Greetings from Baghdad! I'm filling in on the Middle East beat for Hannah over the next few months, and my first stop is in Iraq, where most everyone was commemorating Eid this past weekend. For us Western journalists, that meant that our Iraqi colleagues were at home with their families for some much-deserved R&R while we were left to our own devices.
Hence the decision, one evening, to go in search of comfort food: burgers and fish-and-chips at Dojo's, an honest-to-goodness diner in the heart of the fortified Green Zone.
Dojo's was opened about a year ago by a Southern woman, as the story goes, and its staff hails mainly from the Philippines, which was evident in the Filipino-style torta on the menu and the way female customers are greeted with an assiduous "yes, Mum." The diner - a squat box of drywall and linoleum, plastered with cheap, colorful posters - is popular with contractors and U.S. Embassy types daring enough to venture outside their massive compound.
Although it doesn't serve alcohol, the menu features burgers, brownies, pancakes and a pretty decent plate of fish and chips. Even the napkins and bright red placemats have a 1950s flavor.
Dojo's is branching out. Next door is Dojo's Spa, which offers massages, $10 haircuts and manicures and pedicures starting at $15. The spa is fairly grim to look at - basically a glorified trailer - but some sort of vanilla or incense smell smacked me as I opened the door. It was overpowering, but not a bad respite from the 110-degree air of September in Baghdad.
Life for those in the Green Zone can be pretty sterile. Dojo's isn't exactly the real Iraq, but at least it provides a little bit of color.