“Where are you going next” I was asked many times while traveling in Turkey. “I’m going to Iraq”… And quickly the blank look in their eyes would follow with the same interrogation! “But Why?” would usually follow?
Why I came here is pretty simple. I had the same philosophy for the last 10 years. I go everywhere, and only once I am there I discover what there is to see, and usually, I am blown away that these things are not more “popular”… Most people dream to go to the same places… New York, Paris, Venice, London… While I do agree these places are nice, I believe most people have just been brainwashed to believe these are the nicest places to see and do not push further to seek what other destinations can give them. I am a professional marketer, I know how these things work. It’s not their fault, they hear about New York, Paris, and London in Music, Movies, TV, Magazines, Publicity, Social Media, Pictures from friends travel, etc… These places enjoy a massive free marketing and if you don’t research a little more, you will believe these are the only interesting places to go. I tried to show this in some maps that I have created to show how these “mainstream” countries compare to other unusual destinations, like Iran, Uzbekistan, Burma, and even Iraq… I don’t always know these places I just go and find out that they are amazing!
Kurdish People in front of the 7000 y/o Citadel
Iraq was a quick stop, only 4 days, but that was enough considering that movement is very difficult around the country. As I write this in August 2017, Mosul just got liberated from ISIS a few weeks back, and the offensive on Tal Afar has just been launched by the Iraqi Army while I was here. So I was pretty much restricted to stay around Erbil and y visa only allowed to stay in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdistan is very autonomous and never experienced War. They have their own military and with the Help of the Coalition, have managed to protect their borders, which made them War free for the whole time the Americans started their war in 2003.
I had the chance to Meet some NGO workers as well as Kurdish friends from Couchsurfing who have been incredibly nice to bring me around. I spent one night in a resto/bar in the Christian Ankawa district of Erbil, where most NGO workers, foreign workers, security guards and soldiers meet to have a drink and eat in an open air area. Very interesting to hear all the different stories of their experience through the past years working in Iraq.
Inside the Citadel with ruins from several Dynatsties
Erbil is a very old city, one the oldest inhabited city in the world, and the Citadel dates back to 7000 years ago! That is one of the oldest standing structure I have seen. It is still under renovation at the moment and most of its interior is blocked to tourist as archeological works are still underway. But as soon as it is done it will make a tourist attraction that could rival current wonders of the world and make Erbil a tourist spot. If only the war can end and Iraq can stabilize, Irbil would be a definite winner in the countries future.
Amazing shot from the Sky of an Iraqi Village and Iran in the Horizon
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