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The Khedairi family has thrived for over two hundred years as one of the most prominent trading families in Iraq. The family roots can be traced in lineage back to the Shammar tribe, among the largest tribes in Najd, Greater Syria, and Iraq.

Part of the family started settling in the old, more conservative area of Baghdad known as Bab Al Sheikh during the late 18th century. There, they founded mosques, a school and water supply from the river. Unfortunately, non of these establishments exist in that area, due to the continuous changes of the urban planning of Baghdad during the past 200 years.

Abdulrazaq Al Khedairi, the grandfather of the current owner, was considered among the most prominent merchants in the family who also had large lands in Baghdad, and other parts of Iraq. He had four sons who grew the family business activities in areas of farming, trade, shipping and philanthropy. These were Abdul Qadir, Yasseen, Qassim and Abdul Jabbar. Three of the brothers, Abdul Qadir, Qassim and Yassin were also bestowed upon with the Ottoman title of Pasha by Sultan Abdul Hameed for their extensive civil service during the Othoman era. Their extensive civil services continued during the Iraqi national era, when the brothers founded the Baghdad Chamber of Commerce. After his return from his brief exile from India during the British direct Occupation, Haj Yaseen Pasha was also a member in the first Senates council during the reign of King Faisal the first of Iraq. His philanthropic work included establishing the Red Crescent of Iraq, the Child Protection Association, establishing drinking water facilities in Baghdad. His industrial projects included cotton mills and brick factories. Abdul Qadir, the older brother was known to have saved the lives of the families of the British soldiers during the siege of Kut Al Umara during WWI and received a medal of honor from the British Crown.

Left to right:  Yassin , Qassim and Yassin, and Abdul Qadir Al Khedairy

Ottoman Period

At the late 19th century, the four siblings decided to break away into a wider world. Two of the brothers had prominent mansions - Qassim and later Abdul Jabbar, built mansions along the river in Basra, and Abdul Qadir built his residence mansion in Al Imara, south of Iraq. To keep with their Baghdad roots, the four brothers selected the Eastern Gate area of Baghdad (or Bab Al Sharqi) to build their mansions along the Tigris river in Baghdad. The first trusted reference to the name appearing in this area of Baghdad was in an Ottoman map below made by Rasheed Al Khoja in 1908. Before that map, the East Gate was referred to as Gate of Blackness, or Gate of Darkness in Turkish (Seyah Kapi, Sawad Kapi). The area at the time was palm tree plantations and leather tanneries for the Ottoman army, and was considered as part of the southern outskirts of historical Baghdad. They built their mansions between the area now between Sinek and Al Jumhuriyah bridges, both of which were built much later. Yaseen had his four mansions built from the area closest to the Jumhuria Bridge to his youngest brother’s property (Abdul Jabbar), now almost midway between the two bridges. The property closest now to Sinak bridge used to be Abdul Qadir’s Mansion that included his horse stables at the time. From these historical mansions, only three remain. The first is one of the houses built by Yaseen, now owned by his daughter, Amal Al Khedairy and houses the AL BEIT Al IRAQI . The second is Abdul Jabbar’s mansion, which became the building of the ministry of Social Affairs, later a Department of Archeology and an Association of Friendship between Peoples. Currently it houses an the Public Art Association. Part of the remains of Abdul Qadir’s house now is a Museum for Abdul Kareem Qassim, the first prime minister during the republican period.

It is believed that after construction, Yaseen Al Khedairy used the mention as a guest house, and a place of entertainment and music. The precise date of construction is unknown, however, it is currently believed to be between 1904 and 1908.

