Smoke-filled pool halls are back in Mosul. After ISIS, "we seek joy."

Shortly after the Islamic State took control of Mosul in the summer of 2014, hitting brightly-colored balls with a well-chalked cue was among the many activities the group ruled un-Islamic and a distraction from jihad, ordering halls to shut down.

With the militants now expelled from the city’s east, Captain is one of more than a dozen pool halls that have reopened as residents try to bring back a sense of normalcy to their lives. New clubs have also opened up, betting that residents will indulge in some of the pleasures that were banned by the militants.

“We don’t seek winning, we seek joy,” said the owner, Faris al-Abdali, an international snooker referee, as he finished up a game. “The wheel of life is turning again, but it’s slow.”

No one flinches at the sounds of distant explosions that occasionally ring out above the music, also banned in Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, along with the cigarettes and water pipes that fuel the clientele.