In the City of Cement

  1. There is a hint of an older Baghdad in old Baghdad. You might call it more of a taunt. It's there at the statue of the portly poet Marouf al-Rusafi, pockmarked by bullets, who gives his name to an untamed square. Around him revolves a city, storied but shabby, that American soldiers have finally, ostensibly, left.

    The past is here. A turquoise dome, fashioned from brick and adorned in arabesque, peeks from beneath a shroud of dust. A stately colonnade buttresses British-era balconies and balustrades. A forlorn call to prayer drifts from an Ottoman mosque.

    But few can see the dome. A spider web of wires delivering sporadic electricity obscures the view. You can't navigate the colonnade. Blast walls block the way. And rarely does the call to prayer filter out from a deluge of car horns.

    "It's all become trash, broken windows and crumbling buildings," complained Hussein Karim, a porter looking out from his perch atop a flap of cardboard on the statue's granite pedestal. "Baghdad...

The complete text of “In the City of Cement” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.pulitzer.org.

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