1920s-1940s

After returning from his brief exile in India, due to his resistance to the British direct occupation and mandate, Yassin Al Khedairy lived in the house adjacent to the Al Beit Al Iraqi. He leased the mansion that was to become later Al Beit Al Iraqi to the President of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq at, the late Professor Seton Lloyd, and his wife Heidi, an artist who taught sculpture in the Institute of Fine Arts in Iraq. Seton and Heidi Lloyd loved the house and made it a meeting place for so many interesting people from around the world. It is believed that Agatha Christie visited the house regularly, with her second husband, British archeologist, Max Mallowan.
In his book “The Interval: A Life in Near Eastern Archeology”, Professor Lloyd vividly described the house and its owner. He also dedicated a corner of the house later to selling heritage items from Iraq for his guests, when money for archeological research grants from London became scarce because of the expenses of the 2nd World War.
Seton’s niece visited Al Bet Al Iraqi some-time in the late nineteen eighties, and through her, the current owner of the house exchanged gifts with Professor Lloyd, including a signed copy of his book, expressing his happiness with the continuation of its life.

1940s-1980s

Seton Lloyd left Iraq at the end of the 1940s for another archeological position in Ankara, and Yaseen Al Khedairy had already passed away. The fifties saw the first phases of the decay of the house. The front part of the house (the Diwa Khana) collapsed, as the new dwellers did not know its worth. Then Yaseen Al Khedairy’s wife requested from the Iraqi American Architect, Ellen Ali Jawdat, who had recently arrived from the United States, after marrying Iraqi Architect Nizar Ali Jawdat, who was among the first generation of Iraqi architects at the time, to revive life in the mansion. Ellen’s plan was to keep the Harim facing the river maintaining its character. The collapsed Diwa Khana front part was converted into a modern building, with foundations that allow building seven floors on top. The modern building was to contain commercial offices and showrooms with high return. Only two floors of the original plan were constructed due to lack of funds to continue with the plan. The ground floor contained wide show rooms facing Rasheed Street, while the first floor contained modern offices that allowed easy connection, sharing a balcony facing Al Rasheed Street and others facing the courtyard, leading to the old part. Glass cubes were used for the first time to allow natural lighting. A new method of designing showrooms was presented, allowing the façade windows tilted rather than parallel to the street, allowing better view to the inside.
One of the show rooms in the ground floor was leased by the offices of Middle Eastern Airlines, and then a shop for toddlers founded and run by Amal Rasheed Ali Al Gailani. The second showroom was leased by the British Bank up to the time foreign banks were nationalized, then by the Rafidain Bank (Tigris Branch), marking a new phase of decay for that section of the building in the early sixties of the previous century. The offices of the first floor were occupied by the best Iraqi architects of the time, including Ellen Ali Jawdat, Mohammed Makiya, Qahtan Al Madfai and others. The Harim was partly occupied by the Iraqi National Group for Theatrical Arts, where several plays were rehearsed on the courtyard of the Harim part, including a famous Iraqi Play called “The Palm Tree and the Neighbors”, which was rehearsed by the famous Iraqi actor Yousif Al Ani, under the palm tree that still stands in the old courtyard. The other part of the Harim section was used as a Studio for one of the Iraqi pioneers in photography, Ahmed Qabani. In the early seventies, the house was abused by negligent tenants, with the last sadly being the Iraqi Society of Stamps and Coins. The futile tenancy legislations after 1958 had unfortunately worsened the situation, by allowing commercial tenants to abuse legal contracts without any penalties, causing the house to be exposed to destruction and ruin

1980s -1991

The owner continued her suffering with the tenants until she found a statement in the law that allowed to eject one tenant from one of the showrooms facing the street. She found that while he rented the place as a restaurant, he was illegally using it as a bar. So we can consider that the first beginning of Al Beit Al Iraqi was in the small section numbered 458A/1 in image 1.

