Karen Dabrowska

IRAQI KURDISTAN TOUR 13th - 23rd October, 2017

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13th October

Arrived in Diyarbakir, visited Hasankeyf, a medieval city which will soon disappear forever when Turkey builds a new hydroelectric dam.

14th October

Tour of Diyarbakir. Transfer to hotel before the group met in the evening to go for street food and mixed with locals.

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15th October

Crossed to Iraqi Kurdistan.

October 16th

Tour of Erbil. Early in the day we saw old Erbil visiting the Kurdish Archaeology Museum, the Mound of Qalich Agha and the ancient Citadel before stopping for a drink in one of the old tea houses. In the afternoon we visited Erbil FC stadium and the Jalil Khayat mosque. In the evening we headed out to Ainkawa for food and drinks in the Christian district.

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17th October

After breakfast we travelled out onto the famous Hamilton Road. Widely regarded as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th Century, the road was engineered by Kiwi, Archibald Hamilton between 1928 and 1932. The road snaked through incredible scenery, from gorges, canyons, rivers, lakes and mountains. We stopped along the way at Bekhal Waterfall, Gali Ali Bag Waterfall and also pasesed through the towns and villages of Shaqlawa, Harir and Soran.

In the late afternoon we headed to Pank Resort, a holiday destination for both Kurdish and Arab Iraqis. As well as breathtaking panoramic views there was also the chance to use a self drive rollercoaster! Afterwards headed to the Korek Mountain ski resort with a 15 minute cable car ride to the top.

Afterwards we returned to Shaqlawa.

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18th October

After breakfast we travelled to Sulaymaniyah. En route we visited the Qshla of Koya Citadel and the beautiful Dokan Lake where it was possible to take a boat ride. Upon arrival in Sulaymaniyah took a sombre visit to Amna Sukhara, also known as the 'Red Prison'. This was the former Northern headquarters of Mukhbarat (the Iraqi Intelligence Service) and was used by Saddam Hussein's regime for imprisonment and torture of Kurds. Within the prison is a beautiful memorial made from 182,000 mirrored pieces and 5400 lights. Each piece of mirror signifies each Kurd killed by Saddam's regime and the lights for each Kurdish village destroyed.

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19th October

We visited the town of Halabja. On March 16th 1988, the town was subjected to the worst cases of genocide in Iraq's history. (I wrote one of my first articles to do with the Middle East about Halabja. Interviewed a Kurd who said: “If I tell you what I do I will lose my job, if I tell you who I am I will lose my life.”) Over a period of 5 hours, chemical weapons were used against the civilians of Halabja with 5000 killed and up to 10,000 injured. We visited the Halabja Monument Museum before driving North to the Ahmed Away waterfall, close to the Iranian border.

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20th October

There was an morning departure to the remote mountain village of Lalish; the spiritual heartland of the Yazidi people. I interviewed Sheikh Baba Tawesh who had a wonderful message of peace: “We are all the children of one God, I hope everyone will be happy in this place.”

Afterwards drove north to the city of Duhok. Duhok is encircled by mountains and the Tigris river. We visited the bazaar and huge man made dam before spending the evening socialising around the City with the locals.

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21st October

We departed from Duhok and drove to the border where the departure was an exercise in bureaucratic inefficiency.

22nd October

We visited a 2,134-metre-high mountain in southeastern Turkey, Nemrut, notable for the summit where a number of large statues are erected around what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century

23rd October

I flew home inspired by the courage, resilience and determination of the Iraqi Kurds. They really have no friends but the mountains as they continue with the struggle for an independent state.

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If you want to have a similar, fantastic life changing experience contact Lupine Travel. Dylan Harris is a great guy who will assist you.