Through a tiny unmarked door and a narrow corridor, you reach Slemani's finest attraction, the Sha'ab Chaixana, perhaps the best teahouse in all of Iraqi Kurdistan. A good teahouse has tea, obviously, and a few seats, a water pipe or two, maybe an indoor section in case the weather turns...but the Sha'ab teahouse goes that little bit further. Books are piled high on shelves all over the walls in between framed sketches of local people and photos of old Slemani, and it is probably the books and photos that attract a somewhat arty and intellectual clientele.
We were invited by a man we met on the bus from Halabja. a survivor of the chemical attacks, he now works as a teacher trainer, and seemed to know everyone in the teahouse. That's a famous poet, he whispered, pointing to a man in a bowler hat with a drooping moustache. Over there is a novelist, and he's a journalist. Two artists sat and sketched each other in one corner, while in another, a singer and a philosopher discussed politics over a hot glass of sugary black tea. Once we'd had our tea and the lowdown on who's who in Slemani, we ventured into the back room, where our conversation was overwhelmed by the sound of dominoes being slapped down onto metal tables as if the players were trying to stamp out the life of a cockroach. Card games were causing heated arguments on one side, while chess players sat deep in thought, nargile smoke swirling around them as they pondered whether to take the knight or sacrifice a bishop to get at the queen.
Favorite Dish: Tea. Tea is the drink you'll be served whether you like it or not, along with a bottle of water to wash away the excess sugar in your mouth. There may be other drinks on offer, but you can't come to a teahouse and not have tea, can you, really?
What I liked about it was that nobody gave us a second glance. In other teahouses, I've been centre of attention from the minute I've sat down, which can be great sometimes when you're looking for an interesting conversation, but verging on the annoying if you just want a quiet drink...but in here, people were far too busy being intellectuals to notice us. Hell, we even sneaked in a woman!
The teahouse, like most others in Iraqi Kurdistan, is a male domain...our host assured us that it would be no problem for a woman to enter, but maybe not without a local friend.
No photos, I'm afraid...I'm just not brave enough!
Astera Restaurant: Restaurant in the Garden
This nice restaurant is located in the park near the Bahashty shar Motel.
The food is nice and the room is clean.
I think alcohol is served.
Price are ok at about 10 USD per pax.
Favorite Dish: Chikken Tikka (Tikka djedjaj)
Excellent bread made in the restaurant (iranian style)
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