In a short period of time, and with personal efforts, she managed to recapture the original designs as laid out by Ellen Ali Jawdat, while adding some heritage touches:
1. opening a skylight between the old and new constructions;
2. removing all the suffocating works and establishments added by the previous tenet;
3. clearing the original brick walls and scrubbing of all the added paints and gypsum works that were added later by the previous tenet;
4. a professional mason (ustha in arabic) who worked in the national museum was hired to do the flooring with high quality flat bricks;
5. constructing an arch with a pointed crown separating the room of the original construction from the new one built in the 1950s;
6. burying the rubbish in the older room to lift it from a basement (sirdab) to semi basement (neem);
7. uncovering of a couple of intertwined circular arches within a solid wall separating the inward room from the rest of the original house. unfortunately, the reason why such perfectly intertwined arches within a solid wall could not be understood;
8. changing the windows overlooking the alleys and ground floor rooms of the original building into traditional folkloric colored ones bought from a specialized shop that refurbished windows and doors from destroyed old buildings;
9. adding a store room and a bathroom inside the shop;
10. the establishment of the first private centre in Baghdad as an initiative to encourage Iraqi crafts. the centre was inaugurated in 1987. the centre was registered under the membership of the Baghdad chamber of commerce, by the this the current owner followed the footsteps of her father who was the only Arab member of the chamber of commerce during the ottoman era, and then her uncle Qassim became its chairman, followed by her uncle Kamil. she wanted to register the centre under the tradename “the craftsman” for her love and pride of Iraqi crafts. however, Baghdad chamber of commerce insisted that the tradename should not be a profession name, therefore, “Al Beit Al Iraqi” was picked, and it was considered the best pick for its owner, its guests and its disciples for the meanings, indications and connections the name has. overview
The owners aim was for the Al Beit Al Iraqi to include all Iraqi crafts from its mountainous north to the far south, and for the Al Beit Al Iraqi to be a home for all Iraqis, pioneering in reviving and activating the potential capabilities of that space in Iraqi life shared and deep-rooted into history. For more information of that project, please refer to the power point slides accompanying this report that were presented in Mohammed Al Khamis University in Aghadir, Morocco.
The first phase of Al Beit Al Iraqi containing the display showroom was inaugurated in 1987 with a grand opening and the attendance of many Ambassadors and members of the foreign delegations serving at the time in Iraq, in addition to the French Cultural Centre, the British Council and representatives from NGOs, the International Red Cross and UN organizations working in Iraq at the time (ESCWA and UNDO Iraq). The individual efforts of the owner, her son and a small group of friends of Al Beit Al Iraqi managed to convert that small space of structure, and within a very short period of time into an oasis containing all types, and styles of special Iraqi crafts, and a cell for the activities related to them including:
- lectures, courses and exhibits about Arabic Calligraphy for juniors and seniors;
- courses on painting in glass, after the late Iraqi pioneering artist experimented with painting on glass, in addition to be the first to pioneer Arabic calligraphy in painting;
- courses
- a loom was installed to manufacture handmade carpets and kilims and providing classes on how to use it, additionally distinct types of high quality Iraqi kilims were purchased from Zakho in the far north Kurdish region, to Diwaniyah in the south as part of the collection and put to display in Al Beit Al Iraqi
- for the first-time Iraqi tiles were used in novel ways such as in murals, fountains, chairs and tables;
- for its significant role throughout Iraqi history, pottery, with its academic and primitive styles took the forefront in the displays of Al Bet Al Iraqi, where the traditional pottery work from Tuzkhurmatu, near Karkouk, with its spontaneity, character, quantity and variety of home use, took a centre stage, together with the academic creativity presented through the murals of the fine art potter, Shinyar Abdullah;
- the traditional Iraqi copperwork of the cupper smith market in Baghdad was also ubiquitous all around the corners of the place (traditional coffee pots, samovars, artistic trays, …etc);
- the palm tree provided us with its share of generosity, through chairs, tables, baskets, and bookshelves from its fronds, and stools and bases for plant pots from its stem;
- wood carving played an essential role in the crafts that were presented through the mural works of Ibrahim Al Naqash showing the traditional alleys and old houses in Baghdad, together with the craft of wood inlay from Mosul, revived and perfected by Abdul Qadir Jerjis;
- attention was also given to hand made leather works from Mosul;
- Al Beit Al Iraqi also expressed special interest in traditional Iraqi garments and textiles, while finding new avenues for their use, whereby the Iraqi artist Mouyad Al Haidari played a vital role in providing a distinctive and deep-rooted Iraqi character by using hand painted Arabic calligraphy and arabesque designs on modern clothes, while Dr. Sami Haqi, Nadine Qasir and Haifa Al Jumaili used silk screen printing to add calligraphy on the traditional Abaya and Qaftan, and Afra Al Ani utilized the material of the head cover known locally as Fouta to produce beautiful summer shirts, and finally Al Beit Al Iraqi played a role in reviving the traditional female Abbaye into new designs, utilized the textile used to produce the Men garments (locally known as Darja), as well as other techniques of weaving, into curtains and scarfs, bringing to light the rich variety of embroidery work in the Christian Chaldean villages around Al Mosul and finding new avenues for traditional Kurdish clothes.
- This is how Al Beit Al Iraqi became a refuge for all Iraqis, especially that the Iraq-Iran war was crushing our young men and we were all forbidden from travelling outside Iraq, which made Al Beit Al Iraqi an internal journey through history, and a great reflection to the affluence of a people through their rich heritage.

