Oh my beloved Samira... I can still remember her sweet face; her dark, doe-like eyes and those deep, ruby red lips. She stole my heart, and one day, inshallah, I will return to Iraq and find her again. I suppose that for many of you Americans, Brits and other westerners reading this right now, the idea of Iraq as being a 'romantic' place might seem more than a little unusual. And a couple of years ago, I might have even agreed with you on that one. But maybe after you read my story, you will understand how I lost my heart back on that rich Mesopotamian soil, where the Tigris and Euphrates meet.
It all happened last year at Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, which corresponded to December and January last year. In case you haven't figured it out yet, yes, I am a Muslim; a Shi'a Muslim in fact. My parents were born in Iran, and fled to the west after the fall of the Shah. It was from them that I inherited my faith in 'Ali and the Imams, and our very rich, beautiful Persian culture.
You see, the earth itself takes on a special significance to us. The holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf, both in Iraq, are some of the most important sites for us, after the holy city of Makkah (or Mecca) of course. According to tradition, the first Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, was buried at Najaf, while his son Husayn was martyred and buried at Kerbala. As such, both are major pilgrimages for us Shi'a Muslims. Moreover, many of us (myself included) even pray on turbah, or tablets made of clay from Kerbala, following in the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH).
Perhaps now that you know this, you will understand why I would spend my winter in Iraq. In fact, it was actually my first time in the country. I had been overseas before, even visited family in Iran, but visiting a country that is still in the middle of a war was... an interesting experience. The process of getting into the country in the first place was long and convoluted. I just wound up joining a caravan of pilgrims heading west from Shiraz, in southern Iran.
As might be expected, the bus ride was long, tedious and boring. My Farsi was still good enough where I could make conversation with the old man sitting next to me, at least, when he was awake. Mostly, though, the conversation consisted of him asking me what life in America was like, and whether I knew anyone famous. I had to disappoint him and tell him that I didn't. Just because I live in L.A. (or "Tehrangeles" as many of us Iranian-Americans affectionately call it) does not mean that I've ever met anyone from TV or movies. Still, at least he was nice enough.
As we got closer to the Iraqi border, some of the passengers began to chant the familiar praises:
I chanted along with them for a while. Like most chants, it was fun at first, but eventually it wound up getting a bit repetitive. In fact, truth be told, I was a little glad when the bus driver finally stopped at a little travelers inn somewhere out in Maysaan province. Actually, calling it a 'traveller's inn' might be a little too generous on my part. It looked more like some sort of dilapidated estate, maybe even a Saddam Hussein-era government building that had been reclaimed by the locals. Maysaan is a predominantly Shi'a province right next to the Iranian border, and it suffered heavily under Saddam. I really can't say that I blame the locals for being pissed at the government.
Whatever the case, the sun was starting to hang low on the horizon, so we had to stop for Maghrib prayers and rest. We would be continuing onward to Kerbala tomorrow. I was just happy that we would get a few hours off the bus. Time to stretch my legs and maybe see what the local culture was like. After all, this was my first and perhaps only visit to the holy land of Iraq. I wanted to make the most of the trip while I still could.
Of course, as anyone who has spend any amount of time travelling through the Middle East can tell you, when things go wrong, they all go wrong at once. At some point in the middle of the night, someone stole our tires! This wasn't a huge deal, mind you, but it was rather inconvenient. It was only a couple of days away from the 10th, and while the bus driver assured us he could get new tires, it didn't look like we would make it to Kerbala on time. Our local host assured us that this sort of thing never happens in his village, but under pressure, he conceded that this sort of thing had become relatively commonplace in the country since the invasion.
Some of the other passengers managed to hitch rides with other caravans of pilgrims, and I can only assume that they ultimately made it to Kerbala. But as for myself, I decided it was an exercise in futility. Maybe I'm a pessimist or something... I don't know. But in a way, I guess I'm glad that I decided to check out the town, because that was where I wound up meeting Samira.
