Iraqi shopping

November 30, 2008 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 10, 2008

For this post I wanted to talk about going how the Iraqis go to the store. For those of you in the states if you need groceries, cleaning supplies, clothes, gas, etc, you go to your local Wal-Mart, Old Navy, shopping mall or wherever it is that you go. Things are little bit different here in Iraq. For one thing there is no Wal-Mart, at least not yet, let the suicide bombings, IEDs and mortar attacks die down and I bet that is one of the first things we import over here. When Iraqis need something they go to their local market which looks a little like the picture below:

This is where an Iraqi would get their fresh vegetables and fruit. You can’t really see it in the foreground but that area is a potato, onion, pepper, tomato, stand and then in the background you can see the watermelon’s stacked up in the fresh fruit area.
Because of the lack of reliable electricity in Iraq, Baghdad gets about 12 hours of city power a day, while Basrah gets about 12-18 hours (some of which comes from Iran), many Iraqi women will go to the market daily to get what they need to for that day’s meals. Fresh bread, fruits and vegetables, and meats, when I say fresh I mean fresh see the picture of the chicken stand below.
That’s right an Iraqi’s chicken dinner doesn’t come in Styrofoam tray with boneless breasts all shrinkwrapped nice and pretty with an expiration date, it come on the hoof (I guess on the foot in this case) and fully feathered. I think I’ve already talked about how many Iraqis eat mainly chicken and sheep and rice. The average Iraqi actually probably eats more chicken than they do sheep. Chicken is actually cheaper and most Iraqis only have sheep on holy days or special occasions. But when they do they’ll get the sheep from someplace that looks like this.
I don’t know if you can tell it or not but some of these sheppards/sheep vendors spray point numbers and letters on the back of the sheep. I’m not real sure what this is for and my interpreters are all from Baghdad and are not familiar with this method of marking sheep. I’m assuming that it is a brand or identification mark of some kind of the sheppard so that he can figure out which sheep are his if they get mixed up another flock.
This next picture shows a typical Iraqi shop a little bit of everything and then not a whole lot of everything at the same time. Not much of a selection is there? I do have to admit that I have seen shops that are better stocked than this.

Well if you can’t find what you are looking for here then move on down to the next stand and maybe they will have it there.
These market pictures are actually taken in the Quibla neighborhood so if you can imagine it is more as lower middle class to middle class, not poor/poverty level like the Hyanniyah area or middle class to upper middle class like the Jameat area, so the goods reflect what the people will buy or need.
OK enough about Iraqi style Wal Mart and on to gas stations. Iraq does have regular gas stations just like the United States but they are few and far between. In fact I have only seen two in my travels around Basrah, the second largest city in Iraq with a population between 800,000 and 1 million, and I don’t remember seeing any regular gas stations in Ramadi, although I’m sure there was at least one. The picture below illustrates where a typically Iraqi gets his gasoline or benzene as they call it.
Yes these gas stations are illegal and support the black market, but the lines at a regular gas stations makes the gas lines of the 70s look minuscule (at least that’s what I’ve been told, even though according to our young Marine augments I’m an old man, I still can’t remember gas lines), couple that with the fact that Iraqis, like most other third world citizens, don’t understand lines and queues then you can realize where pulling up to a guy with a 5 gallon jug of gas paying a few extra dinar more and not having to stand in line for 3 to 5 hours would be beneficial.

Now an interesting note on corruption and kick backs in the Iraqi society, it’s a fact of life and it’s not called corruption, it’s called the cost of doing business. Recently a new regular style gas station opened near our brigade headquarters and not long after it did, the brigade commander’s personal security detachment roughed up a lot of the black market gasoline vendors and dumped their gas on the street. This action was within their legal right since the stands are illeal but was it a coincidence? New gas station opens; the local authority, the Army General, then roughs up the illegal vendors that had been ignored previously, add in that a week later the illegal vendors where back in full force. Do you think that there might have been some kick backs from both sets of gasoline vendors? I’m not saying there was, I just find it interesting, and coupled with my lack of belief in the inherent nobility of man (call me jaded, but I prefer realistic) there might have been some money changing hands.

Here is the Home Depot gravel and sand department. Just pull up and tell them what grade of sand/dirt you want (lots of rocks, few rocks, no rocks) and they’ll deliver.
Right across the street from the Home Depot gravel and sand department is the Home Depot heavy equipment rental shop. Stop by and take your pick of roller, front end loader, shovel bucket or dump truck.
Finally just a little further down on another corner is the Home Depot building materials lot. Take your pick small bricks or cinder block, they’ve got them both. Just about the only type of wood grown in Iraq is from the date palm which is not suitable to use as a building material. More on construction and building techniques in a later post.

The above picture is a Quick Change Fix-a-Flat/New Tire Stand.

And that is everyone’s quick look at the local market economy in Al-Quiblah/Hyyanniyah Iraq, I hope you enjoyed.


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