SEARCHING FOR THE REAL IRAQ, BUT FAILED..


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Middle East » Iraq » North » As Sulaymaniyah
October 15th 2010
Published: December 4th 2010
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Sulaymaniah Sulaymaniah Sulaymaniah

freshly baked bread at the bazaar
10,000 dinars we paid for the 2 hour trip,from Erbil to Koya, 3 checkpoints again and very thorough, we waited a long time on the 2nd one and the 3rd one we have to come to the office, but all is well, scenery is same, dry barren landscapes with a trickle of trees, dramatic colors though and we ascend some mountains and come down a few valleys. in Koya the taxi driver dropped us off some intersection and told us to walk the rest of the way to the taxi stand for Sulaimaniyah and we suspect because we refuse to take him om his offer to drive us all the way for an inflated price. We asked for directions from many people, shop owner, street cleaning guy and finally some soldiers on the street, who pointed us to the taxi stand for Sulaimaniyah, same thing, checkpoints and scenery but finally we made it to Sulaimaniyah but like always we got dropped off somewhere and fell prey to taxi mafia to get to town, we asked to be dropped off at Chakana hotel, traffic was terrible, they asked for too much and wont bring down prices even if no one is there,
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juice guy, one of the many
that is why I hate it when LP makes them their pick, they get greedy and bring up prices dramatically. We walked to see other hotels in the area and we tried hotel Kane a few meters away, they quoted us 50,000 for double! when Frank turned his back on them to leave the price went down to 30,000 so we took it, not bad a place most of the rooms are empty so we get to chose the room we want, away from the traffic noise of the main street. One client overheard our bargaining and was annoyed at management , he is paying more than us and they have a heated discussion as they photocopy our passport.

After settling in we went for a walk to the bazaar, it was very busy, lots of people everywhere, we had a donner kebab, I had fish kebab and it was delicious and is so cheap, 1,000 dinar only at one of the several stalls in the bazaar. We looked for internet but cant find one so we gave up and walked back and past our hotel we found one and hid there for couple hours and I sorted my
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shoe repairman giving my boots a new life
flight out of the country, then a nice good meal and bought a few beers and off to bed, there are heaps of liquor store near our hotel, unbelievable, they are very relaxed here, seems like a normal thing for men to go the liquor stores and get boozed up before heading home from work or something.

The next morning being a Friday, the museums are closed so we decided to walk to the bazaar from the back door, we leisurely walked the busy side streets, and again we were the center of attention, a few of the vendors allowed me to take their photos, we then encountered a line of bakeries, baking their breads the traditional way with this cave like oven, we observed them for a while and got invited to witness how they make bread and we got free samples. The bazaar is a maze of alleyways selling from women's wear, to machine tools, fruits, meat, Chinese made cheapies, proverbially the whole kitchen sink. We got tired of walking so we sought to sit down in a cafe, we found a juice bar on the main street, really good fresh fruits juices, mixers going all the
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pickled whatnots
time but they still put a bit of sugar despite its natural sweetness so beware! The honeydew juice was the best.

I tried to photocopy the Middle East LP that Frank let me borrowed but no one would photocopy it for me, I asked 7 or 8 photocopy places and they won't or can't tell me why they won't do it, I could not figure out whether we are breaking some laws or what, I gave up an as we walk around the market, helicopters flyover above the clear blue skies, people stop and look up and cheer their military choppers, Frank was a bit uneasy, thinking something might be up for them to be here , and we heard them roar some more several times during the day. We found the live animal section, rabbits, pigeons of different shapes and sizes and color are being sold, some live turkey and big chickens. We found a nice park to sit and relax, the Municipal park next to the University. People sitting on the grass, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful day, then suddenly we noticed lots of Asian people, I tried to see if they are Filipinos but are not, we think they are Nepalese and South Asians, there are lots of them! They must work here, contract workers, the locals look at them intently especially to the girls.Must be their day off.

Gotten tired of people watching we walked back towards the Deya internet cafe, Frank wants some coffee but since its Friday most establishments are closed so we ended up surfing the net to while away the time. Then a brief coffee break at one of the restaurants near the internet cafe. We then walked to the Azadi park, lots of well dressed people out in the park to watch people and be seen, families, young men with their newly polished pointy shoes, a few women, the people here a bit more liberal, some women not wearing head scarves and wearing cleavage revealing outfits. There is a nearly dried up man made lake, and some amusement park,with ferries wheel. Then I split with Frank as he gets back to the hotel while I walked back to the bazaar to get some fish donner for dinner, the streets now are full of people, lively and busy the bazaar is alive again. the Municipal is full of people, an Asian woman walking the streets was the center of attention among the men, as if they have not seen a woman before.

Later in the night I walked with Frank to a pizza place so he can have dinner, I bought a huge pomegranate fruit from a fruit stall across the street, now it is busy again in town, lots of people out enjoying the balmy night, we went back to buy some booze from the liquor store but Frank got into a long conversation with the vendors and so I went back to the hotel and started drinking Efes beer. Power was cut once again, but the generator kicked off and we fell asleep with the a/c on. The next morning the plan was to see a couple of museums, Slemani museum from what LP describes sounds interesting, we walked there and it was shut, Friday and Saturday, shut, damn.. then we tried to find the other one but failed to locate it so we just walked back to the bazaar and had our brunch at the cheap restaurant place we had meal yesterday, they were very happy to see us, and the waiters watching us eat was
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Frank eating at a cafe
a bit uncomfortable, they probably had not had a tourist here before.

