There’s an old saying in Arabic: “Egypt writes, Lebanon publishes, and Iraq reads.”
Literature has a long, rich history in this part of the world. For many, poets are rockstars, held up as cultural heroes, rebels, and thought leaders. Writers and professors are held in high regard, feared by religious extremists. Books are objects worthy of respect and are kept off the floor and away from feet, cleaned and available to visitors.
In fact, the Arabic word for literature—abab—comes from a word meaning “to invite someone for a meal.” Reading is a social event to be enjoyed together, a chance for people to discuss ideas.
And there is no better place to enjoy this literary culture than in Baghdad’s Mutannabi Street.