In Karbala, Religious Grief Translates to Big Business

“And the customers don’t just come from Iraq. Often they’re from other Muslim countries too,” he says.

Back outside his store, the women are still admiring the fabrics. “But we don’t need to take any cloth to a tailor,” notes one of them, Sijad, 62. “Today all of the black flags that people hang on their houses are made in China.”

A lot of the black clothing comes from China too, says another Karbala shop owner who wished to be known only as Amir. “They are printed with phrases in Arabic glorifying the battle in which the Imam al-Hussein was killed and other similar slogans. It’s as if the Chinese know a lot about Islamic history,” Amir said, amused.

Like the other shop owners that NIQASH spoke to, Amir doesn’t want to talk about how much money he makes selling black clothing during this holy month.  But like the other store owners, he admits that it’s an especially profitable time of the year. But that’s something that anyone can tell simply by walking Karbala’s streets at this time of the year – there are so many stores selling black clothing and so many customers buying, and wearing, it. It’s clear that in Karbala, the wintry season of sadness for some is a spring time of booming business for others.

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