 

image 1

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1991-2003

The First Gulf War trembled the foundations of Al Beit Al Iraqi both literally and metaphorically. When the rockets and the missiles started to fall on Baghdad, and Al Jamhuria bridge was directly hit by two missiles, the shockwaves caused heavy damage to the area surrounding the bridge, including Al Beit Al Iraqi building, where large parts of the old courtyard were completely destroyed. This forced us to demolish them, as they were beyond repair. After the war a full restoration campaign for Al Beit Al Iraqi commenced immediately after the First Gulf War, when the owner managed to finally eject all the tenants who were abusing the building. The restoration of the house was a private effort of the owner and her son without any financial compensation due to damages because of the war. She also didn’t receive any assistance, financial or moral, from any private or government entity, Iraqi or foreign. However, friends provided technical consultation. It is worth mentioning here Dr. Moyad Saeed, from the department of archeology who rightly advised to test the foundations of the original part of the house, the old courtyard, which were found in excellent condition. The foundation was constructed in a pyramidical shape made of hardened concrete brick, allowing the construction of five floors. He also advised supporting the original walls of the old part by adding damp proof material to them and replacing the lower eroded parts (within a width of one metre) with new brick. We were also advised by the civil engineer Dr. Tariq Al Katib to remove all the ceilings that are made of wood and Gypsum and replace them with concrete supported Iron bridges. His advise was based on the fact that the original ceilings of wood and Gypsum were already eroded as a result of damping, termites, the shockwave because of the bombing and difficulty of maintaining wood structures in an alternating weather such as in Baghdad. He also advised us to support the wooden columns with steel rods inside, after treating them with damp proof and anti-termite material, doubling the number of wooden columns. We also created a foundation for the columns supported by interconnected steel meshes within concrete foundations, to increase support and distribute the load of the ceilings. The ceiling of room in the left wing of the old courtyard was covered with wood in a diamond shape from the inside, and a traditional ceiling mirror with a matching shape was added. The alleys were covered with traditional diamond shape brick work. The flooring was cladded with traditional flat brick, allowing temperature control in the summer by just sprinkling the brick with water. All additional paint and gypsum added by the tenants was removed from that room, bringing to light the original brickwork of the room. Through this the original windcatcher openings were found, cleaned and restored, allowing natural climate control to the room. With the aid of Seton Lloyd’s book mentioned earlier, the original fireplace was found, cleaned and restored also. The balcony facing the river from the left wing was covered and annexed to that room after repairing the pin pointed arch separating the room from the balcony. This was justified as there was no actual need for a balcony, as the Baghdad Municipality had already built a pedestrian street separating the building from the river bank. An old window was added to the annex facing the pedestrian street. As for the other side of the room, that extended to the back end of the Al Beit Al Iraqi show room, it was converted into a smaller open courtyard. An interesting ornamentation sculptured into the brickworks were found in that courtyard, which were restored and cleaned. The flooring was also cladded with flat brick. The room in the central master wing required major alterations, as it was completely distorted y the previous tenant who had converted it into a storage room and buried the original semi basement. We managed to retain the original semi basement exposing the original brickworks and the covered arches. We also restored the original door and windows of that room, repairing the ceiling and added a cladding of brick to the flooring. An old, colored window was added to th wall separating this room from a small alley that was utilized later as a coffee area and bathrooms for that part of the building. We also discovered some beautiful ornamentations covering the pinpointed ceiling of the alley. The right wing was completely distorted, forcing another set of major changes. The neighboring building had trespassed by having a thin wall constructed that had obscured some of the beautiful arches by previous tenants. We managed to retain some of the original arches. As all the walls were all