A home from home?

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The front entrance of Al-Rasheed hotel
 

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Everyone stays at the Rasheed Hotel, a massive block in Modern Mesapotamian Monumental style. Why does everyone stay at the Rasheed? Because everyone does. We're sheep.

Still, if you stay here there's a good chance of meeting other foreigners if you want to - journalists, UN officials, oil engineers - and I knew from a friend who was here in February that a satphone works fine if you get a room overlooking the pool.

It costs $44 plus 18,000 dinars ($14) for bed and breakfast. The reception tells you when you arrive that it's full, so you give them $10 and then they give you a room.

The hotel's a world of marble and middle aged men. There are few women guests, just a couple of women serving in the cafeteria, and a few waiting for non-existent tourists in the row of cluttered gift shops. Middle aged men in cheap suits and dark moustaches lounge on the big rectangular sofas staring into space, which is how they're trained in the Iraqi intelligence services. Middle aged men in open necked shirts discuss contracts for oil equipment over lunch. A tall middle aged man with a tired smile stands in the elevator all day, polishing the brasswork and pressing buttons.

I presume the phones are monitored but that doesn't matter because I can't get through most of the time. I pack all my equipment away each time I leave the room to make it harder to search but I've seen no sign that anybody's been in.

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 UN HQ
 Arabic
 Iraqi drivers
 Press Centre
 Rasheed Hotel