A narrow and winding alleyway leading to the Tigris River is the cultural heartbeat center of Al Mutanabbi Street, Baghdad.
The historic center of the old quarter of Baghdad is a bookselling street filled with bookstores and outdoor book vendors. It was named after the 10th-century classical Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi.
For almost a century, this street serves for bookselling and has often been referred to as the heart and soul of Baghdad intellectual community. The street owns a cafe which was a gathering place for Iraqi poets, playwrights, philosophers, dissenters, and also for politicians in the past and for bypassers and tourists now.
In Iraq, books are left unattended for the night in the book market because the Iraqis say: the reader does not steal and the thief does not read.
However, a car bomb exploded and killed 26 people on Mutanabbi Street on March 5, 2007. The attack outside Al Khashali’s Shabandar Cafe left the area littered and unsafe for shoppers and destroying many businesses in the street.
Despite the mass losses, Al Mutanabbi has been rebuilding itself. The street was reopened after a year and the Shabandar’s cafe continues its own business up today, with 85-year-old Al Khashali at the helm, exactly a century after his great-great-great-grandfather first founded the cafe in 1917.