distorted, a decision was made to paint these walls white, which perfectly fit its utilization as a gallery and show room. The floor was covered with old Syrian tiles taken from the other old house built by Yasseen Al Khedairy where the owner of Al Beit Al Iraqi grew. These tiles were introduced to Iraq through a Syrian architect named Qadah and the style of the tiles is named after him. The right-wing balcony was annexed to that room for the same reason mentioned earlier regarding the decision in the left wing. Two small windows were added separating the new annex from the pedestrian street. The windows of the room in the right wing had also to be tilted to become vertical, like those in the left wing. As for the original river balcony, it was removed by the Baghdad Municipality without previous warning, giving way to the pedestrian street along the river that was opened recently. The Baghdad Municipality also almost threw away the original balcony fence as garbage, had it not been for the alertness of the security guard working for Al Beit Al Iraqi at the time. The fence was reused for the first floor, which became the roof at the time, as there were no funds left to continue with the first and second, as per the original intended plan. What is left from the balcony flooring was cladded with traditional flat brick. A separation wall was constructed to separate the pedestrian street from Al Beit Al Iraqi with glassless window openings allowing air breeze to the courtyard. We were the only ones allowed by the Baghdad Municipality to have direct access to the newly established pedestrian street. Therefore, an arabesque door was purchased and installed separating the courtyard from the pedestrian street. The street had a higher elevation than that of the original courtyard, therefore, a platform was added and covered with bricks. This served as a stage for lectures, concerts, poetry readings, maqam recitals, fashion shows and theatrical plays. We couldn’t restore the other floors around the courtyard due to limited financial resources, as the owner was depending on her own private liquidity and this was happening during the first year of sanctions just after the first gulf war. After tile fitting, the roof of the ground floor was utilized the large number of visitors, when it exceeded the maximum capacity of the courtyard and rooms of the ground floor. An addition connection between the roof and the ground floor by constructing brick stairs covered with a circular arch, similar to the doors and windows of the rooms facing the old courtyard. The damaged brick Arabesque surrounding the doors and windows were also refurbished after removing the covering gypsum and paint. Improvements were made to the front entrance and courtyard: all the despicable constructions were removed from around the tea corner and a new clean and neat area was constructed; lavatories serving the front section of the building were replaced by new ones; and a small show room was constructed next to the tea corner, later to be leased to the Armenian-Iraqi jeweler Enam Batani to present her silver jewelry. Additionally, we replaced the original cement block flooring with high quality marble from Mosul, and added old columns to the front courtyard, integrating it with the original back courtyard. The new entrance provided a wide opportunity for the craftsmen to display their murals and other craft works. The rest of the courtyard was used to provide art classes for different generations, presented by the Iraqi artists Dr. Talib Al Alaq and Ibrahim Al Abdali. The first floor of the central part of the building was converted into an exclusive English Language training centre running the IELTS program by Munir El Kadi, the son of the owner, as the British Council had already closed doors due to the sanctions imposed on Iraq. Thus, Al Beit Al Iraqi became the only centre in Baghdad to offer proper, well established English language training. He also added a computer centre offering computer training on various levels and subject areas, in addition to consultancy services for student university projects in the fields of Science and Technology. In fact it was one of the first centres to offer trainings on Windows 95 when it first came out in Baghdad, in addition to C++, VB and MS Office. The centre also worked in collaboration with the UNDP on several projects in Iraq. He also extended that section to include an exclusive English bookshop specializing in Management, Engineering and Sciences. When Munir El Kadi left Iraq, being offered a job as an O-A level school teacher in one of the most prestigious schools in Amman, Jordan in 1996, due to the pressure of the economic sanctions, the centre had to close its doors. Later, that part of the building became the offices of the architectural firm Saher