Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Flowers are perhaps not the first thing you think of when you think of Baghdad, but for the last five years Iraq’s capital has been hosting an international flower festival which this year has drawn participants from 11 countries and 70 companies, as well as a host of local, regional and international agricultural organizations.
Visitors have also flocked in droves to the Sixth Annual Baghdad International Flower Festival, which takes place in the city’s popular Zawra Park, and is organized by the Baghdad Municipality. The festival has drawn in huge crowds this year looking for an opportunity to relax and take a “time out” from what is currently a tense climate ahead of the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections at the end of the month.
Under the slogan ‘Baghdad, the Flower of All Cities,’ this year’s event hosted a number of floral displays—with prizes allocated to the best three—as well as displays by companies from around the world operating in the flower-growing business.
After an opening ceremony to kick off the festival, accompanied by dancing and displays of traditional Iraqi dress throughout the ages, the secretary-general of the Baghdad Municipality, Naeem Aboub Al-Ka’abi, gave a speech to mark the start of this year’s festival. “This event has [both] cultural and agricultural dimensions and is held annually at the same time during spring with the aim of emphasizing Baghdad and its municipality’s interest in flowers and plants,” he said. “The festival reflects the sublime message which flowers convey, promoting a culture of tolerance, passion and peace in a bid to withstand the terrorism and the destruction the Iraqi people have been suffering for years.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hakim Abdulzahra, the Baghdad Municipal Council’s spokesperson, said: “In addition to the various kinds of flowers and plants on display, the festival also exhibits fertilizers, equipment and technology used in agriculture and flower arrangement, as well as the latest studies and mechanisms used in the management and growth of flowers.”
Laftat Al-Saeedi, an Iraqi visitor who seemed eager to take photos while admiring the displays on show with his two sons, told Asharq Al-Awsat he has enjoyed visiting the festival every year it has been on. “The festival is also an opportunity to put aside the political quarrels we see in the news, which cause us such deeply felt grief,” he said.
Um Hanin, a 54-year-old female visitor, said she also came to the festival every year, in order to “buy new kinds of flowers that are available only once a year.”
“I choose the ones that suit our hot weather,” she said. Pointing to a particularly bright display of assorted flowers, she added: “I wish our reality could be like this beautiful scene with the colors and the scent of the flowers, and that we can get rid of the destructive scenes brought to us by terrorism.”