As you might have guessed, pilgrimage is a big deal in Iraq, and a corresponding tourist industry has grown up alongside it. In almost any souk or market-place, there were literally dozens of vendors peddling everything from posters of the Imams and Ayatollahs (both Muqtada al-Sadr and the late Ayatollah Khomeini were popular at the time) to religious tracts and turbah for prayers. Often, these were arrayed beside other goods that were seen as "traditional" handcrafts from Iraq, as if to appeal to Iranians, Lebanese and other non-Iraqi pilgrims.
From the way that the American media portrays Iraq, you'd never know that women ran many of these stalls. Hell, you'd never know that women freely walk the streets of Iraq. But then again, the media says the same sort of bullshit about Iran too, so I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised. The truth is, many women have little choice but to work such jobs. Years of Saddam Hussein, two Gulf wars, and the subsequent ethnic and religious violence that ripped through the country following the invasion left many people dead, particularly the men. Many of the women were widows who had no choice but to try and support their families alone.
And that was how I met Samira. She was operating one of the many stalls catering to pilgrims. Its just that through some amazing, cosmic coincidence, I happened to choose her stall. I don't know if I'm comfortable labeling it as fate, but what the hell. It certainly sounds a hell of a lot more romantic that way, so we'll just run with it for now.
Samira was a cute Iraqi Arab woman, somewhere in her early to mid-thirties, wearing a simple hijab and a traditional embroidered women's 'abaya. Of course, I wasn't really in Iraq to meet girls. I don't expect that sort of behavior would go over to well with the locals, especially in the countryside, and I assumed she was probably married anyway. So I was more than a little surprised when she started making small talk with me as I browsed over her wares.
"Do you see anything you like," she asked me.
"Yes," I said, picking up one of the turbahs with the names of the Ahl al-Bay't imprinted on it, "How much for this one?"
"Only seventeen thousand Iraqi dinar," she said.
There was a short paused as she looked me over.
"Are you an American," she asked after a while, "You speak Arabic so well..."
"Shukran," I responded, "Yes, I am American, from California, but my parents came over from Iran. I am a Shi'a Muslim. That's why I came over here for Ashura."
"I see," she said, her interest clearly piqued, "My name is Samira."
We wound up having a very nice little conversation, making quite a bit of small talk. Its pretty much the only way that you can get anything done in the Middle East, really. We talked about our families, what life is like in America and Iraq, even our views on politics, which was a little surprising given how sensitive such matters can be. I learned that Samira was a widow, that her husband had been killed shortly after the American invasion, and that she had two children she had to support by working odd jobs. Her cousin had actually helped her set up her little stall to cater to pilgrims during the pilgrimage seasons.
Now I'm not entirely certain how it happened, but eventually, she wound up inviting me over to her house for dinner. I was a little hesitant at first and tried to back out, but she insisted quite vehemently. I had little choice but to give in to her overwhelming Arabic hospitality.
Samira's house was small, but very nice and clean, nestled amidst row after row of identical houses. It was relatively Spartan inside, with only a few modest possessions and the always ubiquitous poster of the first Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib hanging on the wall. Her two sons -- Malik and Farid -- were there awaiting her return.
"Merhabtain oummi," they exclaimed as she entered.
"Merhaba, merhaba," she exclaimed, lovingly hugging her two children.
"Boys," she continued, "We have a very special guest from America tonight. He is going to eat with us and spend the night, so please be extra nice for him, okay?"
"Amreeka," the younger sibling, Farid, exclaimed as he gave me a thumbs up gesture.
"That's right," I replied in Arabic, "Ana Amreeki!"
"I love Amreeka," he said enthusiastically, "It is a very nice country. In school I am even learning some English. I wish to travel there one day, Inshallah."
"Inshallah," I repeated.
Samira invited me to sit down and talk to her children while she went into the kitchen, presumably to prepare whatever food she had let cooking. I made myself comfortable, waiting for her return. Se came back, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes later, and told us that the food was ready. She absolutely insisted that I eat with them. There was no way that I could refuse such a generous offer.
To be honest, I was a little surprised when the family gathered around a small table to eat.
"Oh yes," Samira responded, "I'm not just some country girl. My husband was a school teacher before the war, and we always ate like this."
