Friday, November 04, 2005

Photoblogging my way to Sulymania/Pt.1-(Promise to keep)

In July my trip to Iraq landed me in various places. Sandstorms were terrible, and flights from Jordan into Iraq were cancelled day after day. Being stuck in Amman can be maddening, when you are trying to get into Iraq, but I've developed a certain, difficult to explain fondness for Amman. That gets its own post though.

Well finally, I arrived in Iraq. I spent some time first in Kirkuk, which I very much loved. I couldn't exactly walk the streets in the daytime, but I enjoyed being in an Iraqi home, and eating the most delicious food, and connecting my laptop to the phone line for dial-up (which wasn't so bad actually). I got my first taste of Arak, (Iraq's native alcohol) which a US Marine had generously warned me NEVER to drink, said it was like drinking gasoline. (Being a Marine, it's likely he tried to drink it straight.) I, however, enjoyed it-mixed with water, it tastes like anise, or as I said "like drinking black jellybeans"! (It's a bit over 100F in this photo..taken a bit before midnight.)

Before this trip, I had been e mailing back and forth with Michael Yon for some time. We had talked about meeting up to tour Sulymania together, as he hadn't been to that part of the Kurdish region, but he was feeling uneasy about his means to get there. Those of you that read his last post know why. It wasn't meant to be, but I promised to catalog my trip there for him. And while I'm at it, blogging will be heavy this week with the Constitutional referendum upcoming, but remember one of the reasons that it will be able to be held, is because of the bravery of many, many people. Yon has brought us the stories of Americans and Iraqis, and for that many of us are thankful. Please go hit his tip jar so he can keep reporting. Also, while I will be blogging more, I'll continue to tell you to go see the IRAQI bloggers for the best news. That's your first hand guide. The rest of us are second to the people on the ground. If the blogosphere has taught us anything in the past two years, that's surely been one of the major lessons.

We had a fantastic 1 am family meal that was delicious! We had curried lamb, and an amazing dish that is now tied with teshreeb and syrian cuzi as my favorite fare, that is a handmade thin and crispy pastry crust filled with pilau (rice-with all the spices that make it taste amazing) and wonderful balls of lamb that are like treasures among the rice and raisins (these aren't your normal raisins!) plus the traditional Iraqi bbq....this time chicken.

Heat in Iraq in July is so intense that your body temperature rises as you eat, your body is trying to cool itself and metabolize food at the same time, and this causes you to feel as though you are overheating in the most terrible way! This is part of the reason that these two meals were so wonderful, as the electricity was up and working for the 4 pm meal, so we had air conditioning, and the 1 am meal was eaten outside, on the patio. And for dessert, and any time in between, pastry rolled with iraqi dates words for that!

I was able to go out into Kirkuk at night, and the place was hopping! 10 pm, I'm needing water and ibuprofen and there are still people all over the place. Hit a road block where police were breaking up some large fight. Though I'd have loved to take photos, that's another liability in Iraq. You can't afford to take photos of things that are violent in nature, as you may be suspected as a terrorist, or supporter (unless you are embedded-like Yon is), and I also try to keep a low profile to protect my Iraqi guides, who put their lives on the line just by being with me.

In Iraq, especially in summer, the hours kept are very different from ours. Usual waking time is 10am, then breakfast at 11-12. A large supper at 4-5 pm, and dinner at 12-1 am. Sleep is anywhere between 2-4 am until 10 am again. Everyone sleeps in a large room, (like this one) or on rooftops. The largest room is usually equipped with an air conditioner and an air cooler, and is closed off to keep it cool (relatively speaking of course...85F feels very cool after constant temps over 100F). This helps to make things bearable. Electricity went off for a few hours at a time, a few times a night, to save when it is needed least, so you'd sleep in cool, wake hot, and then hear the electricity kick back in again and back to sleep.

The first day from Kirkuk, we drove off to Sulymania. I was excited, it was the one part of Kurdistan I hadn't yet seen. So here is the trip from Kirkuk to Suly.

Coming out of Kirkuk, you can see the old castle on your right up on the hillside.

Tents on the roadside from a refugee group of displaced Kurds waiting to get back into Kirkuk.

Dust devils, you can see one on the left, faint, saw more than one, but they were elusive to capture on the digital.

Goats running down the road, a common site here. The sign reads on the first line:
"End of tahweela" (tahweela =temporary change in road path due to construction)
The second line says "to Sulymaniya" in both Arabic and Kurdish.

Now we start coming into that's part 2.


Blogger jocko said...

I had Arak once.

You are correct that the staight stuff is awful. I found it worked well in decaf tea (especially decaf iced tea).

6:52 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Cool Kerry. Damn, damn cool. Con-grat-u-lations!!!

Good to read stuff like yours and Yon's. I'm a bit at a loss, with all the problems caused by Islamic immigrants in Europe (I kid you not - it's getting worse) and at the same time reading about the heroic efforts done by the people over there. I read Yon's account yesterday about IP bringing the fight to the terrorists in Mosul. Some 700 were said to have died since Nv. 2004. That's horrible.

With all these sacrifices, something good must - will - come out of the Iraq endeavour. Something that will be benevolent for the whole Islamic world. We just need to keep on.

Like I said, great post. Continue!

10:47 PM  
Anonymous chip said...

Arak is always better after a meal

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so grateful for your insights and am glad you made it back safe and sound (and your a girl to boot! How cool is that). Thank you!

6:20 AM  
Blogger ayad said...

Hi, Kerry,

That picture of you, drinking 'arag -- it looks like you're wearing a Star of David. Is that true? and what reactions, did you get, to that?

Were you always wearing it?

11:02 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...


I'm not wearing a Star of David, it is a floral design, so I can't tell you what the reactions would have been like, but it would have been an interesting question!

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