A glimpse of northern Iraq
About the journey
Already somewhen in 2008 i wanted to pay a visit to northern Iraq, respectively to Iraqi Kurdistan, which is by far more stable and safe than central and south part of the country. It did not happen and the more happy i used an option to make a short trip there from Turkey in the beginning of 2013. I've visited the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan - Erbil and small towns Koy Sinjaq, Shaqlawa and Akre.

Countries visited:Turkey, Iraq
Travelperiod: 1/2013
Photoblog
Istanbul Otogar... on the road again
Istanbul Otogar... on the road again
Anitkabir - Ataturk's Mausoleum
Anitkabir - Ataturk's Mausoleum

From Istanbul i took a morning bus to Ankara. It was raining heavily and rain turned into snow as the highway was climbing over mountains between Istanbul and Ankara. The weather is bad - bucketing down, so pretty much the only what i did was visit of Anitkabir - Mausoleum of Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic. In the evening i'm moving from downtown to Ankara Esenboga Airport and prior midnight Pegasus Airlines plane departs towards Erbil.

early morning... leaving Erbil airport
early morning... leaving Erbil airport
Baghdad, Kirkuk or Mosul? Not yet!
Baghdad, Kirkuk or Mosul? Not yet!

Immigration in Erbil was slow and my passport was carefully examinated, but i'm granted a 15 days stay without questioning. So i'm in Iraq, it's 2:30 AM, i have nothing pre-arranged and the arrival hall offers 8 chairs and 2 non-working ATMs. I have survived rest of the night at a small cafe near the terminal, and with first daylight I made myself on the way to downtown.

selling strawberries and chestnuts
selling strawberries and chestnuts
early morning in the bazaar
early morning in the bazaar

I wandered around historical Citadel, changed USD into Iraqi Dinars (1250 IQD vs. 1 USD) with moneychangers on the street and anchored in hotel Bekhal near bazaar. The building was looking quite run down from the outside, entrance was a bit scary, but owner was nice and had a room with shower for a good rate (22 000 IQD).

on the road from Erbil to Koya
on the road from Erbil to Koya
Koya Citadel
Koya Citadel

In the early afternoon I took a shared taxi (6000 IQD) to Koya, small town 70 kilometres to the east, which is pure "off the beaten path" destination. But it hosts a few sights such as a 19th century Citadel and a well hidden historical caravanserai.

view around Koya
view around Koya
Sheikh Choly Minaret
Sheikh Choly Minaret

Still with daylight i'm back in Erbil and yet pay a short walk to Sheikh Choly Minaret, which is a remnant of a 12th century mosque. While walking back to the hotel i noticed, that one of the moneychangers is selling old iraqi banknotes depicting Sadam Hussein. I bought few pieces, as that's probably the only "souvenir" one can get here.

my room in hotel Bekhal
my room in hotel Bekhal
the Erbil Citadel viewed from the Central Square
the Erbil Citadel viewed from the Central Square

My objective for the next day was small mountain town Akre, north of Erbil. Unfortunately, there was a powercut during the night and batteries in my camera are empty, so no photos from this trip.

me in front of Ibn Al-Mustawfy statue
me in front of Ibn Al-Mustawfy statue
the Citadel lanes under re-construction
the Citadel lanes under re-construction

Next day morning i finally head to explore famous Erbil Citadel. Being inhabited for 6000 years, it competes with Aleppo, Damascus and Jerusalem for the title of the longest continuously inhabited place in the world. However the site is not anymore a living place, but undergoes a reconstruction and the spirit will likely be gone soon.

Erbil seen from the Citadel balcony
Erbil seen from the Citadel balcony
winter in Iraq - Shaqlawa
winter in Iraq - Shaqlawa

Next day morning i checked out from the hotel and headed once again towards north, to a small town Shaqlawa.

the winter fairy tail in the Middle East
the winter fairy tail in the Middle East

Got back to Erbil yet before sunset, managed some last shopping and took a cab to BtoB restaurant, which is open 24/7 and lays close to the airport. At 2AM i'm at the airport, going through in total 4 (four) security checks and at 4:30AM follows uplift to Istanbul, from there to Prague and in the evening i'm at home. Opening news on the web and reading about today's suicide bomb attacks in Kirkuk (70 kilometres from Erbil), killing tens of people.

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