Al Qaisy and partners, who are now the acting consultants for the revival of Al Beit Al Iraqi. The offices of the front (plot no. 456/1 in image1) were occupied by another architect who was a student of the Mr Al Qaisy, and the other offices were utilized for an artist specialized in children cartoons and producing children story books. She participated in the activities of Al Beit Al Iraqi in many projects, including a special program in collaboration with the Al Mansoor foundation school with the assistance of its main principal Maysoon Al Awqati. The right side of the ground floor remained leased to the Al Rafidayn bank and later to Al Rasheed bank. The left side numbering 95/1 in image 1) remained as the original shop for Iraqi crafts as it was inaugurated in 1987. Phase 2 was completed in December, 1993 with the inauguration of the old courtyard and the opening of the learning centre with a grand festival that included pavilions on the pedestrian street down to the river bank. Traditional food carts were brought serving traditional Iraqi food. The festival also included a comedy for children by specialists in the field and children painting competition. A game of chess by the children acting as chess pawns themselves, with a large chess board painted on the ground of the front courtyard , with special clothes designed for the purpose. In the evening the Iraqi pianist, Sultan Al Khatib, presented a beautiful talk on link between music, the visual arts and architecture nd another presentation on the Magnificat by J. S. Bach and its visual and musical significant. The second day included a talk on Mathematics, non-linear dynamics and chaos with their relevance into every day life for the layman. The third day included a presentation by Dr. Tariq Al Katib on the Ancient Mesopotamian and later Arab contribution to Math and the sciences to the world today. Finally, the festival ended with a reading by Abdulrrazaq Abdulwahid (one of our most famous late poets and a Mandian) of his Epic Poetry on Al Hur Al Riyahi, and the battle of Karbala. One of the unforgettable festivals organized by Al Beit Al Iraqi was the commemoration of Baghdad day, during which six luminaries from Baghdad came to talk about its recent history, and the national group of folkloric arts (stage group) performed on the roof of the courtyard. In addition Al Beit Al Iraqi established the Ramadan Nights festival that included recitals by Al Hussein Al Adhami group for Maqam and Maqam groups from Mosul and Kirkuk, in addition to Oud concerts by Ali Al Imam and Abdul Ahad for Oud and Tymbal. The Maqam concert was attended by the representative of the Arab World Centre (Centre Du Monde Arabe) in Paris and the Scholar, Dr.Shahrazad Qassim Hassan, expert on Iraqi music working in the Sorbonne, which led to the selection of Mr. Mohammed Kozachi and the late musician Mouyad from the Mosul group to perform in Paris. In collaboration with the Women’s Cultural Association, and Mr. Niel van der Lindon, Dutch specialist on Middle East Music, and consultant on cultural exchange between the EU and Middle East, Al Beit Al Iraqi also organized a Maqam recital by the only female Maqam performer Farida Mohammed Ali, leading her to be selected to go and perform in the Netherlands. We also collaborated with Mr. Lindon on bringing a group of Dutch classical musicians from several Dutch Classical to perform in Al Beit Al Iraqi in 1994 to participate in the Babylon Festival of Music and also perform in Al Beit Al Iraqi along side the Iraqi Oud musician Mr. Salman Shukur, in some sort of a dialogue between the East and the West. As a result, Mr. Salman Shukur was also selected to perform in the Netherlands. We also collaborated with the Italian Embassy to host a Duet concert for the Iraqi Maestro and Cellist Kari Kanaan Wasfi and pianist Hussein Aboud. In the field of Poetry, the late Abdulrazaq Abdulwahid established his group of young poets, for there works to be reviewed and critiqued by him. This led several attendees to win national and international awards, including the Mohammed bin Rashid Award in poetry few years later. He also performed the first reading in Arabic of the religious Mandaean book “Kanz Rabu”, represented by him in a poetical manner. In another poetry event, Iraqi actor Jawad Al Shakarchi performed another epic by Abdulrazzaq Abdulwahid on Al Hussein and his martyrdom. This was accompanied by a Nay performance by Waleed Al Jabri. Al Beit Al Iraqi also collaborated with the French Cultural Centre to host a poetry reading by the late Iraqi poet Abdulrazzaq Abdulwahid for his own, as well as for Bader Shakir Al Sayab, with translations by the French poet Stetier. One of the fruits of cooperation between Al Beit Al Iraqi and the French Cultural Centre was the festival of French/Arabic poetry