Baghdad Loses Green Space to Real Estate Boom

The al-Jabouri family has lived on the land since his great-grandfather arrived from Syria in 1841, he said. He said some neighbors decided to sell after security forces cut off water to their orchards. While his palm trees remained, the less vigorous orange, apple and pear trees withered from lack of water.

“Agriculture has ended because there is no government support,” al-Jabouri said.

For many Baghdad residents, the gardens are a reminder of a better time before families were scattered by conflict, when children played in the greenery and lunch was served outdoors. Surrounding Baghdad are mainly low-rise residential areas, even the most modest houses often have a small garden.

In Adhamiya, one of Baghdad’s oldest neighborhoods, Nofa Abbas, a longtime resident, steps into the rest of her family’s garden, pointing to pink jasmine, lily, tree pomegranate, date tree and magnolia tree. As usual in Baghdad, the trees were shaded by nets. She said some of the palm trees, watered from a well, were planted by her grandfather a century ago.

Adhamiya, with its huge orchards near the Tigris River, is traditionally one of Baghdad’s coolest areas in summer. Dense eucalyptus and oriental plane trees dot almost every street that blocked the dust.

Ms. Abbas, 54, said: “Even in August you only need a fan. “This area is 5 degrees cooler than the rest of Baghdad.”

The orchard was gradually sold off by family members, many people left the country. Ms. Abbas’s house, once shielded by hectares of palm trees from neighbors, is now hidden by the concrete wall of a multi-storey house.

She said at least 70 homes have been built on gardens her family once owned, many without trees or gardens.


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