How Can I See What You Saw?

Published by the Ruya Foundation:


Photo courtesy of Nadine Hattom

It is said that my grandfather, Ghareeb Jabur Al Saddawi, a silversmith, owned a shop on River Street in Baghdad. And every year, he made the long journey to Egypt to sell his creations.

He was so skilled that if you found one of his silver cigarette cases at the bottom of the river, the cigarettes would still be dry.

Should you happen to meet him, he would demonstrate his strength to you by lifting a cow.

He would speak to you in Arabic, English, French, German, Persian or Mandaic. And he’d sing you a song, in the most mellifluous voice. But he was also very shy, and didn’t talk much.

He would sweeten his tea with dates. And bring back gifts for all his children.

This isn’t fact or fiction. This is memory.

Dear Jidou,

Which route did you take to Egypt? This one?


Google Maps

Or this one?


Google Maps

Did you gaze at this horizon?

east of um chamaine depression edge_waleed_hamed

Google Location Photo by Waleed Hamed

How about this horizon?


Google Location Photo by A. Sherif

Did you stop for a laffa (sandwich) at Happy Time restaurant?

by علي علي مطعم هابي تايم

Google Location Photo by علي علي

If you were still alive today, maybe you wouldn’t have to travel so far to sell your silver. Would you have a shop at Mansour Mall?

Customers at Mansour Mall in Baghdad, Iraq must file past armed guards in camouflage, separate male and female pat-down rooms and metal detectors before reaching off-brand fast food purveyors including Subz, Pizzarro and Krunchy Fried Chicken.
Photo by Molly Hennessy-Fisk/Los Angeles Times

I found this silver cigarette case at the bottom of the Tigris river or in an antique shop. Did you make it?


Photo by Nadine Hattom

The cigarettes were still dry.


Stock Photo by Georgii Shipin