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The New York Times, October 12, 1879, p.4:

THE BAGDAD OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS.

    Bagdad, in the reign of Er Reshid, seems to have been pre-eminently a city of pleasure. Thither flocked from all parts of the Oriental world the most noted and capable poets, musicians, and artificers of the time; and the first thought of the Arabian or Persian craftsman who had completed a specially curious or attractive specimen of art was to repair to the capital of the Moslem world, to submit it to the Commander of the Faithful, from whom he rarely failed to receive a rich reward for his labors.

    Surrounded by pleasure-gardens and groves of orange, tamarisk, and myrtle, refreshed by an unfailing luxuriance of running streams, supplied either by art or nature, the great city on the Tigris is the theme of many an admiring ode or laudatory ghazel; and the poets of the time all agree in describing it as being, under the rule of the great Caliph, a sort of terrestrial paradise of "idlesse" and luxury, where, to use their own expressions, the ground was irrigated with rose-water and the dust of the roads was musk, were flowers and verdure overhung the ways, and the air was perpetually sweet with the many-voiced song of birds, and where the chirp of lutes, the dulcet warble of flutes, and the silver sound of singing houris rose and fell in harmonious cadence from every corner of the street of palaces that stood in vast succession in the midst of their gardens and orchards, gifted with perpetual verdure by the silver abundance of the Tigris, as it sped in its arrowy flight through the thrice-blest town.

    Bagdad, indeed, was in many respects emphatically a città cortigiana, a sort of Vienna or Bucharest of the olden time, carried to the higher evolution correspondent with the more sensuous influences of the luxuriant East; and the state of public morality there was naturally of the laxest. Especially was this the case among the higher classes. Drunkenness and debauchery of the most uncompromising kind prevailed among them despite the precepts of the Koran; and men and women seemed to vie with each other in refinements of luxury and dissipation.

    As was the case in a period that offers no small analogy to that of which I speak, the epoch of the Roman decadence, the women of the upper classes, to whom was apparently allowed an amount of liberty, or rather license, curiously at variance with our Western ideas of Eastern domestic polity, appear to have been especially corrupt; and many are the tales of their licentious habits and adventures that are to be found in The Thousand and One Nights, reminding us of the Memoirs of Casanova, although almost always redeemed by touches of pathos, poetry, or romance, which do not exist in the latter's somewhat dry and unattractive records of ordinary galanterie.

    The story of The Porter and the Three Ladies of Bagdad, that of The Barber's Brother Bacbarah, and several others contained in the old version, give some idea of the license of the time, and examples are still more abundant and circumstantial in the tales that compose the comparatively unknown portion of the collection.
The New Quarterly Magazine.

The New York Times, October 11, 1885, p.11:

BAGDAD.

    A city of over one hundred thousand inhabitants, with no place of public resort, where ever house resembles a fortress or a prison, the ponderous doors opening upon narrow, gloomy lanes winding between grim, bare walls, and creaking heavily on their hinges, to reveal the low, dark, vaulted entrance that leads to the courtyard inside, sometimes picturesque enough with pillared verandas and arabesqe lattices, but always rambling, uncomfortable, inconvenient, uncared for, to English ideas of what a man's home should be--a city where the luxury of a wheeled conveyance is unknown; for who could drive anything that goes on wheels in lanes six feet wide that twist round every house corner, and where the mud lies ankle-deep in Winter and dust darkens the air in Summer?

    A city through the midst of which flows a mighty river, on which the traffic is carried against wind and steam by men harnessed like beasts, on which the only native boats for pleasure or profit are on the same model and no better in construction than the coracle of the ancient Briton, on which foreign enterprise has placed steamers which have to contend against every device and delay known to the crafty Ottoman.

    A city unrivaled for position and fertility of soil, environed by desert which might be made to blossom as the rose, the centre of trade for a whole continent, yet sunk in decay and poverty; where 30,000 Jews contend in the struggle for existence, or, more properly, for a bare subsistence, with twice as many other Orientals not less supple, wily, patient, and persevering than themselves, in a city where poverty and opression have sharpened every man's wits.

    A city that might sit enthroned as a queen upon the waters, heir and daughter of mighty Babylon and the later splendors of Madain, Seleucia, and Ctseiphon, now groveling in the dust amid the ruins of a long forgotten former glory.

    Such is Bagdad of to-day, the city of Haroun-al-Rashid, the familiar home of Sinbad the sailor and the other worthies of the Arabian Nights.    
The Saturday Review.