that was held in the Abbasi Palace, which was the first time the Abassi Palace was used for such an event. The role of Al Beit Al Iraqi was in managing, organizing and curating the event, which ended with a Maqam recital by Hussein Al Adhami. One of the fashion shows was by Iraqi fashion designer Afra Al Ani, for the wives of the foreign diplomats working in Iraq. Among. These were some highlights among several other activities in the courtyard. One of the most series of lectures was presented by the Iraqi Pianist, Sultan Al Khatib who gave a weekly talk on Music from early civilizations until late 20th century. These lectures were attended by a large size of audience, exceeding the capacity of the lecture hall most of the time. In archeology, Al Beit Al Iraqi hosted the late Dr. Yusuf Habbi, director of the Babylon College for Theology and Philosophy on the Sumerian concept of tree of life. Another very interesting lecture was presented the late Archeology expert Behnam Abusouf on the Sumerian Story of Genesis and the Paradise of Eden according to Sumerian legends. During this lecture, Dr. Abusouf presented the concept that the origin of the Sumerians are from area now covered by the Northern Arab Gulf. Further lectures were organized and presented by Dr. Helga Vogel and Dr. Margarete van Ess from the German Archeological Institute on the archeological sites Uruk and Borsippa Among other important lectures were talks about science prospects in the 21st century by Dr. Mohammed Al Sanduk, talks about philosophy by Dr. Fatina Hamdi, and some sort of a dialogue between science and philosophy between different professors. Of philosophy and science, in collaboration with the French Cultural Centre. Under the same collaboration, carpet specialist Layla Pio presented a series of lectures on Iraqi kilims and carpets, in collaboration with a French visitor who presented on carpets in other Middle Eastern countries. Courses in languages (French and English) continued in Al Beit Al Iraqi, as well as courses in calligraphy, painting (Dr. Talib Al Allaq and Mr. Ibrahim Al Abdali), carpet weaving, painting on glass, textile dyeing (Batique and silkscreen by Mrs. Maria Kathem) and brick carving. When Munir El Kadi was in Iraq he was also giving courses in computers for different levels. We also opened the door for the craftsmen through workshops presented while showing their works to explain the how they performed their crafts and the tremendous efforts required. Additionally special sessions were designed to create awareness among children in their heritage and culture, including arranging guided tours for schools to the Iraqi Museum. Among the exhibitions that caught the interest of Al Beit Al Iraqi was the reproduction of 13th century Muslim artist Yahia bin Mohammed Al Wasiti by the architect from Mosul, Ahmed Tohala. Another exhibition of interest was that presenting painting through natural colors directly extracted from flower petals and other plant components. Al Beit Al Iraqi also hosted an exhibition on stones and rocks and the geological composition of Al Anbar province curated by Dr. Sahar Y. Jassim. As for children, Al Beit Al Iraqi hosted a talent painting exhibition for Iraqi and Japanese children. In 2002, with the proximity of the American invasion, Al Beit Al Iraqi was tasked with hosting antiwar delegates, from NGOs including Voices in the Wilderness and Code Pink. Additionally we hosted journalists including Barbara Aziz, and Princess Rhym Al Ali who was working with CNN at the time, in addition to 50 university professors from various US universities and individual anti-war activities including Kathy Kelly and others. When they visited us again after the invasion and the chaos and looting that followed, they were shocked with the level of destruction, arson and looting that had befallen Al Beit Al Iraqi, they invited the owner to talk as first hand witness in universities, places of worship and art centres in twenty nine states in the US, in addition to informal meetings in the UN headquarters in New York. The main concern of Al Beit Al Iraqi during the Iraq-Iran war, followed by the first gulf war and the economic sanctions was for the Al Beit Al Iraqi to find solutions to everyday problems and continuous suffering of Iraqis, emerging from our common shared entity and essence, through the renewal of our common rich heritage, thus, Al Beit Al Iraqi became an outlet for long and dark tunnel that was imposed on us as people. Al Beit Al Iraqi remained true to its cause by being open to all Iraqis regardless of their backgrounds, religion or ethnicities. It hosted works and activities from all over Iraq, from Zakho in the deep north to Basra in the south. It also remained willing to seek bridges with others who wanted to build bridges with Iraq.

