November 23, 1961 – Iraq

Baghdad Hotel, Baghdad, Iraq – Foggy

     As I opened my eyes I was glad that we were going to be staying here for another day because it meant I didn’t have to get up as early we did most other days. 

     As I fussed around getting ready to go to breakfast I realized that it was Thanksgiving today and it made me feel a little homesick.  When I thought about the good old home cooked meal of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie my kids and their families would be having I was a little jealous.  However, I continued to get ready to go to breakfast with Edith because afterward we were going to see Babylon and we were excited about it.

      Our meal this morning was as wonderful as dinner had been last night and the service we were given continued to be attentive.  The only downside of the meal was when Ahmed came to tell us that we would not be able to go see Babylon because they had been unable to get the proper permits.  He discussed with us alternate sites we would see instead. 

      The morning tour took us to Ctesiphon and on the way we were able to see some of the daily life of the people.  There were herds of sheep and camel trains which were fascinating.  Once there we got to see the Palace of Khosrau I or I should say what was left of it since there was only a huge arch.  I could feel the past standing there looking at the ruins and couldn’t help but be impressed that it had stood the test of time.  The arch didn’t have any bracing and yet looked very strong even though it was about 5000 years old.  Ahmed told us that it had been part of a huge banquet hall. 

Sheep Seen on Way to Ruin

Camel Train Seen on Way to Ruin

Another View of Camel Train Seen on Way to Ruin

5000 Year Old Ctesiphon in Iraq

Rear View of Ctesiphon

      We returned to the hotel early to clean up and eat before our afternoon tour.  Since we had time Gertrude and I tried to find some shops to look through, however, we couldn’t find very many shops even though we walked and walked so we returned to the hotel.  By the time we found out where to go it was time to eat and get ready for our afternoon tour.  Our lunch was good and I certainly had no complaints about any of it.

      We were all pleased when we found out Ahmed had been able to get a permit after all to travel to Babylon in the afternoon.  At 1pm we left for an unpleasant two hour drive in cars over dirt roads to Babylon.  On the drive we saw many villages made up of mud houses and I noticed they used some sort of cloth to cover their house for when it rained.  We also saw lots of beggars, sheep, goats and camels.

      The Biblical Babylon was wonderful and we had a chance to see a lot of history.  It had been built with its well-fortified walls and a whole overall magnificence.  When I saw the walls were 65 feet thick and had a bas relief on them along I could see why they had been considered “well-fortified”.  Along with some of the excavations we also saw the Lion of Babylon which was a huge basalt statue representing the goddess Ishtar.  We had a chance to also see one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens built by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytas.  Ahmed told us that the king had built the wonder to help the queen with her homesickness for the mountainous country of Medes.  As we walked around the ruins we saw camel trains passing by and it made you feel like you were still living back in ancient times.  It all made me wish I could have seen the city when it was new and teeming with people.

Entrance to Babylon

Babylon Ruins

Bas Relief Walls 65 Ft Thick at Babylon

Another View of Babylon Bas Relief Walls

Babylon Excavations

Hanging Gardens at Babylon

Lion of Babylon

      As I piled back into the front passenger seat of the car I settled back for another pleasant drive back to our hotel.  Seated comfortably, I was having a nice daydream about what we had just seen when I felt like our car had been hit by a bomb or something.  I felt all over to see if I had been hurt and found that I was covered with broken glass but had been lucky because I didn’t have any cuts.  It turned out that a couple of rocks had hit our front windshield and broke it into what seemed to be millions of pieces.  In reality there were two huge holes in them that I knew would create quite a breeze once we started driving again.  Ahmed and our driver cleaned up the glass as best they could before we started driving again.  They had also made all of us in the car as comfortable as possible for the remainder of our trip back to the hotel.  We all felt very fortunate not to have been hit by the flying glass.

      When we finally made it back to the hotel the rest of our group had been there for quite awhile and had already gone to their rooms.  I went back to my room to freshen up real quick before joining the others who were going to congregate for dinner.  When I joined the others who were already seated I found we were being treated to a wonderful turkey dinner in honor of it being our Thanksgiving holiday.  I was so delighted to have a chance at having turkey and the trimmings, here in Iraq but it felt strange to be so far from home having this festive meal.  It made my day.  Tonight was going to be our last major meal here and I was sorry we had to leave the hotel behind tomorrow.

      After dinner and our minor holiday celebration it was late.  I was so full of turkey and pie that I decided I was ready to return to our room and get ready for bed.  As always after eating a turkey dinner I was sleepy.   Edith said she was tired too so once we went back to our room we washed out a few things and then each of us took a bath.  It felt good to crawl into my bed and go to sleep finally.

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