Baghdad nights flourish with decreasing violence

Life seems burgeoning at a normal night on a thoroughfare in western Baghdad, after years of U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that plunged the country into a cycle of insurgency and sectarian strife. 

Crowds of people were wandering in the 14th Ramadan Street in al-Mansour up-scaled neighborhood, which usually witnesses traffic jam and busy sidewalks until late at night. 

People from all over the Iraqi capital come to spend pleasant time in Mansour's malls, shops, outdoor stalls, restaurants and coffee shops, which continue open their doors to late after midnight hours. 

Abu Mustafa, 35, coffee cart owner who sells tea and coffee in small Iraqi traditional cups locally known as Finjan, said that the improving security situation is behind the return of normal life. 

"People don't care to be late past midnight because they feel safer after the improvement in the security situation," said Abu Mustafa, who wears a traditional Baghdadi costume. 

The security situation in Iraq dramatically improved in the past few years, particularly after the defeat of Islamic State (IS) militant group, which was mostly responsible for massive bombing targeting crowded areas such as markets, cafes and restaurants. 

"Things getting better as we don't feel we are in war anymore. Explosions largely decreased and we hear their terrifying sounds only in rare occasions," Lena Ahmed, a 23-year-old female told Xinhua as she was shopping in the thoroughfare. 

"In the past, I couldn't go out by myself without scarf, or Hijab in Arabic. Now I can. But sometimes I have fears that one day I could be kidnapped because militias are still around, I hope the government would pay attention to this point," she added. 

For his part, Najah Jameel, a civil rights activist said that it became familiar that many parties and celebrations for families are being held during night hours in Baghdad neighborhoods, where more than eight million residents live in. 

"The return of normal life in Baghdad proves that the security situation is improved, but the city still has a long way to go if it is to reclaim its past glories as a capital of culture," Jameel added. 

Better security, after the defeat of IS group in late 2017, pushed the government to reopen hundreds of streets across Baghdad, remove hundreds of security walls, and cancel dozens of security check points. 

Originally, the security walls were built in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to curb the sectarian bloodshed, turning Baghdad neighborhoods into dozens of replicas of the Green Zone. 

Many Iraqis are dreaming of the golden age of Baghdad, hoping that the new government would encourage tourist activities on the banks of Tigris River which bisects the city, so that people can enjoy normal life, including Iraq's barbequed fish, known as Masgouf. 

Baghdad prides itself of making the best Masgouf, which is a Mesopotamian dish consisting of seasoned, grilled fish, most commonly in Abu Newas district on the shores of the Tigris River.



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