As Turkish forces embark upon a massive offensive into Kurdish-controlled Northeast Syria, memories of my trip to Iraqi Kurdistan are in the front of my mind.
>Part I: A Day Trip To Iraq
If I showed you these pictures below, would you ever guess they were from Iraq? Keep in mind this was during the Iraq War. Women and children were running around. Men were laughing as they drank coffee on the street. Street vendors hawked food while a beautiful clock tower chimed at the top of the hour.
I felt very safe in Erbil. So safe, in fact, I walked from the city center back to the airport alone late at night. Today, I’ll focus on some of he historical sites I visited.
Jumping into the taxi, I headed into town, which turned out to be a very short distance away.
The most prominent feature of Erbil is the Citadel, an ancient fortress dating back to the 10th Century BC (so over 3,000 years). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a striking reminder of endurance. Like much of the region, the history of Erbil is one of conquest by a long list of empires over time. But as occupiers have changed, the Citadel has remained.
Beside the Citadel was a statue of Ibn al-Mustawfi, a Kurdish historian who lived from 1169-1239.
Walking through the town square you would really never know that you were in Iraq. You could just as easily be in a European city.
Retailers dotted the city center, with tailors, eateries, spice merchants, grocers, and even a little mall.
As the sun began to set, I made my way to Minare Park, which includes the Mudhafaria Minaret. That dates back to 1190, over 800 years old.
The park included an eclectic mix of fountains, courtyards, greenery, and even gondolas.
After about an hour, I headed back into town to find somewhere to eat dinner and get a haircut.
Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up this report with reflections on some of the conversations I had during my visit…the true reason I am publishing this report now for the first time.