Life on the Doorstep of ISIS

The battles are going on just an hour drive West as I fly into the Kurdish Capital of Erbil. I must admit that I felt a littlebit tense as the flight circled over the city around 2.30 in the morning before turning around and landing at a Turkish border town.

Aparrently there had been a fog that did not permit us to land and when we tried again the next morning I could see the city well lit up and I felt nothing but excited to soon be landing in one of the World’s longest continously inhabited cities in the World.

My couchsurfing host “Dilovan” met me with a smile in the arrivals hall, took me around the city center and showed me that life here was going on as normal. Sure, there were police and military doing road checks all the time, but other than that people were going to school, trading in the markets, drinking tea and watching soccer like anywhere else in the World. He said the Peshmera, the Armed Kurdish forces had met the ISIS soldiers by the airport in August 2014 but fought them off and kept the city completele safe since then.

His tour in the city included the highlights that I would reccommend if you ever decide to go there:

-Visit the 7000 year old citadel and take a photo at the citadel central viewpoint

-Checking out the old bazar for the oldest tea house “Matchko” and a schwarma kebab

– A cable car ride from Minaret Park to the Shanidar Park to get a good view og the city and a stroll in the parks that are very popular among the locals

He also took me to a really good Syrian restaurant to try out the regional cusine, with the best yoghurt I have ever eaten, some hummus, falafel and super fresh tabulé. The four bars we visited in the night though were pretty empty and expensive, but this is not the reason why you should visit Erbil in the first place. The city felt completely safe and the hospitality among the people was some of the best I have ever encountered. There was not a single other tourist in sight when I was there and people were all very welcoming and honest, so I did not have to negotiate with sellers or fend off anyone who was interested in my money. Erbil is a place I definitely will visit again on my next, more thorough trip through Kurdistan.

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