"So the house," I asked.
"It's not actually ours," she admitted rather hesitantly, "We were forced to move in here when the fighting began simply because it was the safest option. We lost most of our furniture and belongings in the process though."
"I see," I said, somewhat sorry I had brought up such negative memories for the family.
Samira had made a delicious rice dish, with fried fish and fresh bread. It was surprisingly similar to the food that my parents had made when I was growing up. Naturally, I had to complement her on it.
"Thank you," she said modestly, "We've always cooked fish here. You know we are right along the Tigris river. I shall have to show it to you some time."
"Yes indeed," I said, "I never would have thought there could be such bounty from the river."
"Iraq wasn't always like this," she said.
"Oh," I replied, not really quite sure of how else I should reply to that.
"No," she continued, "When I was a little girl, the wetlands covered almost all of this part of the country. Water and reeds as far as the eye could see. There were always plenty of fish, turtles and water fowl, and clean fresh water to cool your thirst."
Of course, in my short time in the country, I had seen none of this. Just mile after mile of dusty roads and rather decrepit looking villages. The images that were broadcast over the international news media were only slightly less flattering.
"So what happened," I asked as I took another bite of roasted samak.
"Saddam," she exclaimed bitterly, "He drained the wetlands during the war."
"Well why would he do that? It strikes me that destroying such rich agricultural land would be a waste of resources."
"Oh no," Samira said, "Not for him! Not for the Ba'athists. Our people... the Ma'dan -- the Marsh Arabs -- we drew our sustenance from the wetlands. When the government came to arrest us, to fight us, we knew the swamps and backways. We could hide in the marshes and Saddam's people couldn't get us. That is why he killed the wetlands."
"And it's still this bad even today," I asked.
"Nobody has done anything to fix it," she replied, "It's the worst ecological crisis of the modern world, and no country has done anything to stop it. The western soldiers? They protect the oil fields.... They didn't even bother to protect the museums or the civilians, why would they care about the wilderness? And the mercenaries are even worse!"
"I'm just sorry I had never heard of any of this," I said.
"Only Iran gave us sanctuary," she continued, "Iran alone of all the countries! Didn't you say you were Persian?"
"Na'am," I replied, "But I was born in America. My parents left the country after the fall of the Shah, and I've only been to Iran itself a few times in my life."
"But you came with the pilgrims," her older son Malik interjected.
"Yes, that's right. It was pretty much the only way I could manage to get into the country for my pilgrimage."
"And it's your first visit," the other son asked.
"Na'am," I replied.
I paused for a moment and looked over at Samira.
"But hopefully," I continued, "It will not be my last."
I wasn't quite sure, but Samira seemed to smile at me after I said that.
"Inshallah," Malik exclaimed jubilantly.
"So you came here to visit Kerbala on Ashura," Samira stated calmly.
"Yes," I replied, "As you know, that's a very important pilgrimage for us."
"Yes," she said, "But do you understand why?"
I wasn't quite sure that I understood what she was getting at with that question.
"Of course," I exclaimed, "Because the Imam Husayn was martyred there!"
"But you understand the importance of Kerbala clay," she said, pulling out the turbah that I had looked at earlier.
"Do you understand why we pray with earth or dust on our foreheads," she asked.
"It is tradition," I said, really not quite sure what else to say.
I had grown up a Shi'a Muslim, but I never really delved especially deeply into the meaning behind the rituals. My parents had never explained to me why we used the turbah in our prayers, while the Sunnis and other Muslims did not. In fact, before I met Samria, I never had really given it any real thought at all.
Samira just shook her head.
"Yes," she said, "It is a tradition, but it is not just a tradition. It was a practice that dates back to the earliest days of Islam. It was recommended by the Prophet Muhamamd himself (PBUH)! We have continued to honor the earth and God's creation, while others have forgotten or added their own innovations."
I thought about what she had said. It made sense, actually. In Islam, we are taught that God created all of the world and every living thing, and that thus nature itself was a miracle. I immediately understood how her mind worked. Samira was thinking about the lost world of Iraq's wetlands, an irreplaceable miracle that God himself had created, and that man had squandered so foolishly.
