Friday, April 13, 2007

City Sounds

Mornings are by far my favorite moments in Baghdad. The birds start to stir at about 5:30, along with the first hint of a glow on the eastern horizon. By this time I’m normally on the roof of the villa checking on the Iraqi guards; cup of coffee in hand and armed with a couple of Arabic good morning phrases.

The sun comes up and the birds increase their chorus. Behind the villa is a parrot, escaped from the Zoo and has nested in the trees. The escapee’s morning conversation is unmistakable, but clearly out of place for Baghdad.

All of this continues until the first sirens of the day. The Iraqi police don’t go anywhere without running full lights and sirens, and if this fails to part the traffic to their liking the subsequent gunfire up into the morning air certainly will. I was struck the first time that I saw this: gunfire being used as a method of crowd control.

Once the sirens and gunfire take over the soundscape the birds retreat into the background. From the villa you can hear several sirens fighting through traffic all coming from different directions in the city, the occasional 2-3 cracks of rifle fire, and the arguing of car horns. Before long the sudden bass of an exploding car bomb somewhere in the city adds to the cacophony. This only brings more sirens and gunfire. Helicopters leaving or arriving at LZ Washington, Baghdad’s military heliport, occasionally cross over the villa adding their unique sounds to the mix as well. Day after day, this is the rhythm of Baghdad.

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