Most countries don't have direct flights to Iraq. Due to corruption and other issues most Iraqis have to make a transit in a third country when visiting Iraq. This often means that you have to stay a whole day extra in a third country when traveling to Iraq.
I had my transit in Cairo. When I arrived at the airport we asked for directions to get to the counter where we were supposed to get our hotel voucher to stay a night in Egypt. When I got there, I found a line of people waiting in front of a counter without a clerk. The atmosphere was a bit tense as most of us were quite tired. After almost a full hour of waiting without being informed of what was going on, two clerks showed up and took all our passports. Afterwards it took another two hours before we finally got our voucher. People travelling to the same destination were put on one single voucher, so all of us Iraqis had to share one hotel voucher. This voucher forced one group of Iraqis from different parts of the country and political spectrum to stay together. I was aware of this diversity because during the time waiting for the voucher I had already socialized with quite a few of them.
When we arrived at the hotel we had dinner sharing the same table. We were all tired and annoyed by the treatment we received at the hand of the Egyptians. We all agreed that if we would have had a country with a functioning state and institutions (including functioning national airlines) we would not have gone through all these delays and tiresome itineraries.
At some point during dinner, one in the group asked how the others were experiencing life in Western-Europe. It seemed that nobody was satisfied. One woman said: "Nobody knocks at your door, nobody will visit you".
Others pointed out that they had to trade a life in our native country with family, friends, ties with the culture and land for a life of "relative stability" which only consisted of commuting from home to work.
After dinner we went to the lobby to receive the cards for our rooms. It turned out that the airlines and the hotel hadn't reserved enough rooms. The whole group stayed together arguing with the hotel employees until it was sure that everyone would get his room.
The next morning we flew to Baghdad. After arriving the group split and everyone went his own way. Some went to the upper class neighborhoods of Baghdad while others went to the less affluent parts. I was happy to see how the people in the group stuck together the whole time until we arrived at our destination. In the end, as Iraqis we all shared the same fate, we all had lost our nation and that tied us together.
For me the trip was not over as I still had a 2-3 hour drive ahead to Kerbala.
This entry is part of the “Travelling to Iraq” series in which one of our Iraqi-Swedish followers reflects on his trip to Iraq where he was visiting his family.