Amedi (also known as Amadiya) is a town in Iraqi Kurdistan in the Governate of Dahuk (also known as Duhok) that lies about 17 km from the Turkish border. When you see pictures of Amedi from the sky, it's very beautiful as the entire town is on a plateau. Once inside it, it's pretty much an average town. The Bahdinan Gate on the west side of the town is interesting to see as it leads down to ground level and is from the 2nd to 1st century BC. There is also a mosque from the 15th century AD that has a minaret that is 33 metres high.
Halabja would be an insignificant little place if Saddam had left it alone...but no, in March 1988, he dropped bombs on the town. Not just any bombs, these didn't explode causing mass destruction, but instead let off an odour of apples. Minutes later, up to 5000 people lay dead or dying in one of the worst chemical attacks on mankind.
Today, Halabja is a forlorn place where rows of white tombstones and mass graves commemorate the dead. On the outskirts of town, the Halabja Monument explains the tragedy in more detail, with guides showing you horrific photos and video footage taken shortly afterwards. This could be a very moving experience, but unfortunately it is all a bit farcical and tacky, with shop mannequins twisted into odd positions in a ghastly recreation of the day's events, guides who laugh and giggle in front of photos of the dead, and a cafe plusher than anything else I've seen in Iraq. A few years ago, the people of Halabja rioted and set the monument on fire...and I can sort of understand why.
Still, if you've come to Iraqi Kurdistan and want to try and understand the country a bit better, Halabja and its survivors deserve a visit.
Slemani (Suleymaniyah in Arabic) is the third of the three big cities in Iraqi Kurdistan. The bazaar here is huge, but although a fascinating area to explore, it isn't the main attraction...Amna Suraka in the newer part of the town holds that title. Meaning "red security", Amna Suraka is the former security prison under Saddam's rule, now just a bullet-holed shell of a building standing as a reminder of the region's past. It has opened as a museum, and contains photos of the victims of Saddam's chemical attacks against the Kurds in the 1980s in a darkened basement. More upbeat are the tahouses, with one in particular standing out...the Sha'ab Chaikhana, where Slemani's intellectuals, poets, novelists and artists gather to slurp tea and slam down dominoes. Also a great base from which to visit the mountains, and if you're up to it, Halabja.
If you're Kurdish, you call it Hewler, if you're not, you'll know it as Erbil...either way, it is one of the oldest cities on earth. Erbil's citadel has been inhabited for millennia, and up until 2006 it was crammed full of refugees from more volatile regions...now it is like a mini ghost city as UNESCO set about restoring it to its former glory. All around it spreads the Qaysari Bazaar, a mix of covered markets and shopping malls, with an impressive set of fountains in a busy square in the middle. Further afield, signs of old Erbil still exist, a row of mansions here, a minaret there, but Erbil has aspirations to become the Kurdish Dubai, five star hotels and shopping malls stretching off into the distance. Parks are a big feature too, huge ones with fountains and lawns and crowds on Fridays. But the best thing about Erbil? The tamarind ice-cream!
The highlight of my trip was the town of Akre. Arrival wasn't great...the hotel was miles from anywhere and very weird, and on my first outing into town, I was spotted by security police and taken in for questioning. It was all very civil and involved drinking tea mainly, but proves that not too many camera-toting foreigners set foot in this area. Once set free to roam about, I discovered old Akre...a bustling bazaar at the bottom of a mountain, with houses piled on top of each other reached by narrow stairwells. Twenty minutes of climbing later, I was at the summit, with fantastic views of the rooftops below, and entertainment in the way of Kurdish dancing among the ruins of a Jewish holy site. Back down in town, the tea flowed fast and I wasn't allowed to pay for any of it...Akre...I'd go back there...
Amadiyya in Arabic, this fortress-like village is a pleasant and easy day trip from Dohuk. A couple of hours along mountain roads through some stunning scenery brings you to the mountain resort of Sulav, not especially exciting in itself but boasting fantastic views of Amedi towering above it on a hilltop. Amedi looks better from afar, as once inside the village, you soon realise there isn't much of old Amedi left, apart from a few old gates, an old mosque, and a couple of pieces of fortress wall. I'm sure the views from above would have been spectacular, but unfortunately it was very hazy the day I visited. Still, it was worth the trip...especially as my taxi driver stopped to buy some bitter almonds on the way, which we dipped into a packet of salt he kept hidden in his glove compartment. It was also the only place in Iraqi Kurdistan where I met more than one tourist...in fact I met a full half a dozen! You heard it here first: Amedi is on the tourist map, albeit in very tiny letters...
