Sunday, October 30, 2022

One week in Erbil

 It finally happened, and it's official. My wanderings will resume as they used before.

We decided to resume precisely from where we interrupted two years ago: the trip to Iraq. The original program was quite different, including not just Iraqi Kurdistan but the whole country and also Egypt. 

So let's start with some information about Kurdistan. It is a geo-cultural territory in western Asia, where the Kurds represent most of the population. The borders are roughly defined, and although the Kurds have constantly asked to have their territory also politically and internationally recognized, it never happened. 

The boundaries stretch into four regions: Southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), Northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and northern Syria (Western Kurdistan).

That said, let's dig into Erbil, the capital of Southern Kurdistan. Getting the visa is as easy as possible and can be purchased at the airport before passport control. That was a relief because we arrived at destination after a roughly ten hours flight via Doha from Helsinki at 03:20 in the morning. All we wanted was to reach the hotel and sleep for as long as needed.
The first thing I noticed coming out of the airport was crickets singing. That meant something I thought was lost for the next six months: Summer.

The following day started, the quest to discover the city. Not knowing whether I was supposed to even wear a scarf in Kurdistan, I brought one with me. However, I kept it first on my shoulders, then on my hand, and for the rest of the day and holiday, as a decoration for my camera bag :-).

The lifestyle is easy, the people are friendly, and I've felt far safer than in many other holiday destinations. Not to mention the food is an experience impossible to forget. However, it takes a bit of time to discover the places where you can have more food choices than kebabs. 

The first two days, we practically lived off Kebab, but the crispness on the outer part of the meat and the juiciness of the inside made me forget the existence of other food.

The heart of the city is the  Erbil Citadel, locally called Qelat. It is a tell or occupied mound and the historical city center of Erbil. It has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 21 June 2014.

The earliest evidence for the occupation of the citadel mound dates to the 5th millennium BC and possibly earlier.

The citadel is nowadays uninhabited, and it's going under reconstruction to bring back the old shine that characterized it in the far past. For this reason, many of the areas weren't accessible, but it was enough to appreciate its beauty.
From the southern gate, you can enjoy the view of the main square and the Bazaar on the right side.

The Bazaar is the center of social life in Erbil. There beats its very heart in a vibrancy of colors, scents, and tastes; you find everything you need and even more for your everyday life, from food to house appliances to house decor, name it.
And that's why we lost ourselves in its endless alleys, first discovering it all, then searching for something to bring home.
After a long day of walking, we ended up at a cafeteria on the Citadel with a stunning view of the main square.

The city isn't located within any natural attraction, but the presence of the many parks offers the soul a place to rest and enjoy beauty.

Yet, also the chance to remember what is the most essential things in life at the memorial Sami Abdulrahman park:

The dustiness of the semi-desertic environment isn't something that really disturbs you. When the evening comes, after extremely long walks that will bring you to discover new corners of this fascinating and vibrant city, you will sit on a terrace, at a bar in the crowded food streets, or in a cafeteria surrounded by quiet and harmony.
There, sipping tea, you will find yourself indulging in one of the most spectacular events in nature: the Sunset!
For the moment, that's all, and remember to keep yourself safe and entertained!

Stay tuned,

The Wandering Writer

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