The New York Times, December 7, 1890, p. 3:

BRICKMAKING IN BAGDAD

From the London Times.

    The British Consul General at Bagdad in his latest report has some interesting observations on brickmaking in that town. All Bagdad, with a population of about one hundred and sixteen thousand souls, may be said to be built of kiln-dried bricks. Stone is little used there, as it is in Mosul, in house building, and, although the tenacious clay of Irâk gives good material, its use is confined chiefly to huts and agricultural squattings along the Tigris banks.

    There is thus an enormous demand for bricks. These are all hand-made and kiln-dried. There are about twenty-five large and small kilns at work, in the hands chiefly of Jews and Christians, but the turn-out is far behind the demand. Half-built houses sometimes remain so for long periods over want of bricks. The kilns are dotted over the desert outside the city. Often in Spring, when the Tigris or Euphrates lays acres of ground under water, these stand like islands in the inundation, and brick making is suspended.

    The usual prices of bricks at the kiln side is £1 16s. per 1,000 of twelve inches square, and 18s. per 1,000 of seven inches square.

    The bricks are carried from the kiln on small donkeys, each taking not more than ten large or twenty-five small bricks. In the course of transit they get much broken, as the best, though good to look at and of a chrome yellow color, are very brittle.

    Another great promoter of the demand for bricks is the absorption of water every Winter, bricks suffering equally with the mortar in which they are laid, owing to their porousness. Thus there is hardly a house or wall or brick pathway in Bagdad which does not constantly call for patching or rebuilding with new bricks.

    The old city walls, thrown down about 1870 by Midhat Pasha when Governor General, remain still, in spite of years of burrowing and abstraction, a mine of broken bricks. Under a late régime it was said that the right of taking these away and selling them was conferred as a substitute for pay on the soldiery; but at present all classes seem to help themselves to them.

    These remarks serve to show what a good opening there is in Bagdad for brickmaking after some simple but scienfific method.

The New York Times, July 27, 1924, p.SM11:

TWENTIETH CENTURY BAGDAD

By Rail From Basrah to the City of the Caliphs
as the English Have Made It

By RAYMOND SCUDDER
    Bagdad boasts one street. It is an infinitely bad street, and futher depressed in via-ology by bearing a horrible name. The British are great colonizers and are reputed to have a proclivity for civilizing, or more explicitly, westernizing, backward countries and retaining at the same time to the most expedient degree whatever natural charm and beauty the countries possess. But in the case of Iraq, of Bagdad and "New Street, " as they have unfeelingly and unromantically dubbed this thoroughfare, they seem to have made a signal failure in both these provinces.

    When the British took over the mandate or occupancy of Iraq after the war, and burrowed New Street, they created at the same time a railway running down the west bank of the Euphrates to Basrah. It is a splendid railway, unequaled perhaps even by the Lackawanna, and covers the distance of 500 miles in admirably good time...

    It happened something like this: We left Hillah, the nearest station to Babylon, at 3 in the afternoon, expecting in all good faith to arrive in Bagdad in three or so hours, for the distance is not much over forty miles. But when seven of the clock had dragged its weary limbs across the face of our watch, we could bear the strain no longer, and, deciding that Bagdad was only a mythical place after all, curled up in resigned indolence and went fast asleep, utterly at ease on the hard benches of that third-class compartment among the Arabs and Persians sitting strangely hunched up on the benches beside us...

    The next thing we knew was that someone was shouting vile things at us in Arabic... by this time I was more or less conscious and became gradually aware of a great hubbub outside the carriage... And then I realized that this was Bagdad... The bearded and bedraped character was merely trying to book himself as a luggage carrier.
    We let him into the coach, and soon we were in a gharry and telling the arabana to ruh hessa or move along, which he did with a large amount of clanking his bell and whipping up his horses.

    As we emerged from the station dust storm, we began to run through a street lined on either side with quahwas, or coffee shops, where Arabs and Kurds and Persians and Syrians sat about in crowds drinking their small blacks and chatting.
    The coffee-drinking custom is an interesting one, and is as salient a ceremony with them as tea drinking to the mandarin. Almost all business of Iraq is carried out in the quahwas, for here the merchants meet and bargain or discuss or chat over their cups and make their contracts.

