Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A convoy of Humvees leaves Camp Liberty, locked, cocked, and ready to rock.

I had a pretty cool adventure the other day. I'm going to Italy soon to visit my boyfriend, so I had to arrange travel out of Baghdad Airport. We have two choices for flying out of here. The first is to hop a military airlift out of Baghdad to Kuwait, and then hop mil air or civilian air out of Kuwait. Sounds simple enough, really, but it is anything but--especially during the holidays. Military have priority, and it is space available, so it's easy to get stuck in Baghdad, or Kuwait, or both, for several days on both ends of the trip. The other option we have is to purchase a flight on Iraqi air out of Baghdad, fly to Dubai, U.A.E., and then fly to the desired destination. I decided to pretend that Iraqi Air's maintenance and training schedule is on par with that of the U.S., and I opted for Option B.

I purchased my roundtrip ticket from Dubai to Pisa quite a while back, but I had been waiting for help from one of our Iraqi advisors to secure my Iraqi Air ticket. The trouble with that process is that you have to go to their office in downtown Baghdad, or to their offices at the airport, and pay for the ticket in cash (about $400 U.S.). One side of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) is military, and the other side, though very restricted and quite secure, is civilian. I had to visit the civilian side.

Leaving Camp Liberty to venture to BIAP.

It was a little disconcerting just because we (my Iraqi-American friend) and I had to drive off of the base to get there. We left the haven of Camp Victory and Camp Liberty and drove down what was once a very busy main freeway toward the airport. There were very few cars on the road, and the outside wall was laced with concertina wire and had a guard shack with a couple of .50 calibre machine guns sticking out of it spaced every couple hundred meters along the wall. It was actually pretty cool...but very eerie. (One end of the road is controlled by the Coalition, and the other is controlled by Iraqi Army.)

The freeway. Nearly deserted, this secured freeway leads to BIAP. Check out that wall and the guard tower!

The airport itself looked like it was probably pretty nice, back in the day. We had to go through several ID checkpoints on the way into the airport parking area, and then we parked in the bottom of the parking deck, where people would normally be waiting to be picked up. At the doors, my friend was searched by armed guards while I was escorted inside, across the open area, well into the interior of the building, where a woman guard searched me...hmm...Then we went upstairs where about 40 or so Iraqis, Americans, and people of other nationalities were waiting for flights.
Airport signs point the way.
What was once a busy parking area now stands deserted...but free of charge...!
Heading into the airport parking garage.
After much to-do, I was allowed into a back area where the Iraqi Airline "office" is located. A very nice woman inside informed me that she could only sell me an unconfirmed seat since (from what I understand) they were unable to communicate with the corporate office in Baghdad due the busy hour. I was advised to come back in the morning if I wanted a confirmed seat. Since I didn't want to go throught the hassle again (even finding a ride is quite difficult), I decided to have my friend's driver purchase my ticket for me in Baghdad.
He bought it two days later, and I am now all set to go to Italy to visit my Dave. I can hardly wait!
Hope you enjoy the pics. Until later... Nancy

It felt really good to drive through the gates onto Camp Liberty after returning from outside the walls.

The sun began to set as we made out way through Camp Liberty to Camp Victory.


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