Baghdad was one of the most modern cities in the Middle East late 70”s and 80’s with lot of infrastructure projects taking place with the advent of increase in petrol price in the world as Iraq was the largest exporter of oil then. It is in one of the infrastructure project for Amanat Al Asima (Municipality of Baghdad) which was building of 2000 housing units and service buildings that was awarded to an Indian company called Makers Development Services Pvt Ltd. I had joined the company as a Junior Engineer Electrical and was among the first few engineers who had left India in first week of April 1981 to set up the mobilization works on the ground. Those days on account of the war with Iran there were no direct flights hence had to land at Kuwait city and then proceed by land and you can read about it in my earlier post Carnivores-brahmin.
First few months we were busy with setting up of the camp, setting up prefab factory and other support building for the project and were getting ourselves ready to start the construction phase and during the second month beginning we had an Israeli Air raid on Baghdad and you can read that in another post Reminiscing of times at Baghdad. We used to venture out to local market at Al Baaya or go to a theatre there to watch Hindi movies at time (Hindi movies were quite popular among Iraqis) or to the Mall at Al Mansur in the evenings after working hours. Weekends 7-10 of us would pile on to a vehicle and drive down the country side or go to a lake called Razaza and you can read about it in my post Old Memories of Times in Iraq.
Till about 8 months into stay at Baghdad we had never ventured out in the night seeking the fabled nightlife of the city but arrival of a new engineer whose father was in Indian High Commission Baghdad changed it for he was aware of the hot spots of the city . We started going to night clubs and used to have fun with scores of dancers on the floor and female companions to give you company on your table…. What more did we young guys need then :P .One nightclub stood out those day and it was known as Moulin Rouge… yes the same name as the one in Paris but not a franchise and here they used to have similar can-can dance on the stage. This club used to charge us Iraqi Dinar 2 for entry and on table would give us a roasted chicken and a can of beer free. Scores of beautiful girls (Various nationalities..Ceylonese, Egyptians, Lebanese) would line up along the bar or on the sides and you could call them to your table for a drink. A drink that costs you 1dinar would be charged 10 dinar for the girls drink and she would not stay long on the table when she finishes her drink. This was first time we had been there and we never knew the cost of having those girls on the table and we all 7 freaked out there and finally we had to pay a hefty bill in the process. Next time onwards we were pretty judicious with our calling out for these bar girls.
Tried to get to know more about this nightclub on Google but no hits regarding various nightclubs of Baghdad of 1980’s at all except for passing statements that the city was renowned for the nightlife until 1994 when Saddam Hussein shut down all bars and nightclubs. There were few other nightclubs but their names have faded in my memories and am unable to recall them. I believe the nightclubs have opened up once again in Iraq but not much action in Baghdad because of moral policing however up north at Erbil the bars are flourishing without any fear of ISIS or moral policing.
PS: Most of what has been written are my personal experiences during my stay in the country from 1981 to 1983 and at that point of time the rule was we needed to spend 30% of our salary within Iraq and being flush with money during the war times was great. We have had great times as a group there and i always tell my relatives that my assignment there was just like my stay at engineering college... a carefree life it was. Hope you all enjoyed my recount. Thanks for passing by.