad
    Book Description:

    What was it like to live in Iraq before the earth-shaking events of the late twentieth century? The mid-seventies to the late eighties witnessed Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, the establishment of Kurdish autonomy in the north, and the Iraq–Iran war. It also brought an influx of oil wealth, following the 1973 war and the spike in oil prices, and a parallel influx of Arab talent, including many Egyptians. We witness all of this and more through the eyes of an Egyptian woman married to an engineer working in Iraq. The narrator, who works for an Egyptian magazine’s bureau in the Iraqi capital, has a behind-the-scenes view of what was really happening at a critical juncture in the history of the region. Moreover, she has a mystery to solve: an Iraqi woman from the marshes in the south has disappeared, and as the mystery unfolds we learn of her love for an older Egyptian Marxist journalist. This is Iraq before and beyond Saddam, Iraq as the Arabs knew it, in the lives of interesting people living in a vibrant country before the attempted annexation of Kuwait and the American invasion. This is the Iraq that was . . .

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-555-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Three Knocks

    • December 1979
      (pp. 1-4)

      Where has Anhar Khayun disappeared to suddenly from Baghdad and why?

      I inquired about her at the Iraqi News Agency where she worked during the day as an editor in the culture section. Her boss Abu Lu’ay said to me, “Hello, Sitt Nora Suleiman. Anhar has not gone on leave, has not called in sick, and we don’t know why she hasn’t come to work yesterday or today. Tomorrow is another day and who knows, maybe we’ll have news.”

      I sensed tension in his voice as he answered my questions, knitting his brows, looking me in the eye as if...

    • June 1975
      (pp. 5-10)

      I put on my white bridal gown and veil and got into the car on my way to the airport, followed by several cars carrying my family and friends in a morning bridal procession to join Hatim, who had to go to Baghdad ahead of me. I had not yet taken my finals in college when he signed a contract to work in Baghdad. We arrived at the airport at the last moment: eleven o’clock, just one hour before departure. I found my father waiting for me, having taken care of the ticket and weighing the bags. They took me...

    • October 1980
      (pp. 11-68)

      “Al-Dora Refineries and Baghdad Power Company Bombed. Today at 12:00 noon, the Baghdad Power Company and the oil refineries in al-Dora were bombed heavily by the Iranian Air Force. This led to power outages in most neighborhoods of the city, several injuries among the workers, the destruction of the nearby residential neighborhood, the martyring of a number of inhabitants, and the wounding of many, some in critical condition.”

      I stared at the television screen and the Cairo TV announcer. I saw the wall of my house lying in ruins and on fire right in front of me. I said to...

  3. Three Other Knocks

    • 1977
      (pp. 71-76)

      Abd al-Rahim Mansur came into the office ofal-Zahrain Baghdad at nine in the morning in a real state of panic. He cried out, “Thank God I found you here. An order has been issued to deport my wife Suhayla and her family from Iraq.”

      The news hit us like a bolt of lightning. Hilmi Amin and I said at the same time, “Why?”

      He said, “An order was issued yesterday to deport Iraqis of Iranian descent instantly and without giving anyone time to prepare or to dispose of possessions. The order was to take them right away to...

    • March 1977
      (pp. 77-80)

      We gathered a lot of information on the Kurds. The office filled up with reference books in Arabic and English about their history, their revolts, their heroes, and their customs and traditions. We traveled to Erbil to complete our on-site research and Anhar promised to catch up with us in Erbil. She didn’t. I noticed that Hilmi Amin was worried when he talked to her in the morning. She did not say absolutely that she would not come. He said he would call her the following day, adding that her boss had given her an assignment that she hadn’t finished...

    • April 1977
      (pp. 81-136)

      The bureau director got ready to go to Cairo for the second time since I worked with him. Today he asked Muzaffar al-Mosuli to bring requested articles to take with him to Cairo. Muzaffar asked him, “Will Mrs. Nora be in the office while you are away?”

