Shopping in Baghdad

Photoessay: Clarissa's Travels
• Previous Entries in Clarissa's Mideast Diary

Thursday, March 15, 9:42 a.m.

I spent the other day at a typical Baghdad market, bustling with men, women and children that were buying and selling everything from fruit and fish, to electronics and Western-style clothing. In the past two years that I have been coming to Baghdad, I have never been to an outdoor market. Simply, it is too dangerous.

My companions for this tour of the market in North East Baghdad were the top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, his tireless PAO Colonel Steve Boylan, a team from Arab news station Al Arabiya, and a massive security detail of American soldiers. It would be a fair assessment to say that we did not blend. Yet, the atmosphere was totally relaxed. I asked the general whether he felt nervous about being in such an open area as such a high-profile target. “Not at all,” was his response.

We spent a good hour wandering through the market. We drank tea with locals, bought sweets from vendors, and stopped for freshly squeezed orange juice. As I sipped my juice, I felt with my tongue that there was crushed ice in it, and immediately stopped drinking for fear of getting sick. The general had no such qualms, gulping down every last sip of his. If anyone was nervous, it seemed, it was me.

Three weeks ago, two suicide car bombers blew themselves up in the center of the marketplace we visited. More than 50 people were killed. Since Operation Fard Al Kanoon, which translates to law enforcement, the U.S. military have erected six-foot blast walls around the market and it is completely closed off to traffic during busy hours.

The number of incidents has been drastically reduced and people are flooding back to the market. From our visit, it seems to be a successful model. But questions remain: how can this relative calm be sustained? What will happen when the Americans leave?

For many Iraqis, these questions are secondary to more pressing issues. One Iraqi vendor saw the camera and began shouting, “Where are the services? Where is the water? Where is the electricity?” It might still take some time before he gets an answer.

Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.