Youssef Abdelkarim’s storefront on one of Baghdad’s most historic streets is a time capsule.
Thousands of wristwatches fill the tiny shop, where three generations have repaired Iraq’s oldest timepieces.
The dusty display window on Rasheed Street features a single row of classic watches in their felt boxes right at the front, with a mountain of haphazardly piled pieces behind it and others hanging from hooks overhead.
Inside, there are watches in plastic buckets on the floor, packed in cardboard boxes on shelves and stuffed into suitcases.
In a far corner, behind an old wooden desk, 52-year-old Abdelkarim is hunched over an antique piece.
Abdelkarim began fixing watches at the age of 11, after the death of his paternal grandfather, who opened the store in the 1940s.
His grandfather had already passed the trade onto his son, who began to teach Youssef.
He suspects he even fixed a piece that belonged to Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein.
“It was a rare watch brought to me by the presidential palace, with Saddam’s signature on the back,” he recalled.
Much has changed since then. People swapped their analogue wristwatches for digital models, then dropped them all together for smartphones.
But Abdelkarim insists an original timepiece is not a thing of the past.
“A man’s elegance begins with his watch. And his shoes.”