In Parts Of Mosul, A Semblance Of Normality Despite War
In some parts of Mosul, you can almost forget that a war is being waged over the city between Iraqi forces and Islamic State (ISIS) militants who still control more than half of it - at least momentarily.
Cars clog the streets, stalls are heaped with fresh produce and bicycles weave through the traffic, as the city slowly emerges from more than two years under the iron grip of ISIS.
As Iraqi forces prise away more and more of the militants' largest urban stronghold, a semblance of normality is returning to eastern districts that were retaken in the early stages of a campaign that began nearly three months ago.
The market was bustling with people.
"The situation is good, we are comfortable. The streets have reopened and people are back to work. Thank God, and thanks to the security forces, this is a blessing from God. Nutritional goods are available, we have everything we need. It takes time for life (to return to normal), it does not happen overnight, it needs time," Abu Rakan, a vendor and resident said.
Many people stayed in their homes throughout the battle, defying predictions of an exodus from the city where as many as 1.5 million were said to reside.
Those who left -- both during the fighting and before -- are also returning, even though basic services such as electricity, health facilities and water remain absent.
The municipality has resumed work, but much of its equipment was damaged by ISIS, which converted some of its vehicles into car bombs, so local authorities in Mosul are borrowing them from other Iraqi provinces.
At a busy intersection, workers were digging up the road to fix a water pipe damaged by an air strike.
"There are many broken water pipes, we were able to get water to Tahrir (district) but the network isn't back to normal yet," a municipality worker, Ahmad Fathi said.
Young men ran after a ball on a soccer pitch, some wearing shorts, which were forbidden under ISIS. The logos on their football shirts, however, are still missing: the militants deemed them un-Islamic and ordered they be removed, particularly those resembling a cross.
Occasionally, the militants themselves came to play, prompting everyone else to flee in fear of being caught in the crosshairs of coalition planes targeting ISIS, said 22-year old Osama, who runs the pitch.
There is still a mark where a mortar tore through the synthetic turf, and only shards of glass remain in the window panes after a car bomb exploded nearby when Iraqi forces retook Zuhour in early November.
Some residents were still celebrating their returned freedoms. A taxi drove past, its passengers singing along to loud music and dancing in their seats. A man in the front passenger seat, from a district recently retaken by the security forces, said it was an indescribable feeling.