Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

by Erik Futtrup - 1 year, 9 months ago

Iraqi Kurdistan, 17. August 2016

Was this my last mistake to do in life? Entering the AtlasGlobal plane, thinking if it was all a bad idea, and no turning back now… I had just come to Istanbul from Israel, making sure I did not have any papers and stamps from Israel, as Iraq will not allow you to enter in this case – and vice versa, trying not to keep it too obvious while in Israel that I was going to Iraq.

Arriving at 01:30 in the morning in Erbil, I was surprised that I was at my hotel and could go to sleep at 02:00 – 30 seconds for a stamp and welcome, quick transfer with bus from terminal to check-point, a taxi for 15$ to the hotel, as other travelers had described. The airport was new and shiny and high security. The city was empty but well lit, and the hotel Asenappar in the mainly Christian suburb of Ainkawa was open when I arrived. OK, so far, though still a bit high on adrenaline.

Up at 9 for breakfast in the nice hotel, and now ready for the next test of my stepping out of my comfort zone. The neighborhood was quiet and businesses opening up at around 10 when I walked around. Visited a couple of churches (saint Georges – the one with the dragon slayer), a catholic church. Butchers with cow heads outside and friendly owner who wanted his picture taken with a nice slab of meat.

Erbil has not too many sights, but the center with the Citadel is a must as a couple of other places. Changed some money with a money changer at the corner (ca. 1200IQD/$) As happened with all taxi drivers I took, they spoke only a few words of English, but all happy to hear I was from Denmark, holding their fingers close as to indicate we were friends with Kurds. It was already hot now, mid-thirties to end at 40 in the afternoon. Busy in the center, but not too crowded and I was not intimidated or approached. Walked through the nearby bazar and up the north entrance to the Citadel (the southern was closed). The citadel is the longest continuously inhabited city in the world (supposedly) – for 8000 years. It rises above the city and you get great views from here – though it was hazy from the hot desert air. The citadel was not too exiting in itself, but had a small mosque and a huge pole with the Kurdish flag.

After a quick refreshment in the bazar, a taxi to the big park – Martyr Sami Abdulrahman park – it was a nice park, but I was practically alone in the middle of the hot day. The Park restaurant was closed, which I had targeted for lunch, but ok, took a taxi back to Ainkawa outside the parliament. Damascino for lunch, next to the hotel. They had a small altar for Syria while the television featured the current big attach on nearby Mosul (50 km away). Siesta and at 16:30 a taxi to the Family Mall. Could have been anywhere on earth, higher prices than elsewhere. Got a nice coffee, cheap dvd’s (2$ each) – latest releases – probably not fully legal… A dinner at the food court before heading home to sleep. In general I paid 5$ or 4-5000 ID for transport – I typically suggested it. To bed at 20:00 to get up again at 01:00 in the morning for my flight. Taxi – a driver with a small boy – who talked all the way, the little English he could. He would like to move to Germany – next month. First check, then a thorough check for all cars – for bombs, with dogs etc, then for the next checkpoint for bag scans, bus to the terminal, check in, passport check, then another bag scan for the departure wing.

Random notes:

  • T-shirt is the general wear by men, some women wear a scarf, but not a majority.
  • The main reason to do this trip now, was the new law about countries you are not allowed to visit as a Dane – a list to be announced in September.

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