    The waiter comes round with a large brass pot having a spout like the beak of some fantastic bird. In his left hand he carries small cups fitted inside each other and these he clinks to attract attention. When some one wishes coffee, he lifts his hand, the waiter comes to him, hands him a cup, pours out a thimbleful or two of coffee, and then hangs the spout of the pot over his arm until the drinker is ready for more. Three cups are prescribed by Arabian etiquette as being the maximum for consumption at one time.
    The drinker shakes his cup when he has had sufficient, drops an anna into the cup, and hands it to the waiter, who tosses the coin into his mouth and proceeds again, clinking his cups, to the next man. Sanitation is not a highly enough developed institution in Arabia to cause censure of the practice of twenty mouths to the same cup, but the Arab is not a physically ineffective looking person, which seems to indicate that germs either take no effect on his constitution, or actually aid in upbuilding his immense structure.

    We presently reached the "Maude Bridge," named after the famous British General: a pontoon bridge which connects Bagdad West to Bagdad proper. After paying the required toll, we drove across the River Tigris and turned into New Street.
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Iraq map, from the CIA World Factbook

    The Republic of Iraq, is bordered on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iran, on the south by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf, and on the west by Jordan and Syria. The capital is Baghdad. The area of Iraq is 169,235 square miles (437,072 square kilometers). The estimated population of Iraq for July, 2008 is 28,221,180. The official languages are Arabic and Kurdish, Assyrian and Armenian are also spoken there.

    Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932.
    A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of military strongmen ruled the country until 2003, the last was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88).

    In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections.

    Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. Coalition forces remain in Iraq under a UNSC mandate, helping to provide security and to support the freely elected government. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which temporarily administered Iraq after the invasion, transferred full governmental authority on 28 June 2004 to the Iraqi Interim Government, which governed under the Transitional Administrative Law for Iraq (TAL).

    Under the TAL, elections for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA) were held in Iraq on 30 January 2005. Following these elections, the Iraqi Transitional Government (ITG) assumed office. The TNA was charged with drafting Iraq's permanent constitution, which was approved in a 15 October 2005 constitutional referendum. An election under the constitution for a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) was held on 15 December 2005. The CoR approval in the selection of most of the cabinet ministers on 20 May 2006 marked the transition from the ITG to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half-century.
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  Free Books on Iraq (.pdfs)

By Desert Ways to Baghdad Wilkins 1908
A Dweller in Mesopotamia Maxwell 1921
Early Adventures in... Babylonia Layard 1887
Nippur... on the Euphrates Peters 1897
Mesopotamia, Persia Under the Mongols Strange 1903
The War in the Cradle of the World Egan 1918
Discoveries at Nineveh Layard 1875
Travels in Koordistan, Mesopotamia, &c. Fraser 1840

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    From all sides came the strains of quaint Arab songs punctuated with snatches of zither music... all canned music, as it is vulgarly termed; music given to the atmosphere from a "His Masters Voice" tin horn... But the music was genuine: it would take a scholar of Arabic to read the labels on the records, and it was no less interesting...

    Even on New Street the coffee shops are numerous. The Arabs sit about on the benches, their chafiyahs falling carelessly over their backs and shoulders; their abbayahs or kimono-like outer cloaks giving a very finished appearance to the costume. How stately the Arab looks when he is dressed in his best and walking with that steady, strong, king-like stride which characterizes the race!
    The Iraquis are a likeable people for all their treachery... They are a people of ability, of good minds and strong personalities, a fact which will be proved to the satisfaction of every one when, within a few years time, they have the operation of their own country.

    One of the first things that strikes the eye in Bagdad is the profusion of fine carpets and tapestries everywhere--in the coffee shops, in the hotels, hanging on the walls and thrown over chairs and settees and on the floors. And the immense thing... are the bazaars.
    One may walk for miles, literally, and be in the heart of these covered bazaars. The individual shops are small, sometimes being not more than a series of shelves, but each has wares enough and curiosities enough to keep the buyer wondering what in the place he can get along without most. Silks, brasses, tapestries, pottery, Arab clothing and Western, quaint pointed and colored shoes, and shoes from Persia with pressed cloth soles--shops where artisans beat the copper vessels into shape before your eyes, shops where gold-cloth is being woven, shops where sandals are being made, shops of confections, of fruits, of flowers, of jewelry.

    The advantage of these covered areas is obvious when it is remembered that there is such a thing as Fahrenheit in Iraq. There are registered and sworn and legalized reports of temperatures ranging up to 128 degrees in Bagdad, and in the Summer it is quite impossible for people to stand about in the sun.
    Evening is the best time to wander through the endless alleys that form the thoroughfares of ancient Bagdad. With the lamps lighted, and the turns and twists accentuated by brilliant and dark patches and surprise glimpses of the burnt-white stars between the grotesque lines of housetops... one becomes inbued with the ancient romance of those disjointed passageways...

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