The taxi driver stopped as I flagged him down on Al-Saadoun Street in downtown Baghdad. I asked him: “Will you take me to Al-Adhamiya? What is the scene like over there?” He laughed out loud and said: “Get in. You will see safety in Al-Adhamiya.” The driver’s cheerfulness reassured me, and I climbed in and asked him: “How are you so sure?”
Until recently, Baghdad taxi drivers mapped out their routes before setting off to their destination. If the driver decided that the route passed by one of the “hot” zones, he would apologize and decline to go.
Street dangers that cities all over the world suffer from are not present in Baghdad. There are other more violent and destructive dangers such as explosive devices, car bombs and a number of gangs.
The taxi driver told me how he used to refuse going to Al-Adhamiya until the smile of the young woman made him feel that there was new life there.
We drove across to the Imam Al-Adham mosque, where the people of Al-Adhamiya meet. I walked along the street and the fear that had once engulfed me is now gone, as I saw young men and women enjoying themselves at school. Young men met their friends with smiling faces and beautiful Iraqi women filled my eyes.
I crossed the street to the Corniche, on the side of Imam Al-Adham mosque, near one of the covered fish restaurants. I heard the voice of the taxi driver that had brought me to Al-Adhamiya, saying: “Please join me for maskoof fish. You are in my neighborhood now.”
“Don’t be surprised,” he added. “It seems that change happens quickly. Once upon a time we had trouble driving on many of the streets. Now most roads are open. We can drive on them and there is new life in Al-Adhamiya.”