Iraq – Kurdistan


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Sulaymaniyah – Typically I like eggs, bacon, sausage for breakfast. Karwan decided that this morning we would eat a dish consisting of sheep stomach and sheep brain. It wasn’t bad, but I confess I won’t be making it a regular part of my mornings.

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Sulaymaniyah- We went in a rug shop and saw this beauty from Iran. It’s hand woven silk. It’s about 4×7 feet and his final price was $5000.  I would say it is worth every penny.

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Bradost Mountain – Shanader Cave – This was a very long walk up the caves. It was at this moment that I realized my guide was in much better shape than I was.

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Sulaymaniyah – Saddam converted a government building into a torture facility where Kurds were tortured and kept prisoner with no trial. The building is now a museum and houses Saddam era tanks outside.

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Erbil – I love food and Kurdish food is the best. I could get a giant meat wrap for under $1

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Erbil – Shopping in Iraq? Yes!  Erbil actually has a great shopping center. The clothes are mostly made in Turkey. The quality is decent and the prices are excellent.

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Erbil – Dates, nuts and all sorts of sweets can be found for pennies.

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Erbil – This cost $1.10 and was delicious. I ate several of these per day.

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Erbil – Pomegranates are one of my favorite foods. $4 in the US and $.30 in Iraq….

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Erbil – The Hotel Quartz. For $40 a night you get great wifi, a poor, a weight room and outstanding service. I loved my time here.

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100 Miles Outside of Erbil – Refugee Camp, holding mostly Syrian citizens.

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The results of war on people that did not want a war..

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Close to Mosul, near Syrian Refugee Camps

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Iraqi State of Ninawa – Dayro d-Mor Mattai sits on top of Mount Alfaf in northern Iraq and is roughly 15 miles from Mosul. It is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in existence and contains a large collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts.

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Mar Mattai Monastery

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Rabban Hormiz Monastery – This was another fun hike. The Monastery contains many hideouts deep in the cliffs. Karwan and I scrambled up (and fell back down) the mountain in order to get into some of the deeper and older caves.

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In Iraq you are not brought small portions. The lentil soup and lamb was incredible.

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Tea is served at all hours of the day. Tea with breakfast, more before lunch, several glasses with lunch, a few more after lunch and of course a half dozen with dinner. The tea is VERY strong and lots of sugar must be added.

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Dohuk – This is how your dinner gets delivered in Iraq.  Karwan and I were guests at the house of one of his friends. I didn’t want to show up empty handed so I bought this goat for $60 at the local market. Naturally we threw him in the back of the car and brought him home for dinner. (He was not thrilled about being in the trunk. It’s a miracle he didn’t knock out one of the lights)

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Dohuk – You might notice that this is NOT the same goat as before. Our gracious host took one look at my purchased goat and insisted it was an old female and not worth eating. We then went down the road to this farmers house and switched the old goat out for this young one.

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Dohuk – As you might have guessed, this goat was dinner. I’ve personally never slaughtered a goat before, but I found that I was quite good at it.

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Dohuk – My gracious host and his son. He operates a small farm that even for Iraqi standards is in the middle of no where. It’s worth mentioning that the decor here is in line with every house I entered in Iraq. They have no furniture and they sleep on those mats on the floor. Each house is just many large rooms with mats in them. They don’t even have any beds in the house. My guide briefly had a bed in his own house but disliked it and sold it weeks later.

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Dohuk – Children, Guns and Cigarettes, not exactly a common combination in the US, but very common in Iraq.

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Dohuk – This was used to pick up the goat.

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Dohuk – Nothing like fresh killed goat and a little tomato soup.

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Dohuk – I do love ducks and geese. I spent a large part of the morning attempting to pet these. They were not compliant.

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Dohuk – Leaving my host. He was generous and kind (and spoke zero English)

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Lalish Temple. This is one of the oldest Yazidi temples on the earth. Each Yazidi is expected to go there at least one in their lifetime. It was built around 1200.

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Lalish

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Sulaymaniyah – Gorgeous views. Pity it was below freezing and windy. We ate Kebabs up here until we couldn’t move.

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Erbil – The largest mosque in the city.

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These views are typical of the Kurdish region of Iraq

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It took a little hiking to get to some of the best vantage points.

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A significant part of the Kurdish population is Christian, although 75% are Sunni Muslims.

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We attempted to go up the road to a former palace of Saddam’s. The road was too snowy so we had to turn back. On the way back down we were involved in a fierce snowball fight.

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Undisclosed Location – For privacy reasons I can’t say much about this part of my trip. I will say that my whole trip was incredible and all of my hosts were kind and generous.

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Standing near the fire was the only way to stay warm.

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Erbil – We were told that this rooster is a champion fighter and has never lost a match. Cock Fighting is common in much of Iraq (as well as Afghanistan)  We were also invited to “Gypsy Fights”. I would have attended but I was told they were essentially underground fights that are often raided by the police.

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Delicious food at Karwan’s house.

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It’s hard to tell in this picture but this little Kurdish girl had the most stunning eyes I have ever seen. She was selling vegetables in a bag by the road. I remarked about her eyes to Karwan and he informed me that she has been on TV before for winning a beauty pagent.

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This was a sesame oil factory situated on the bottom floor of our hotel. The smell was very strong.

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Lalish

 

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