Old Iraq

The last traces of Mansur’s Round City were demolished in the early 1870s when Midhat Pasha, the reformist Ottoman governor, tore down the venerable city walls in a fit of modernising zeal. Baghdadis have since grown used to being excluded from the centre of their resilient capital. Just as they had been barred from the inner sanctum of the city under Mansur, so were their 20th-century counterparts excluded from the heart of Baghdad on pain of death 12 centuries later. The heavily guarded district of Karadat Maryam, slightly south of the original Round City on the west bank, became the regime headquarters, the engine room of a giant machine carefully calibrated to cow, control and using the multiple security organisations that enabled a country to devour itself.