Our conversation continued, getting increasingly more esoteric and -- quite frankly -- going a little over my head. Eventually, we finished and she told her children to get ready for Maghrib prayers and then go to bed. She then turned to me and asked if I would mind sharing quarters with her. Needless to say, I had no objections there. In fact, I was pretty sure I knew exactly where her thoughts were headed.
Samira's room was relatively small. More pertinent to my interests, she only had one bed in there. I turned around as soon as I noticed that only to see my lovely Samira slipping out of her 'abaya. The loose fitting cotton garment did not give me much of an idea as to what she looked like beneath it. As it fell to the floor by her feet, I could see her lovely, mature body in all of its glory. I was not disappointed! Although she was an older woman with two kids, her body showed little sign of it. Sure, she had nice big round breasts, wide hips and just enough extra weight to make her look voluptuous. She was quite sexually attractive by any measure of beauty.
She walked over to me, her hips swaying suggestively from side to side as she moved. Watching her lovely body move was enough to get me hard.
"So," she said with a broad smile on her face, "Do you like what you see?"
"Very much," I replied, pulling her closer to me that I might embrace her.
My cock grew fully erect at the feeling of having her lovely, feminine curves pressed up against my body. She quickly brought her hands around my waist, unfastening my belt and pulling down my trousers. Samira reached into my boxers and began to stroke my cock. While she worked over my manhood with her tender ministrations, I quickly slipped my top over my head and got naked myself. I stood there, allowing the pleasures of the flesh to take over my body as I stared longingly at her dusky body. Samira just smiled up at me, her dark, almost-shaped eyes peering into my very soul. Oh how I wanted to drown in those dark pools...
Now that I was fully erect and beginning to drip a few drops of seed from my rigid member, Samira knelt down in front of me and put her thick lips around the head of my cock. Slowly working up a tempo, she began to suck on my cock. She bobbed her head up and down. Much to my astonishment, this sweet and classy lady seemed to be a professional cock sucker. Samira even managed to get a portion of my cock down her throat. I don't think that I've ever had a woman do that before. In fact, I was pretty sure it was something they just did in the movies.
Each time, she kept taunting me, bringing me just to the peak of ecstasy before slowing down a bit. I could hear her muffled moans of pleasure as she continued to rock up and down, eagerly sucking me off. I felt that I was going to cum eventually anyway though! Eventually, she stopped and let my wet cock fall out of her mouth.
Samira looked up at me and just smiled.
"We can't have you cumming just yet," she said.
God, what a filthy mouth she had... I absolutely loved it! It was such a turn on!
Samira adjusted herself and sat up a little, lifting up her full, round breasts so that they were level with my now well lubricated dick. She stuck my rock hard member between her massive tits and began to pump away. I've always been a fan of a good titty-fucking, so I didn't have any objections there. I let her squeeze her luscious melons together and pump my cock, once again working it like a professional. The sight of her sitting there on the floor, now covered in a thin sheen of sweat and dust, while she serviced me with her full, womanly bosom was just too much.
It wasn't much longer before I began to cum, spraying my thick, juicy sperm all over. It sprayed across her face and chest, even getting into her hair, eyes and mouth. Samira didn't seem at all bothered by this. As some of my seed slid down her body, dripping onto the simple dirt floor of her house, she began to rub my man-juice all over her body. She took a finger that was now covered in my sperm and stuck it in her mouth, relishing its salty taste.
"Mmmm," she purred seductively.
"So," I said looking down at her, "Do you think you have one more in you?"
"Depends," she said as she pulled me down to the floor with her, "Do you think you can last for one more bout of sex with me?"
Clearly she was a woman after my own tastes.
I began to let my hands explore her delightful body, gently squeezing and massaging her breasts, thighs and ass. She seemed to moan in pleasure every time I felt her up in a new spot. Eventually, though, I worked my way over to her juicy cunt. I began to stroke her slit, slowly working first one, then two and ultimately three fingers into her pussy. She was already soaking wet down there. Gently, I rolled her over on her back and spread her legs.