On July 3 2016, the final day of Ramadan, a packed shopping center in Baghdad was hit by a massive truck bomb, killing over 300. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the mainly Shia Karrada area of the Iraqi capital, the city’s single deadliest car bombing since 2003.
Haunting images showing the burnt-out husk of the “Hadi Center”, draped with tributes to the many dead, dominated Iraqi social media for days and weeks to come. These tragic scenes might have been enough to frighten Baghdadis away from shopping centers of any kind.
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Yet, despite the continued bomb threat - at least five were killed in twin attacks on Sunday morning - Baghdad is witnessing a mall-building boom.
Unlike elsewhere in the region, the American-style shopping mall is a relatively new phenomenon, emerging only in the last three or four years in the capital.
Years of war, sectarian conflict and insurgencies, as well as a financial and trade embargo in the 1990s and ongoing corruption, had set back development in Baghdad, causing considerable damage.
Now, nearly two months after victory was declared against Daesh in Iraq’s second city, Mosul, and as Iraqi forces draw closer to completely defeating the group in the country’s north, it looks like the historic city may have much brighter days ahead.
Over the weekend the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, officially opened the new "Baghdad Mall". Described by its website as a “model development for Baghdad”, the shopping center has 18,000 square metres of “retail floor space”.
Prime Minister Dr. Haider Abadi officially inaugurates Baghdad Mall in the Harthiya area [of central Baghdad].
On his Facebook page, Abadi described the development as a “great success for Iraq”, amidst the continued fight against Daesh in the northern town of Tal Afar.
At a time when we are fighting and achieving victory against the terrorist gangs of Daesh, we are opening up investment projects, and this is a great success for Iraq.
Other photos of him looking around the new mall were captioned with “The terrorist Daesh [organization] wanted to destroy life but Iraqis have proven that they are the builders of life.”
The Baghdad Projects Facebook page, which has nearly 200,000 likes, has documented the ongoing development projects in Baghdad.
On Friday, the page shared images of the decorations in Baghdad Mall, ready for its public opening on Monday.
It is telling about the current pace of Baghdad’s mall-building explosion that another center, Babylon Mall, will be opened the same day, in the nearby Mansour district.
Baghdad’s building projects are a source of optimism for many Iraqis who have lived through decades of violence.
One comment on the Baghdad Projects page described it as “like a big positive energy generator that mediates the heart of Baghdad to spread the spirit of optimism and hope. It helps everyone to see beautiful Baghdad. May God grant you success, you people of hope and knights of creativity.”
In fact, their is a noticeable spirit of national pride that runs through the comments on that page. Another reads: “My Baghdad is returning to its old status, and god willing it will get better and better.”
Some other projects featured by Baghdad Projects:
"Baghdad Tourist Island"
"Tower Park, a new social club"
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