Mutanabbi Street
the cultural heart of the world's oldest culture

Situated on the bank of the Tigris, a river the biblical Book of Genesis says emerged from the Garden of Eden, you can travel to the street in a Meshouf, the pointy canoes dating back to the Sumerians in 2500 BC.

The street is visible at a distance from its Qishleh Clock Tower, in whose courtyard the first monarch of Iraq was coronated in 1921, and where musicians, poets and artists now gather on Fridays to entertain the locals.

iraqi man playing violin

As you step foot on its shore, before you then stands the magnificent statue of Mutanabbi, the greatest poet in classical Arabia, whose colourful life saw him wander off into the desert, only to charge back leading a revolt.

Beneath his feet is engraved an extract from this infamous trash-talk before battling poets for supremacy:

“I am the one whose writing is seen by the blind and whose words are heard by the deaf. Content with complete verses, I sleep, while others strain for simple rhymes. If you see the lion bare his teeth, do not assume he is smiling!”

iraqi man playing violin

Behind Mutanabbi lies an enduring book market, on the land where writing was invented, a corridor displaying the resilience of the human spirit.

There you meet booksellers, some who were imprisoned under the brutality of Saddam Hussein, others who were targeted by terrorists in a huge bombing.

Yet they remain, to revive the glory of Baghdad, as the global capital of learning in the Islamic Golden Age.

iraqi man playing violin

Opposite the Qishleh courtyard is the old Shabandar Cafe, welcoming you to be seated on its wooden benches, gently directing your gaze at the black and white photos adorning its walls.

Here, in the 1920s, the traditional storytellers would take centre-stage and charm the people at night. Here, in the 1970s, the intellectuals would gather in the afternoon to discuss current affairs.

Nowadays, the people of Baghdad visit in the morning; to drink black tea, smoke flavoured tobacco in water pipes, and absorb their beautiful heritage.

iraqi man playing violin

Get ready for our art-themed virtual experience on Apple Vision Pro, once the technology and adoption reach maturity.

For couples to ride Meshouf canoes on the Tigris river. For friends to take avatar group selfies with the Mutanabbi statue. For families to watch live performances at the Qishleh. For people who got a seat, to hear each other tell stories on stage in Shabandar Cafe.

For you to pull out your favourite Iraqi art t-shirt from your virtual wardrobe, for a night out on Mutanabbi Street.

lady wearing VR glasses

Images courtesy of local photographers Ghaith Falah (@ghaith.falah1), Hani Alasadi (@hani_alasadi) and Tareq Shakarchi (@theshakarchi).