National Geographic : 2011 Jul
from 2006 to 2008, young men pause in the doorway of a local market to nish a conversa- tion as Iraqi pop music blares from a boombox. Near the university several young women laugh as they cradle textbooks and notebooks, their head scarves a splash of color against the drab building facades. Everywhere around Baghdad there is the sound of a city regaining its voice. When I stepped o the plane, collected my bag from the luggage belt, and walked out into the city, I didn't know what to expect. It was late December 2010. News reports of targeted assas- sinations via silencer-equipped pistols occupied my thoughts. I couldn't dismiss the possibility of being kidnapped. But as much as my fear counseled me to jump back on that plane, I wanted to know what had become of this place where I'd once come to war. If I was going to meet the new Baghdad, I'd have to put some old habits and memories to the side. A City of Walls My rst day back I spread out a map of the city on a table in a shaded inner courtyard. It's an outdated map with many red and blue adhesive dots placed on various parts of the city. Many of the names of neighborhoods have changed since the invasion. Saddam City, as it's listed on my old map, for example, now goes by Sadr City, a er the deceased Shiite leader Muhammad al BAGHDAD'S TRAFFIC, CHOKED BY HUNDREDS OF CHECKPOINTS, SLOWS TO A CRAWL WHILE SECURITY FORCES INSPECT VEHICLES FOR WEAPONS AND EXPLOSIVES.