As we walk the bazaar we located a shoe repair man, I had my shoes mended again as they were falling apart again, maybe the 5th time it has to be repaired. The old man seems to be well skilled in his trade, it did not take long to fix my shoes, I also bought some soles to replace the old ones. then we walked towards the post office, they are open but they won't take Frank's postcards, they told him come back Tuesday, we said no, we leave today, there were 6 of them in the office and none knows what to do, maybe the person who sells the stamps is off, we dont know, Frank was so annoyed, he asked who pays you to sit around and do nothing then? They just gave us a stare and so we left, useless info from LP once again, we now wonder if the author ever actually went to Iraq at all!

Anyway as we get ready to leave the city, we realized we haven't done really anything cultural, mostly going to the bazaar and getting drunk in our room really. The north of Iraq while "safer" than the rest has nothing to offer for the culture vulture, save for Erbil the capital, even there aside from the fortress and the mosque there's nothing much to see and do hey we tried to see the museum but was shut. I guess we came here and saw how fast progress is affecting most Kurdish cities in Iraq, we felt like we went here just to say we've been here, and so it was. I kinda wonder what is the real Iraq, but it's probably where tourists are not allowed or welcomed, like Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad and the likes. Maybe it's in the small villages but we did not venture so we missed out.

Anyway,back to the hotel and took a taxi to the main bus and share taxi station,a bit far from the center. there we got dropped off at the Koya share taxi, took awhile to fill up, one passenger is a pashmerga(police) going back to his checkpoint station near Erbil, he was nice and made jokes with us, Frank befriended him in case we get into problems he can vouch for us. The 2 hour trip as usual had 3 checkpoints, the 1st one, Frank was called to the police station but only because they want to meet him! The second one an English speaking dude came up and asked us how long we have been in Iraq, the 3rd one near the city, they could not find our visa stamps but refuse help from us, stupid idiots, they eventually found it and let us go.

Arriving in Koya,the police guy and us were dropped off at the bus station for Erbil, we made it clear we want a share taxi that does not come to Kirkuk or it's vicinity, the police guy assured us it is ok to take the bus we are with him and we dont come near Kirkuk, ok so we got on and it is cheaper, only 3,000 dinar each. The 1st checkpoint was only 5 minutes away from the town, Frank again got questioned, they love to check the Germans thoroughly! more checkpoints came after, the scenery is very nice, dry mountains with patches of green, tress or shrubs, and some sheeps and goats pasturing, we noticed some tents as well, must be herders, we then dropped off the police guy at his checkpoint assignment base just outside the city limits of Erbil, back in Erbil we got dropped off somewhere once again and had to take the taxi to the center, we got dropped off at the bazaar. The roads here in Iraq even to the mountains are surprisingly very good, very impressive.

We went back to the Ali hotel but since only Frank will stay, the quoted price is 25,000 dinars! I tried to sweet talk them, I will send some backpackers here etc, did not work, Frank had to pay up. Went to the bazaar and Frank changed some money and our last tea at the fountain park, we stopped by the alleyway where the old men were selling those beads, Frank bought me one as I have no more dibdobs, nice of him. Walked back near our hotel and grabbed the cheapest food you can get donner kebabs for only 1,000 dinars($1) and it is delicious! last farewell to Frank and I took a taxi for 4,000 dinars to the airport, I have to bargain hard taxis start at 7,000! Some locals helped me bargain nice of them, but then he went on and on about why the taxi have to cost that much, oil is expensive he said, the oil we have here , the profits goes only to the government he exclaimed!

Arriving at the airport, the taxi can only go so far and I had to walk to a terminal looking building, I was checked, baggage screened and then on to a bus! The bus drove maybe 10 minutes to the real terminal, weird set up, but the airport is spanking new very nice and clean really impressive. I checked in early I was the 1st in line, the 2 women on the bus with me were Filipinas and they work for Middle East Airline at the check in counter, but did not get to chat with them as I was checked in by another staff who seems to be in training, don't know what to, keeps asking her boss what to do in the computer. Then the Passport control, the immigration officer cannot find my visa, I offered to help as my passport is like a book, he said it's ok don't worry, 5 minutes later the idiot was still thumbing through the pages, need help I asked, he finally relented, I flipped the page in 1 second and there he found the stamp, and off I go. Goodbye Iraq, if I ever want to come back it will be only when Nineveh, Babylon and Baghdad are safe to visit, they have ancient history and treasures that is worth a look, not the modern and fastly growing cities of Kurdistan, well so long.


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5th December 2010
Sulaymaniah

nice pix
5th December 2010

cool!
Hi Gil! I love your blog! =D Did you get into Iraq with a US passport or something? I had a Philippine passport and it was stamped 'not valid for travel to Iraq'. I just read an article about how most locals were not that welcoming towards foreigners (white folks). How is it like for tourists? I messaged you a while back about how you were traveling as a lifestyle. You said you saved up enough money to quit your job & just go. How much do you need to save to travel for at least 7 years non-stop? Happy travels!
22nd September 2011

bound to sulaymania soon.....
hi! i read your blog.... im a Filipino nurse hired to work there. i would like to know if its safe to stay in sulaymania and how about the cost of living....? what place would you prefer to stay? Erbil or sulaimania? hope to hear from you soon..

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