Power cuts get in the way of romance in Baghdad

Ahmed Hadi and his new wife Tiba Mohammed, like many young married couples in Baghdad, are not getting enough sex. The problem, they say, is not a lack of desire but of power—electrical power.

Making love for many of Iraq’s Muslim population not only requires a willing partner but also a sure supply of water—preferably hot in the winter—to enable the participants to take a shower afterwards before going to pray.

No hot water means no hot shower and therefore prayers, which take place five times a day for devout Muslims, can become a problem.

Either a couple avoids sex or they are forced to take a cold dip, not a pleasant prospect during the winter months.

“I have less sex than I want because there is no hot water to wash with afterwards,” moaned Hadi (25) a Baghdad local who works in the water sector and has only been married for two weeks.

“Sometimes, when we are in the middle of making love the electricity turns off so we have to stop. I get out of bed to put a generator on and then we have to wait for the water to heat up,” he said.

On the evening of the Eid al-Adha holiday which started on Tuesday, Hadi had hoped for a night of romance.

“Unfortunately, the electricity cut out from 5pm until 11pm.
There was nothing for us to do other than sit and look at each other. I did not get married just to have conversation,” he said.

In contrast to the situation in Iraq, power cuts in Western countries often lead to a spike in births nine months later as couples abandon watching television to share a warm bed.

Baghdad and much of central Iraq is suffering its worst ever electricity shortage, said a Western diplomat with expertise in the electricity sector. The power is on for just two to six hours per day in the capital.

In contrast, southern and northern Iraq—where most of the power stations are based—have more energy then before the United States-led invasion when Saddam Hussein used to divert most of the power to Baghdad, depriving everyone else.

Following his downfall in April 2003, US-led and Iraqi projects have been launched to generate permanent power for all of Iraq, but so far they have failed to make much impact.

This is because the US-led coalition underestimated the dilapidated state of Iraq’s electricity infrastructure following a decade of international sanctions, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In addition, repair work has been hampered daily by insurgent attacks against transmission lines and power stations.

For normal Iraqis, especially those living in Baghdad, this has resulted in further hardship.

Yasser Mohammed Saffar, a 26-year-old shop owner, and Tamara Shimary (20) his wife of one year, live together with Safar’s parents and two sisters in an apartment in southeastern Baghdad.

He too said the lack of electricity has affected his sex life because there is no hot water in the winter months and no air-conditioning in the summer—another major impediment to a person’s libido.

When Safar got married in the summer of 2004 he was so worried about the electricity cutting out in the flat on his first night with Shimary that he decided to bribe an official from the local grid to keep the power flowing.

“However, I then realised that it would be cheaper—and more private—to book a night in a hotel for my new wife and I,” he recalled. “We had plenty of electricity, air-conditioning and water, it was great.”

Major hotels try to secure a constant supply of energy for their guests.

One such hotel is the al-Mansour in central Baghdad, which is conveniently located close to the well-powered Green Zone, where the Iraqi seat of government and a number of embassies are based.

Mohammed Jabbar, assistant manager for house-keeping at the hotel, agreed that guaranteed electricity and hot water were an attraction for newly-weds.

Safar said the lack of electricity in Iraq was definitely preventing people from having as much sex as they would like, but he also blamed other stress factors such as the deadly violence.

“Each kind of disorder you face—such as the security problem and the lack of electricity—reduces your sex drive, eventually down to zero,” he said.

“Fortunately I am still going, thank goodness.” - AFP

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