Clarissa's Middle East Diary: Monday, February 19

Photoessay: Clarissa's Travels

Monday, February 19, 9:50 a.m.

Last night I slept in the Baghdad Airport. It is not an experience I wish to repeat.

It reminded me of that Tom Hanks movie, "The Terminal," when he gets stuck living at the airport in New York. But Baghdad International Airport is no JFK, and I was not able to make my situation as comfortable as Hanks did. All in all, I spent 18 hours in the airport. I had no book, no bags, no toilet paper and no food with me. There is one place in the airport that serves food, although one could debate whether the desiccated chicken sandwich they sold me was food. Thankfully they had bananas and mini Mars bars.

I bought four of each.

The departure hall of Baghdad Airport is fluorescent green and filled with these cubic little sofa-chairs that are straight from the seventies and quite comfortable. At night, it is chilly but weirdly, there are mosquitoes. There were about ten other people sleeping at the airport, mostly families, but they were much better equipped than I was with blankets and hand-wipes and fruit.

I have to say I felt pretty lonely and vulnerable and exhausted watching them get ready for bed, as I stuffed the fourth Mars bar in my mouth. I had spent all afternoon arguing with Iraqi immigration police to avoid being deported. They would only speak to me in Arabic, and insisted I get on the flight going back to Amman. I tried hard to follow their thick Iraqi accents and kept pleading with them to give me five minutes until the visa issue was resolved.

I also kept running away from them when they tried to get me back on the plane, and at one point I actually dropped to my knees and begged them to take my cell phone and speak to my Iraqi colleagues who were better able to explain the situation. They thought I was completely nuts and told me I should have been an actress.

This morning, as I was getting ready to leave, one of the officers asked me, "You are pretty, nice girl. Why you are coming to Iraq?"

Sometimes, especially on nights like last night, I ask myself the same question.

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.