12 hours in Basrah
For my job, I had to be in Basrah for the weekend. It was all planned rather last minute on Friday afternoon. Friday evening, I was sitting with one of my managers at home and he asked me if my appointments in Basrah were really important. I told him that they were indeed rather a big deal after which he started to tell me how much dangerous Basrah is and how I shouldn’t go, etc. I got mad, because all of a sudden, my appointment seemed like a one way trip to the grave and I was terrified.
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Next day, I arrived in the office and getting mentally ready to leave to Basrah when another manager called me in his office: “Do you know what you’re doing? Do you have a death wish? Are you waiting for them to kidnap you?” For God’s sake, what a timing! I didn’t know what to do. There was no way back, I had to go to my meetings. After having to put on a “juba” (some kind of black dress with a zipper in the front that reaches ’till the ground) and a scarf, I was ready for hell.
Arrived in Basrah, I told the local people from Basrah about what happened in the morning. They were amazed. The girls told me that each of them is free to wear what they want. Either long or short skirt, headscarf or no headscarf. Upon leaving them, one of the men told me: “Tell them up north in Baghdad, that we’re doing just fine here in Kandahar”.
The most dangerous part of the trip was the 1200km highway without street lights, with heavy rain showers and with trucks and cars without back-lights. At some point I was thinking that it would become a one way trip after all.
End well, all well. Hamdoullilah, I made it to Basrah and back to Baghdad.
PS: It turned out that both of my managers haven’t visited Basrah in the last decade. #fail