mercredi 30 décembre 2009

In Heart of Iraq, a Plan to Revive the Pulse of a Central Artery

Baghdad, Rasheed Street
Photo: Eros Hoagland for NYT



The street, designed by the Ottomans in 1916 and modeled on Paris, has figured in much of Baghdad’s history: Sunnis and Shiites planned the overthrow of British rule in 1920 at Hayder Khana Mosque. A Communist uprising filled the street in 1948. Saddam Hussein began his political career there in 1959, in an assassination attempt on Abdul Kareem Qassim, the country’s first prime minister.

“Nothing happened in Iraq that Rasheed Street didn’t have a major role in it,” said Yaseen al-Nussayir, who wrote a book about the street.

On a recent afternoon, the crumbling facades of Rasheed Street bore only muted testimony to their past, when Iraq — flush with new money from oil in the 1950s — celebrated its wealth in the shops and theaters of its oldest street, where Western and Arabic architectural styles bumped shoulders in an optimistic glow of midcentury modernism. Windows are now broken or covered with dust; shutters hang limp from their hinges. At the city’s oldest cafe, men smoked hookahs on the sidewalk because there was no electricity inside.

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