Dohuk in springtime is colourful. Multicoloured houses are strewn about on the green slopes of mountains, the green, white and red Kurdish flag fluttering almost everywhere you look. A thriving bazaar lies at the heart of the city, while a long "Corniche" curves its way from downtown up to the impressive Dohul dam, now a favourite picnic spot. There's not an awful lot to see or do here, but Dohuk has a nice atmosphere, and is a pleasant introduction to all things Kurdish, as well as being a good base from which to visit Amadiya, Sulav, Akre and Lalish.
Sometimes spelt Zakho, this is the first town across the border from Turkey. First impressions aren't great...a queue of lorries heading to Turkey stretches for miles, and it is hard to tell where the lorries end and Zaxo begins, as the outer suburbs look like lorries that have given up waiting, taken off their wheels and laid down to rest. The centre is much more appealing though, with green mountains rising in the background. There's not much in the way of sights, but if you're crossing in the late afternoon, it makes sense to spend your first night in Zaxo to get to grips with the Kurdistani way. One main street packed with moneychangers, kebab stalls, photoshops and chaixanes (teahouses) leads you to a gigantic Kurdish flag on a roundabout. Zaxo's main attraction is a ten minute walk from the centre, Pira Delal, a beautiful old stone bridge over a particularly fast-flowing stretch of the Habur River. You can cross it, then enjoy a cup of tea and perhaps a nargileh at one of the outdoor cafes alongside it.
One of my Soldiers and I both had a birthday within a few days of one another, so we threw a BBQ to celebrate. We bought a dozen steaks and some burgers from the PX, lit up the grill and started cooking. Since, by military law we aren't allowed alcohol in Iraq (per General Order No. 1) we purchased some near-beer instead (and not the first time;). After hooking up my IPOD to some speakers and blasting out Buckcherry, the medics started showing up to join in the festivities (medics=female). All in all, it was a good way to spend an evening, and celebrate my 25th birthday (I'm getting old :( .
I helped train some US SF guy's on M915 driving, so they helped me out by letting me have some fun out at the range. I took a squad of my Soldier's out, and we shot 12 gauge shotguns, automatic 9mm MP5's, captured Iraqi AK-47's, captured Iraqi 9mm's, and then we played with some C4. All in all, a pretty entertaining day.
this was our program: ctesiphon.
babylone(we slept in al-hillah):very disapointing because they rebuilt a remake of the ancient city,so you visit a 'new' old city.
ur(where abraham is supposed to be born)the temperature was 45°C,and we saw soldiers running and training for war under the sun.We ate in a little restaurant in samawa,if I remember well,in this little city,the main bridge was destroyed by a missile during the gulf war(300 victims).
mossoul in the north where we visited churches and monasteries,also very near the site of ninive.
hatra in the desert,a place where there is no sound,nothing but an archeological site in the middle of the desert(incredible place)
it was very strange to see the baptism of a baby in a monastery near mossoul,these people have really a hard life.
If you happen to be assigned to FOB Marez or Diamondback in Mosul, call the chaplain's office on Marez. They can set you up with a guided tour of the Dair Mar Elia (also known as St. Elijah's Monastery). It is a ruined monastery from 595AD. It is well worth the effort and gives you something different to do besides go to work, go to the DFAC or go to the gym.
Go visit the (restored) ancient city of Babylon. This is probably the best thing Saddam Hussien did for Iraq. He had people try and resotre a bunch of the buildings and landscape of Babylon. His name and this restoration act by him are scribed in alot of the bricks used during restoration.....guess to make sure that people would know it was him who ordered this to be done??? Either way the gates are just what you see in the movie "Alexander"....big and very cool blue. Plus some ancient rubble lets you get the feel for the "old". Also some ancient colouseums are nearby too. And of course loveable young street merchants peddeling there goods are always a good time too!!
However, As of this post however there is a war going on, so you might have to wait a while until things calm down. Lets hope they do soon.
Samarra is believed to be a short for(surra man raa)an Arabic phrase which means (pleasent to look at).The tower is called (Al Manarah Al Malwiyah).from the 9th century.
The spiral ramp seems to be inspired from the Tower of Babylon .
The 17th-century mosque with its golden dome is sacred to Shia Muslims.
Folks think I am a warmonger, a killer, and that I hate Iraqis. It could not be further from the truth. They are very nice people and are very family oriented. I like them.
There are some bad men out there doing great harm in the name of the Iraqi people but they sure as hell don't represent this man and his little boy. They just want a safe place to live.
I have not accommodated personally in this hotel,but the entrance of it was truely a state of...more
48 Hashemi Street, Downtown, Amman 11844, Jordan (Formerly Jordan Tower Amman)
Good for: Business
Al Musbah Square, Baghdad, 0101, IQ
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