Fun times in the Green Zone
Baghdad Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
I have been able to see more of Iraq than I would have actually liked to have seen. I first came over to sunny Iraq in 2003 with the US Army and got to visit all sorts of exciting places and to "meet" tons of new and interesting people. I came back over to Iraq again in 2006 to work in the Internation or Green Zone. This time around I have had the chance to go to just about all of the major government places. The US embassy is located in one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces. Working out of there, I have gone to all of the major government officials houses and offices, including those of the Prime Minister, President, and two Vice-Presidents. After being in Iraq for awhile, I heard that the embassy offered a tour of the Green Zone.
The tour was actually pretty interesting. It took us to three locations and at each we were given a bit of history about its origin and purpose under the old regime. The first that we went to see was the "Crossed Swords" monument. These are huge swords held up by gigantic hands which were supposedly modeled after Saddam Hussein's own hands. At ground level the base of the forearms was covered with helmets taken from Iranian soldiers. This monument was supposed to represent Saddam's triumph over Iran in the Iraq/Iran conflict. The Crossed Swords area is where Saddam would have his military displays.
Next we went to an apartment compound in the heart of the IZ. We stopped off at a little market in the center of the apartments where they made fresh bread. There were outdoor pools with carp and stands selling fresh produce. It is always a roll of the dice eatting local food. You never know if it is going to mess your stomach up, but the bread looked tempting and I was hungry so I ate a couple of pieces. As one of the more outgoing members of the tour group, I made friends with the locals working in the bakery and smoked the hooka with them for a bit before we left.
We finished up the tour at the bombed out Bath Party Headquarters. During the initial airstrike this massive stone building, decorated entirely in costly marble on the inside, was devestated by a large bomb. The US Airforce completely redecorated the inside with a large 1000 pound JDAM dropped with incredible precission through the top of the center rotunda. The is also a large tunnel and bunker complex under this building, but we were unable to tour it since it is now flooded with water. Even on the best days, Iraq is a stressful environment. It was nice to take a day to do something "fun" and be able to look at things from a different perspective. I always pass by these places and simply think of them as a venue or a bombed out building. It was interesting to see what they were used for before the war and to get a bit of history on the area.