Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Guess Spring Break in Baghdad Is a Bad Idea Then

I love Italians!

From the New York Times

Falluja’s first Western leisure visitor was in town.
Not for long, though. An Iraqi checkpoint guard spotted the traveler, Luca Marchio, among Iraqi passengers in a public minibus heading from Baghdad to the once notorious — and still tense — city and alerted his superiors.

Soon, Mr. Marchio, 33, a native of Como, Italy, found himself in the Falluja police headquarters surrounded by bewildered Iraqi officers trying to figure out why a Westerner would wander around this city without a translator or guards. Mr. Marchio may have worried the police, but his main concern was saving money.

In two telephone interviews he brushed away all concerns for his safety and offers of help.

“I am a tourist. I want to see the most important cities in the country. That is the reason why I am here now,” he said in heavily accented English. “I want to see and understand the reality because I have never been here before, and I think every country in the world must be seen.”

Aww; that's kind of so romantic; He's just like Christopher Columbus, except without the whole genocide thing. I really like his spirit- I wonder if he's cute

Italian Embassy in Baghdad established that Mr. Marchio had traveled from Italy to Egypt, then to Turkey, and from there to northern Iraq over land. A photocopy of his passport shows that he obtained a 10-day visa and crossed the border from Turkey to Kurdistan.

Then came a 200-mile journey by taxi from Erbil, the Kurdistan regional capital, to Baghdad, where a startled Bashar Yacoub, 31, reception manager at the Coral Palace — a hotel that had not had a casual Western visitor since the American invasion in 2003 — took his details.

A good Iraqi bureaucrat, Mr. Yacoub checked Mr. Marchio’s documents and despite qualms about hosting a foreigner found his papers in order and gave him a room key. “He told us he just wanted to see Baghdad,” Mr. Yacoub said.

Asked if he thought Iraq was ready for tourists, Mr. Yacoub said, “No.” When he was asked if he believed Falluja was safe for tourists, his emphatic “no” was echoed by staff members and guests standing within earshot.

I wouldn't blame them for saying "No;" I hate tourists, they annoy me....even when I'm obstensibly one. I prefer to walk like I've lived there for years and own the place. Moving on

But there was no stopping Mr. Marchio. For an extra $40, the hotel gave him a tour of Baghdad sights, driving him along the riverfront, where he could photograph a statue of Scheherazade, the narrator of “The Thousand and One Nights,” and see children playing in a riverside garden. He proceeded to the artificial lake near Baghdad University and then to the square named after Baghdad’s founder, Abu Jaafar al-Mansur, on the west bank of the Tigris.

He went on to Zawra’a Park, a family spot with a small zoo and rides. He finished his day in the affluent but bomb-scarred shopping district of Karada, where his guide for the day, Ramez Fa’eq, 23, said, “When it became dark, he got afraid and wanted to return home to the hotel.
The next morning he set out for Falluja despite the hotel staff’s efforts to dissuade him, insisting on taking a public bus to the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad.
For the eager Mr. Marchio, that was the end of his bella viaggio in Iraq.

"The Eager Mr. Marchio;" sounds like a good name for a series of books, kinda like Mr. Magoo where our naive/idealistic traveler volunteers for exciting adventures in places that are perhaps not that safe for the Mr. Marchio s of the world. Or he's like a war zone hitchhiker. That could work.

But in conclusion Luca rocked the casbah and Sharif (god I'm racist) don't like it.

The Clahs- Rock The Casbah [mp3]

(image from The Hitchhiker)

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