Dahuk Things to Do
Touristic signposts all over town point you towards the Azadi Panorama, but nobody seemed to know what on earth it was. I tried following the signs, but they didn't really lead me anywhere, so i gave up....until my taxi driver coming back from Amedi drove past it and pointed it out. The Azadi Panorama will be a brand new park with a stunning view over Dohuk, which in the right light is really quite beautiful. The park hasn't yet opened, but walking around the complex, you can still get a taste of the views. Once it opens, you'll be able to take a closer look at the enormous Kurdish flag, the clocktower, and the unusual sculpture on the viewpoint...and hopefully it will attract the same sort of crowds that gather in the parks of Slemani and Erbil on Thursdays and Fridays.
From the waterfall, you can't fail to notice the huge dam at the top of the valley. Just in case you were about to miss it, the authorities have painted a massive Kurdistani flag on it. A couple of parks with restaurants lie below the dam, while the energetic continue up the road to the top of the dam. you can walk along the top if you want...i'd love to say the views are fantastic, but it was so hazy the afternoon i went, I really couldn't see a lot. I'd been told by some other tourists that it was worth the trek up here to see the crowds, the Kurdish dancing, the party atmosphere...well, I must have picked the wrong day again, because it was very quiet, save for a few boy racers who zoomed up and down the road along the top of the dam.
Continue up the road from the end of the corniche and you'll soon pass a police checkpoint. Not much of a checkpoint really, as nobody is stopped, but the police are there so you might want to make sure you've got your passport just in case. The road after the police is wedged between rock on one side and river on the other, and just before the first of the big parks, a waterfall splashes down the rockface. I am fairly sure it's a manmade creation, as the water seems to spurt from the middle of a rockface, and the city planners have added some Disneyesque mountain goats frolicking in the water. It's an odd sight really, but a very popular one with locals.
By the side of the waterfall, an office sells tickets to climb some steps up the mountain...I'm not entirely sure where they go, as the office was locked when I went, but for 500 dinars, it might be worth finding out.
Getting to Erbil/Hewler is simple. By the Hotel Bircin (big hotel on Kawa Street, can't miss it) are several taxi offices which run services to Erbil and beyond. For 20,000 dinars, your taxi driver will take you and three other passengers to wherever you want to go in Erbil (ask for Bazaar-e Qaysari for the centre of things). One concern is that there are two routes, one of which passes very very close to Mosul, one of the most volatile cities in Iraq. I'm told it is apparently safe, as the taxis do not leave Kurdish-controlled territory, but understandably most people (foreigners and Kurds) are reluctant to go anywhere near Mosul. Fortunately, another safer route exists, and it is this one your taxi driver will most probably take. To be sure, ask for Tariiq Ba'atari, which passes through Ain Sifni and Baderash before joining the other route 20 kilometres out of Erbil.
To Zaxo, you need to find Karaj Zaxo, between the stadium and the Azadi Panorama. 6000 will get you to Zaxo, another 6000 will take you on to the Turkish border at Ibrahim Khalil.
To Akre and Amedi, ask for Karaj Amedi, some distance from the centre. 8000 got me to Amedi, a spectacular ride through the mountains. I think it was 10,000 to get to Akre.
Zaxo and Erbil are popular destinations, so you won't have to wait long, but for Akre, Amedi and other smaller places, you may well end up waiting for other passengers, or coming to a deal with the driver to leave earlier. You're more likely to find other passengers early morning.
At the western end of Kawa Street, look out for the tiny Al-Jazira Bookshop. It might seem like an odd recommendation, but even if you don't speak or read Kurdish or Arabic, you might be interested in buying a map of the region or a Kurdish flag. If you do read Arabic, then you can pick up a semi-useful Kurdish phrasebook (optimistically entitled "Speak Kurdish Fluently!"). It won't teach you how to speak fluently, and you really have to scour the phrases for something you might actually be able to use, but it gave me a headstart...and also taught me how to read the Kurdish alphabet, which is based on Arabic but joins up differently.
Now for a rant...why oh why oh why aren't there any Kurdish language study books available? My local bookshop has teach yourself guides for Albanian and Welsh, Tagalog and Telugu, Amharic and Armenian...but there is absolutely nothing available in English for learning Kurdish. Routledge and Teach Yourself and the other big names in the language book industry, please take note!