Baghdad Of The Mind


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An impressionistic portrait of the fantastical city of Baghdad, a metropolis at the heart of an empire that for more than a thousand years has captured the imagination of Western and Arab worlds alike.

Using the logic of a dream interspersed with music and poetry, the broadcast summons up a dusty but glittering mosaic of real, dreamt, nostalgic, oriental and orientalist poems and melodies inspired by and from Baghdad.

Long before the city was synonymous with tyranny, occupation and oppression, Baghdad was a place of learning and culture that attracted hundreds of poets. In the labyrinthine city of the Arabian Nights, the real and the romanced are confused in the iconic figure of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. According to the tales, he would disguise himself to go among his people and meet fabulous adventures. We re-create this poetic city through a night of chanced encounters on the radio.

In conversation and poetry, contemporary Iraqi poets in exile Salah Niazi, Fawzi Karim and Nabeel Yasin reflect on the city they left and describe how the City of Peace still exerts a powerful pull on their work. The picture they paint is fresh and unexpected: a weekly pilgrimage to the book market to buy Sartre or Hemingway, poets bar-hopping their way across the city and small boys spending blissful, endless days swimming in the Tigris.

With additional contributions from Robert Irwin and Professor Geert Jan van Gelder.

Featured poems:

Salah Niazi

The Abode

Fawzi Karim

At The Gardenia's Entrance

two excerpts from The Plague Lands

(forthcoming Carcanet Press)

Nabeel Yasin

New York Baghdad

Abu Nuwas - Untitled

trans. Eric Ormsby from Questions For Stones: On Classical Arabic Poetry reproduced in Abu Nuwas - A Genius For Poetry by Philip F Kennedy, Oneworld 2005.

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

An impressionistic portrait of the fantastical city of Baghdad.

Salah Niazi

  • (forthcoming carcanet press)

    nabeel yasin

  • at the gardenia's entrance
  • new york baghdad

    abu nuwas - untitled

  • the abode

    fawzi karim

  • trans. eric ormsby from questions for stones: on classical arabic poetry reproduced in abu nuwas - a genius for poetry by philip f kennedy, oneworld 2005.

    an impressionistic portrait of the fantastical city of baghdad

  • two excerpts from the plague lands