You approach Baghdad, the City of Peace astride your cantankerous camel, the hot dry desert and your three month journey behind you. Stretching from horizon to horizon, the Tigris River meanders before you as you ride towards the Khurasan Gate. Passing over the river, you survey the high wall that circles the city and that acts as the first fortification. Further beyond this are two other large walls.
You dismount from your camel, and taking your pack, you stable your mount before walking into the city. You try not to look like a mouth-agape pilgrim, but it’s difficult not to gaze up and back and forth at the mosaic of sites and sounds. Baghdad is so different from your small village, so vast in its sophistication, so glorious in its architecture, and so disturbingly aromatic in its smells.
As you explore the roadways, you find yourself in a marketplace. Merchants call out to you as you pass. “Please, look here at my dates, there are none sweeter in the whole city”, “Clothing, clothing of the finest silks from China”, “Weapons, knives, swords, all your protection needs are here, come in! Come in!”, but you ignore them. Off to the left is a lamp shop with a very bored looking shopkeeper. A young man who, now as you gaze closer, is not bored, but forlorn. You are about to ask him what bothers him so when a man, smartly dressed in dark clothing with a very determined and solid pace, brushes rudely past you and enters the shop. You decide to continue with your journey. It’s almost at an end. You have never been to Baghdad before, but you know the way, you have dreamt of this moment all your life. You walk straight towards the House of Wisdom. And on to your future.