      “No. She’ll be off and so will Anhar,” he said curtly as he looked at me angrily. In the evening he gave me strict instructions not to open the office and to deliver the complimentary issues ofal-Zahrathat we got from the National Company directly to the newspapers. Then he said, “It’s...

  4. Three Other Knocks

    • November 1976
      (pp. 139-145)

      I stood motionless in front of the television screen until the news was finished. It was 9:00 p.m., Hatim was getting ready to go to bed. Our day was coming to an end. “What are you going to do?”

      I said, “I’ll go right away, of course.”

      “I’ll come with you.”

      I said, “Of course not. You have work tomorrow and I don’t know whether I’ll work all night or not. I’ll call the Iraqi News Agency first to know which hospital they’ve taken the wounded to, then I’ll leave a message for Hilmi Amin.”

      He said, “Nora, I’ll go...

    • April 1977
      (pp. 146-153)

      We received news of mass roundups of leftists in Egypt. Hilmi Amin was afraid of being prevented from leaving Egypt on his return or that he would be arrested if he took the bureau press material to Cairo as usual. Large clouds of uncertainty hung over the office, dispelling its usual optimistic atmosphere. I was suffering from being separated from Yasir, but tried to hide my pain so that Hatim would not remember that he forced me to leave my son behind or remind Hilmi Amin of his inability to go to Cairo. I woke up filled with anxiety and...

    • December 1977
      (pp. 154-228)

      I sat down writing a piece after Ustaz Hilmi went out with Anhar and Abu Ghayib finished cleaning the place. I heard the bell ring. I didn’t expect them back so soon. I found an extremely tall young Egyptian man. He said, “Is Ustaz Gamal there?”

      I thought I had seen him before but I didn’t know where. I said, “Who’s Gamal? We don’t have anyone by that name.”

      He said, “Hilmi. Hilmi Amin?”

      I said, “No, he’s not here. Who’s this Gamal you were asking about?”

      He said, “Nobody. When does he come back?”

      I said, “In the afternoon,...

  5. Three New Knocks

    • August, 1977
      (pp. 229-238)

      As we took a walk through Abu Nuwas Street, Hatim said, commenting on my merry mood, “I didn’t imagine that Hilmi Amin’s daughters’ visit would cheer you up like that.”

      I said, “They are girls: one my own age and another as young as Yasir.”

      He said, “This is our favorite restaurant. Let’s go.”

      I smiled. I knew that he liked it because of its romantic ambience: soft lights, quiet, and situated on the bank of the Tigris. It reminded us both of Gabalaya Street, close to our house in Zamalek; it was a street for lovers, with its restaurants...

    • July 1979
      (pp. 239-250)

      Baghdad felt different these days. There was something unusual about it. There were indications and manifestations of joy without any reason that was known to us. The media were broadcasting songs to the accompaniment of brass bands. They frequently played a song glorifying the Ba‘th Party that went something like: “Hooray for the rising Ba‘th, hooray!” as if an important event was going to be announced soon. The female television announcers wore the latest fashions and they looked more cheerful than usual. Vice President Saddam Hussein’s movements during the last few months gave rise to many questions among the people,...

    • August 1977
      (pp. 251-476)

      Hatim called out in alarm, “Nora! Nora! Where are you?”

      “On the roof. What’s wrong?”

      “What are you doing on the roof now? Come down, quick.”

      I said as I came down, somewhat worried, “I was returning the bedding to the storeroom. It’s getting cooler, thank God. Why are you so tense?”

      “Sadat announced in the People’s Assembly that he was ready to go to Jerusalem.”

      “Oh my God! What a catastrophe! Did Hilmi Amin call?”

      “It came in the news. They called the visit ‘treason.’”

      I picked up the phone and kept trying to call Ramsis Hotel, angrily. I...

  6. Glossary
    (pp. 477-480)