Named for a tenth-century poet and revolutionary who lived in what is now Iraq, Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad was the center of the city’s intellectual and literary life. It was home to booksellers, stationery stores, antiquarian bookstores, and cafes as famous for the ideas that flowed freely as for their pungent coffee.
In 2007, a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street, killing 30 and injuring another 100. Residents of Baghdad felt it as not just another attack but a strike against the richness of Iraqi literary history and against the free exchange of ideas and openness of thought. Books and papers lay scattered and charred beside the corpses on Al-Mutanabbi Street that day in March.