Traveling Iraq: continued...
We started driving, through Erbil’s downtown (right) and toward the mountains until we came to the hotel. Security was tight here, they check the car with mirrors, everyone gets out, they check luggage and then you are allowed in, after much difficulty with communication, as the guards only know Kurdish, and little Arabic and English. This is something that I would see repeatedly during my time in Kurdistan, though the educated class, particularly those under age 20, know English and quite well, and many know Arabic also. In a few cases, you can find Kurds that know Arabic but feign ignorance of it, simply out of pride and a separatist attitude. A mild cursing will usually cause you to be able to quickly find the truth of anyone's language abilities. Either way, however, I've found when you don't have words, you can usually still get your point across through broken speech in different languages, and hand gesturing as well as simply a look or a smile.
After a few days in Erbil, I went on a road trip, to Shaqlawa. Now, this is a village in the mountains, and also a “resort”. Let’s just say that we found the village at least 3 times, but nobody seemed to know where the resort was...but the drive alone was worth it. The scenery was just amazing.
It was great fun, and on the way back to Erbil, I got to do the driving. I LOVE driving in anything close to a 3rd world country, because the road rules are: make up your own! It was surreal to be driving through Iraq, even if it was Kurdistan...and I loved every second of it.
When we stopped at a stream for a break and here I saw one of a shepherd’s boys and he allowed me to take his picture, and I gave him some coins which he was quite pleased with. We went from there to a restaurant back in Erbil. I had some kind of kabob I believe, but someone else had teshreeb, and for me, one taste and I was hooked. This stuff was amazing. The lamb is falling off the bone, and the bread is soaked in the cooking juices, and it is messy and sooo delicious. Iraqi bread is even better than “nan” (Indian bread), and that’s coming from someone that had an Indian friend whose mother fed me well (thank you Mrs. Vaswani!).
The next day I was driven to the beautiful waterfalls. There are many of them, cascading over rocks, over flowering plants, and they were stunning. There, my initials were carved into a tree. How odd to anyone here, I know, but you must understand that I took this as a huge compliment, as for one to make my mark in Iraq is to say I belong as they do. I will always remember that place, I took in every last detail of it, walking around, looking at the people, the water, the green of springtime, convincing myself that I was truly there. I took lots of pictures, but mostly I just soaked everything in. The beauty was overwhelming.
Oh, I forgot to tell that on the way through the mountains, there are children all over the roadsides selling the spring flowers of the mountains there, these are the ones that you see here, and I can't describe how very much I love this photo. They are called “narcis”. I spent most of the day with my face buried in their heavenly scent. Tomorrow would bring even more surprises, but for this day, I was content, perfectly so.