What do you think about, when someone mentions Iraq? War? Terrorists? Iraq is so much more than that. People actually live normal live there .. and they are Iraqis most valuable asset. People in the Middle East are know for their friendliness and hospitality, but Kurds are, by my opinion, among friendliest in the region. As a traveler, you’ll often be invited to a cup of tea or offered sweets, some will even offered you a place to stay. The war has affected their tourist industry – there are almost no tourists. You’ll see a journalist, photographer or a hippie here and there, but that’s pretty much it. People are not used on seeing a lot of tourists and are eager to meet them .. except journalists. They are tired of journalists who are building careers by selling their sad life stories, but are not interested on helping them. “It’s sad when people are making money out of our misfortune,” they say.
I’ve traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan in April 2016. I started my journey in Istanbul, where I took a plane to Mardin, a small city in East Turkey, near the border with Syria. After collecting my bags at the airport in Mardin, which is quite a hassle, since people are apparently eager to leave the airpot as soon as possible, I took a taxi to the nearest bus station. Small rounded building is situated near the main road and heavily guarded, buses to Syria and Iraq leave quite frequent, so I didn’t have to wait long for a bus to Dohuk, Iraq (which leaves at 11am). The bus route is interesting – right by the turkey-syrian border, which is heavily guarded by soldiers and a high concrete wall. We had a short lunch brake in Cizre and continued to Silopi border. Check points from Cizre to Silopi are quite frequent and as a tourist you can expect to be interrogated almost every time. One time I was the only one called off the bus, my passport was checked, couple of turkish soldiers with AK guns were questioning me and searching my bags .. believe me when I tell you that turkish soldiers are not exactly friendly. Border formalities are simple – you get a 30-day visa to Iraqi Kurdistan without much hassle. Passport check, photograph, fingerprint and a warmly “Welcome to Iraq”. I’ve continued my journey to Dohuk, after that to Lalish, Erbil, Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. There is no point on pointing out the sights I’ve seen, hotels/hostels I’ve slept in and restaurants where I ate – use Tripadvisor. I’d just love to show you the faces of people that made traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan the most enjoyable experience in my life ..