Mr. Shatry, like many Iraqis, also sought solace in words and the remembrance of sufferings overcome. He had begun his day with a group poetry reading on Mutanabi Street, a humble reopening for a market that has survived the Mongol hordes, Saddam Hussein and many other attackers. Around noon, between the deafening thwack of American military helicopter propellers overhead — twice in an hour — he recited the poem he read earlier, written by Ibn al-Utri.
Here is what I wrote in April:
al-Mutanabi Street: Baghdad Diary
I had not had the chance until recently to return to the diary of Dr. Saad Eskande, Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive . It makes pretty horrific reading and this passage from March 5th describes the scene of the car bomb attack on the well known al-Mutanabi Street Book market. The diary is hosted by the British Library and is well worth reading.
As we were talking, a huge explosion shook the INLA's building around 11.35. We, the three of us, ran to the nearest window, and we saw a big and thick grey smoke rising from the direction of al-Mutanabi Street, which is less than 500 meter away from the INLA. I learnt later that the explosion was a result of a car bomb attack. Tens of thousands of papers were flying high, as if the sky was raining books, tears and blood. The view was surreal. Some of the papers were burning in the sky. Many burning pieces of papers fell on the INLA's building. Al-Mutanabi Street is named after one of the greatest Arab poets, who lived in Iraq in the middle ages. The Street is one of well-known areas of Baghdad and where many publishing houses, printing companies and bookstores have their main offices and storages. Its old afes are the most favorite place for the impoverished intellectuals, who get their inspirations and ideas form this very old quarter of Baghdad. The Street is also amous for its Friday's book market, where secondhand, new and rear books are sold and purchased. The INLA purchases about 95% of new publications from al-Mutanabi Street. I also buy my own books from the same street. It was extremely sad to learn that a number of the publishers and book sellers, whom we knew very well, were among the dead, including Mr. Adnan, who was supposed to deliver a onsignment of new publications to the INLA. According to an early estimation, more than 30 people were killed and 100 more injured. Four brothers were killed in their office.