Stories of the increasing difficulties of travel in and out of Iraq remind me of a couple on a motorcyle I came across outside the Mushtamal one fine, hot summer day in the late 50s. The road was as we see them on the TV: straight, wide, dusty, with a central divide, with pavement in some places and curb stones without paves in others. Even then there was a well defined grid of roads across Baghdad, often in place before any houses.
The Two bikers asked me directions. They ended up coming into the garden, where they met Mum and had a wash, drink and a chat before going on their way. They were Aussies, probably doing the run across Asia and the Middle East towards Europe.
Dad was there that day, because he must have taken the photo. He worked till about 2.30-3.00 p.m. then came home when there was a siesta till about 5 p.m. The whole place went very quiet. I played by myself in the garden, making sure I did not wake anyone up. I think it was in this dead part of the afternoon - which was a particular favourite of mine - that I ventured out onto the pavement and by one of those coincidences, came across these two travellers, who names we never learnt. I have put their picture up on Yahoo
under an album called baghdaskies.
The summer before, father had his biennial, two-month leave in the UK, where, instead of staying put, he bought a new Austin A55 car in London and drove mother and two sons, six and twelve, back to Baghdad, through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and Syria.
One the last leg, along the same route travellers today take, we came across "Nairns", a cross between an articulated lorry and a bus, ploughing backwards and forwards across the open flat desert between Damascus and Baghdad.
What kid of six wouldn't find that exciting -a break in the monotony of hour upon hour, sitting in the back of the family car - suddenly seeing one of these these giant vehicles speeding past, dust flying.
Here,On A Bus To Baghdad
, a serependipitous find after my brief evocation was written: a fascinating, detailed story by Fuad Rayess of a journey in a Nairn from Damascus.
At the bottom of the article, a box detailing the Nairn Transport Company's history.