Destination: Iraq

Welcome to the Baghdad Country Club

In The Atavist, Joshuah Bearman tells the fascinating story of the Baghdad Country Club, the only bar in the capital city’s fortified “Green Zone.” The bar was built and run by a mysterious British ex-military type, a contractor identified only as James. What intrigued me about the bar was the way in which it was both an escape hatch from the war and, at the same time, a place that was inextricably shaped by its surroundings. Here’s a taste:

In addition to tending bar alongside several Iraqi Christians, Heide manned the wholesale bottle shop that James and Ajax ran out of a guard shack on the property. The shelves stocked the finest spirits the pair could find, which sometimes meant actual quality, alongside gift-store items—T-shirts, mugs, and hats emblazoned with the BCC logo and motto: “It Takes Real Balls to Play Here.”

...Danny quietly managed the place: greeting patrons, dealing with staff, and running the kitchen. James wanted the menu to be good, which wasn’t easy. Whereas much of the food in the Green Zone was processed, packaged, shipped, and reconstituted, Ajax got fresh produce and meat for the kitchen. Danny got along well with Iraqis, and he made sure to serve the national dish of masgouf—fish with onion and pickles—alongside Western-style bruschetta, salads, and steaks. He brought in a chef named Dino to come up with recipes and marinades. Good fish was difficult to come by in Baghdad, but James knew a guy who knew a guy who could sometimes get trout flown in on Delta Force choppers. And Ahmed’s regular shipments of spirits kept the bar stocked for proper cocktails.

“We never hoped to get a Michelin star,” Danny says. “But we managed to give people the one thing you don’t have in Baghdad: a choice.”

The full (long) story is available for purchase from The Atavist—it comes in a variety of e-book formats. The Atlantic has a meaty excerpt. It’s a great read.

Interview with Henry Rollins: Punk Rock World Traveler

Jim Benning asks the musician about his new book of photographs and how travel has humbled him

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Flurry of New Flights Landing in Iraq

The Independent rounds up the latest news from the country’s slowly-recovering travel industry. One thing worth noting, beyond the increasing availability of Iraq-bound flights from Western Europe? Apparently Iraq received more than a million tourists from the Middle East in 2008. Here’s hoping more travelers from outside the region can soon follow.

Three U.S. Travelers Detained in Iran

Apparently, they were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan and wandered over the poorly marked border. One of the three, Sarah Shourd, is a contributor over at Brave New Traveler.

Seven Images to Inspire Wanderlust: From Nicaragua to New Delhi

Cerro Negro volcano, Leon City, Nicaragua REUTERS

Indulge your armchair traveler with seven wanderlust-inspiring travel photos from around the world

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Risky Business: Playing the Numbers Game

Risky Business: Playing the Numbers Game REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

On the intersection of place, politics and culture

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Morning Links: Venice Cokes Up, an Epic (Paper) Plane Video and More

Morning Links: God and Jerry Springer in Italy, a Tourist in Falluja and More

Morning Links: God and Jerry Springer in Italy, a Tourist in Falluja and More Photo of U.S.-Mexico border by Allen Ormond, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of U.S.-Mexico border by Allen Ormond, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Morning Links: City Bans Apostrophes, Russians in Goa and More

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U.S. Grants $13 Million to Iraq’s Looted National Museum

The grant will be used to rebuild the National Museum and restore its collection, which was looted after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its estimated that 15,000 artifacts—including priceless items from ancient Mesopotamia—went missing at that time; some 6,000 pieces have since been returned. 

Related on World Hum:
* Abu Ghraib to Become a Museum

Photo of Mesopotamian figure by rosemanios via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Tags: Middle East, Iraq

Abu Ghraib to Become a Museum

The infamous Iraqi prison, which was used as a torture site under Saddam Hussein’s rule before achieving notoriety in more recent years, is now destined to become a museum detailing the crimes committed during Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi government has announced. Interestingly, notes the CBC: “There’s no mention in the announcement whether the abuses by U.S. soldiers will be covered in the museum’s exhibitions.”

Rocking Islam and the Middle East

In spite of my power pop predilections, I’m excited to get my hands on a copy of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam, a new book by history professor Mark LeVine. The New York Times praised the book for offering “the hit-and-run pleasures of a lively road trip.” The book will eventually be complemented by a film, although few details are available online as of yet.

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R.I.P. 64 Journalists

That’s the number of journalists killed around the globe this year—the most in over a decade. Not surprisingly, Iraq claimed more lives than any other country, 31, nearly all of them Iraqi. “Somalia was ranked the second deadliest country with seven journalists deaths in 2007,” Reuters reports. “Sri Lanka and Pakistan each recorded five journalists deaths, and Afghanistan and Eritrea each had two deaths.” One positive note: For the first time in more than a decade, there wasn’t a single reporter murdered in Colombia. Could it be further evidence of this?

The World Hum Travel Zeitgeist: Less Money, More Adventure

Lisbon, Portugal (pictured) and the rest of Europe are top of mind this week—particularly Europe on the cheap. The Big Apple, the debut of Virgin America and the Island of Tiki round out the Zeitgiest. Have a look.

“Hot This Week” Destination
Yahoo! (this week)
Lisbon, Portugal

Most Popular Page Tagged Travel (recent)
10 Ways to Keep Europe Within Reach
* We’ve unearthed some fine tips, too.

Most E-Mailed Travel Story
New York Times (current)
10 Ways to Keep Europe Within Reach

Most Popular Travel Podcast
iTunes (current)
Beautiful Places with Tony Farley
* This week: North Dome

Most Read Feature
World Hum (posted this week)
James Teitelbaum: Escape to the Isle of Tiki

Most Viewed Travel Story
Telegraph UK (current)
New York Shopping: The Best of the Big Apple

Most Read Weblog Post
World Hum (posted this week)
How I Scored a New U.S. Passport in One Day

Most Viewed Travel Story
Los Angeles Times (current)
Virgin America Returns the Frills to Flying

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UNESCO Adds Three Sites to Danger List, Names Next World Book Capital

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has had a busy few weeks. Not only was it busy issuing a press release claiming no affiliation with the new seven wonders, during meetings in Christchurch, New Zealand, the group added the Galapagos and their surrounding marine reserve; Samarra, Iraq; and Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park to its list of endangered World Heritage sites. Two more sites—the Royal Palaces of Abomey, Benin and Kathmandu Valley, Nepal—were removed from the Danger List.

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