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Global Architecture Summit

Baghdad to Berlin is a journey that begins in Baghdad and ends in Berlin

My Pacer app recorded 62 miles walked in my first week in Berlin. After weeks of rain, Berlin’s weather was unexpectedly sunny, so I didn’t want to waste any time recovering from my jetlag inside, and I figured this would be a fantastic opportunity to get to know the city right away. Jane Jacobs, I believe, would agree. On my map, I marked the locations and structures I wanted to see that were either destroyed or restored after World War II. First and foremost, I wanted to acquire a feel for the city. Walking allows you to let your mind wander. My thoughts wandered back to the early twentieth century, when the German Empire sought to expand its colonial influence by building The Baghdad Railway, which connected Berlin and Baghdad.

The Berlin-Baghdad Railway, often known as the Baghdad Railway, was built from 1903 to 1940 as a way for Germany to cement its alliance with the Ottoman Empire and demonstrate its power as a Middle Eastern rival to Britain and France. The railway would allow Germany to build a port in the Persian Gulf, giving it access to Iraq’s significant oil reserves and connecting it to its African possessions. 1 The Ottoman Empire planned to build railways to connect Turkey and Iraq, and the Baghdad Railway was part of that ambition. The increasingly weak and indebted empire awarded Germany’s Deutsche Bank the contract to build the Baghdad Railway. The Baghdad Railway was 600 miles short of its anticipated destination when World War I broke out in 1914. I’ve often wondered what type of Baghdad might have existed if there had been a train link between the two cities. Instead of applying for an entry visa to Germany a month in advance, detailing my arrival and departure dates, presenting my bank statements, providing proof of address and legal residency in the United States, and submitting booked accommodation in Berlin (before I know whether or not I am allowed to enter the country), I could take a train from Baghdad and arrive in Berlin two days later. Being an Arab from a Muslim country, mobility is a theme I fantasise about constantly. My passport is inspected everywhere I go, and I have to go through a lengthy visa process. I never know if I’m going there until I really get there. This year’s journey will be exciting.

Terror Museum’s topography

The Topography of Terror Museum was my first destination in Berlin. The site, which was once known as the Prinz Albrecht Palais, was home to the Gestapo, Sicherheitspolizie, SD, Einsatzgruppen, and SS Reich Security Main Office. The evolution of this location since WWII is a prominent example of one of Berlin’s longest and most heated discussions concerning postwar reconstruction and its connections to the city’s history and identity.