Corey Flintoff, NPR
A wedding in the Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada.
NPR reporter Corey Flintoff sends along this dispatch from Iraq:
Here's a sign that things might be looking up in Baghdad.
Last year, I did a story about how wedding photographers were hurting for business, because the security situation was so awful that young people either couldn't meet or didn't feel optimistic enough to commit to marriage.
The weddings that did take place were very private affairs because people didn't want to draw attention that could lead to a terrorist attack.
Last Friday, I was invited to an afternoon wedding party in the relatively safe and upscale neighborhood called Karrada. True, there was a bombing at a crowded restaurant there a couple of days before, but the situation was safe enough that I and some of NPR's Iraqi staff members were able to drive to the banquet hall without security guards.
Corey Flintoff, NPR
Wedding guests at a ceremony in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood.
Karrada's main streets were once vibrant with life — restaurants, shops, clubs and hotels. Today the district is a dusty shadow of its former self, strewn with rubble from car bombings and lined with blank-faced, empty buildings. But a few restaurants are open, and there are signs of fresh paint on some of the banks and businesses.
The reception was held in an upstairs hall in a rather anonymous building, marked only by the wedding car parked outside, decked with paper roses. Once inside though, the floors were rumbling with over-amplified Arab pop music. Men danced with one another under a glittering disco ball, while women with sparkling headscarves chatted at the tables.
The bride and groom sat solemnly in their regalia on thrones at one end of the room, posing for pictures with family members and guests. The wedding was for them, but the party was clearly for everyone else. They had about as much chance of having fun as the couple on top of a wedding cake.
The bridegroom was lanky young man, the cousin of an Iraqi friend. The bride was pretty, dressed in a Western-style wedding gown, coiffed and made-up to the point of inscrutability.
I wished them well — and wholeheartedly, too. Marriage is a leap of faith for anybody. For young Iraqis, it's a bigger leap than for most.
— Corey Flintoff, NPR