Current situation

Like all other monuments of Culture in Iraq, Al Beit Al Iraqi was not spared the destruction, looting and arson that had befallen all of Iraq. The day Baghdad fell, dark forces were unleashed, and looters and arsons broke into the building looting what they can move, destroying what they couldn’t and finally attempting to burn the place down. Interestingly enough, Al Beit Al Iraqi was the only non-governmental in the area that endured such vicious attacks while all the other office buildings were spared the amount of destruction Al Beit Al Iraqi had to face. A journalist from the New York Times visited the place after the attack and was shocked to see what happened to it.
The owner’s persistence, with the aid of a small grant of ten thousand US Dollars from a Japanese NGO, managed to remove the existing debris from looting and destruction from the old courtyard and refurbish the left and right wing rooms in the old courtyard and establish NGOs for the protection of heritage and friends of Archeology, which were hosted in the old lecture hall (left wing), while the right wing room was occupied by an Iraqi human rights NGO. However, because of the security situation in Iraq general, and specifically central Baghdad at the time (2004-2005), all three NGOs had to shit down their offices after receiving threats that were taken seriously.
As a result of her efforts in trying to preserve Iraqi heritage during very difficult times, with the most challenging was during and after the invasion of 2003, and the chaos that followed, the owner of Al Beit Al Iraqi, Mrs. Amal Al Khedairy was invited to talk in universities and colleges, place of worship, and art galleries in 29 states, including many ivy league universities. Being a first hand witness to the destruction of environment and man alike, her presentations focused on the destruction of culture and heritage. The invitations came from the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Code Pink, in addition from the late Professor Edward Saeed and later confirmed by Professor Rashid Al Khalidi. She was also invited by the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues in the United Nations to have informal meetings with UN delegations on the destruction of heritage and issues of gender after the invasion.
When she went back, she had to leave the country after receiving death threats from unknown resources so she had to leave to Jordan abruptly. Scavengers took the opportunity to take over the building and add further to the mess and destruction. A family occupied the old part and central part illegally and started renting the rooms for their benefit. They also opened a coffeeshop and covered all the ceilings with gypsum, adding electric structure and painting the original brick works. In the new part, an Iron smith opened shop illegally destroying the building. We finally managed to kick out the Iron smith and rent part of the front part to a company with headquarters in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and we are promised by the family that is occupying the old part that they leave whenever our construction starts. Mr. Amal Al Khedairy visited Iraq the last time in 2014 and during that visit she visited her real estate.

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