I've never been to Baghdad, nor have most Egyptians and Arabs of my generation. And yet as we watched Baghdad turn into raging fireballs, and plumes of smoke rose to the sky in silent lament, these TV images were shards in our hearts, twisting and turning inside. Why should I hurt deeply for a city I have never visited? You can't understand, and those who bombed Baghdad won't ever either: what they ripped out were not simply bricks and mortar; they tore away at a heritage, at memories, and, more importantly, at dreams unfulfilled.
Something of Baghdad lives in every Arab.
Following the first Islamic revolution that catapulted them to power in AD 750, the Abbasids decided to move the centre of the Arab Muslim state to Iraq. Not only was it closer to their
power base in Khurasan (now in Iran), but the land between the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, was rich in agriculture and natural resources. This land was the cradle of Mesopotamian civilisation, renowned for its glorious achievements such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of...