by Michael Runkel - 3 years, 12 months ago
If you think about Iraq than for most people it comes in mind that this is a very dangerous place with lots of segregation and terror. Kidnapping people and suicid atacks as well as a lot of Anti-Americanism. This is true for the most part. It is very dangerous for foreigners to go but only in the Suni and Shia areas in the center and south. In the north instead there is an area which is a dircetorate controlled and dominated from the Kurdish people. This is a completely different world compared to the south. There is no violence no fighting no suicidal terror attacks. The Kurds keep their half independend state well under control and there is a real boom in real estate and the whole economy. The first impression you get when you fly into Erbil, the capital, is a brandnew stylish airport which was recently constructed. Super clean and very efficient you really wonder where you just landed. You don´t need a visa and get instead for the first 15 days a free tourist card.
Erbil is one of the oldest constantly inhabitaded towns in the world, but when you arrive you more likely to see all new buildings and construction sites. The center in contrary remains traditional and offer a great old citadel, a busy covered bazar and some lovely gardens. Everything is completely relaxed and you have no impresssion at all that this used to be war country. Erbil or Hawler, capital of Iraq Kurdistan (Michael Runkel)
If you are confident enough you can easily rent a car there for around 50 USD/day which gives you a lot of flexibility. For sure you won´t see any other foreigners when you do that but that is what makes the whol travelling there so attractive. There are really very few places left in the world which are untouched by tourism and I am sure that this will soon change in Kurdistan as well. Right now there is a good infrastructure of roads and hotels and in the cities many people learn to speak English, aso you don´t need to worry about how to get around. And if you are on the countryside you can be sure that there always will be someone around to help you when you don´t find your way. The people there are definitely top on the list when it comes to find the place where are the friendliest people on this planet. Everybody welcomes you with a big smile on his/her face and tries to communicate with whatever language. Several times the restaurant owners refused to let me pay, because they wanted to invite the foreigners. Same happened to shopkeepers who denied payment when they saw that a foreigner wanted to pay. In the whole time I didn´t meet one unfriendly person there.
Kurdistan offers a wide range of sights, sceneries and cultures. There is a wonderful canyon along the Hamilton road leading into Iran which has waterfalls and lots of very scenic viewpoints to offer. There are Catholic and Syrian monstasteries carved in the rocks close to Mosul highly secured from Kurdish security. There is the main town Lalish from the sect of the Yazidis hidden in a beautiful valley where the people follow their very old traditions. While in Main Iraq those people have to fear to get killed day by day in Kurdistan the people have a complete freedom to follow their religons. Rabban Hormzid Monastery although named Sant Hormzid Monastery in Al-Kosh, Iraq Kurdistan (Michael Runkel)
For scenery I most enjoyed the Hamilton road a masterpiece of construction build in the beginning of the last century. This road leads through a huge canyon from some people compared with the Grand Canyon. It is really pretty with some roaming waterfalls something you won´t necessarily expect when you travel in the middle east. Along the whole road you will meet tons of gas trucks which bring gasoline to Iran which doesn´t have any Raffineries. Just before the border towering snowcapped mountains give you a complete different feeling to what you might expect of Iraq.
Overall Iraq Kurdistan is defintely worth to travel to when you have a little spirit of adventure. It felt completely safe and the people alone where worth the whole trip.