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IRAQ (Iraqi Kurdistan)

Location - Middle East; Capital - Iraqi Kurdistan - Erbil (Hewler); Iraq - Baghdad; Population - Iraqi Kurdistan - 5.2million; Iraq 50million; Currency - Dinar MORE IRAQ

I took a one-way flight with Royal Jordanian from London to Sulaymaniyah, the furthest east of the three main cities in Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous and relatively stable part of Iraq.

I arrived at 04:00 in the morning and spent my first hours in Iraq wandering the streets in vain for a hotel that was open. The Ramada Hotel took me under their wing, waking up hotels via several phone calls while plying me with coffee. Thank you Ramada! October 2013.


iraqnote1Iraqi Kurdistan uses the same currency as the rest of Iraq, the Dinar










iraq13I spent my first morning in Iraq taking it easy in the park opposite Sulaymaniyah Palace Hotel - Sulaymaniyah


iraq11..though not quite as easy as this guy; but it is a peaceful area - Sulaymaniyah


iraq9Reading the newspaper - Sulaymaniyah














iraq7I think this is Saladin Sulaymaniyah














iraq14The entrance to the municipal park. Wish I knew who these guys were - Sulaymaniyah


iraq158Eyes are fixed on the biggest football match in Iraqi Kurdistan, Barcelona vs Real Madrid. A packed out Sports Bar at the Sulaymaniyah Palace Hotel - Sulaymaniyah


iraq16A slightly tipsy walk through the park after beers at the Sports Bar - Sulaymaniyah














iraq26Take a taxi to the Azmar Mountain for great views of the city below - Sulaymaniyah















iraq23The wind was blowing a gale on the exposed mountainside but it's well worth a look - Sulaymaniyah


iraq24The city centre from Azmar Mountain - Sulaymaniyah


iraq29This gateway marks the entrance to the bazaar - Sulaymaniyah














iraq31There's plenty of commerce going on next to the Grand Mosque - Sulaymaniyah













iraq35Checking out carpets in front of the Grand Mosque - Sulaymaniyah


iraq43The bazaar's shops, market stalls and pavement hawkers sprawl east of Sulaymaniyah Palace Hotel - Sulaymaniyah


iraq37Another image where I've no idea who it is - Sulaymaniyah













iraq39There's a cute ice-cream parlour with a mini-fountain and roped off garden at the end of Malawi Street - Sulaymaniyah














iraq41Nearby is the well known teahouse Sha'ab Chai Khana, on Kawa St - Sulaymaniyah



iraq42A few of the guys I was chatting to in the teahouse - Sulaymaniyah


iraq44 A shop in the bazaar displaying bags of nuts, seeds and cereals. And some chickens - Sulaymaniyah













iraq46In addition to the distinctively sunny Kurdish flag (left), government buildings must display the Iraqi flag (right) - Sulaymaniyah














iraq48The Iraqis love their picnics, this one being in Azadi Park - Sulaymaniyah


iraq53Mountains provide a backdrop all around Sulaymaniyah


iraq61In Azadi Park's north west corner is an amusement park complete with boating lake and cafes - Sulaymaniyah














iraq62Charcoal grilled (or charcoal burned?) corn-on-the-cob at Azadi Park - Sulaymaniyah













iraq64A ferris wheel seems to be obligatory in every town or city in Iraqi Kurdistan - Sulaymaniyah


iraq66Dusk falls on the boating lake at Azadi Park - Sulaymaniyah


iraq68 Euro-pop music was blaring out of the speakers at this roller skating rink at Azadi Park - Sulaymaniyah















iraq70 Salim Street is the main thoroughfare in Sulaymaniyah















iraq72'Love is lie Promise to never love'. Someone's heart has been broken in Sulaymaniyah


iraq71The outer wall of the feared Amna Suraka, or Red Security building - Sulaymaniyah


iraq127Amna Suraka was the northern headquarters of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Intelligence Service - Sulaymaniyah














iraq136Thousands of people, mainly Kurds, were imprisoned and tortured - Sulaymaniyah














iraq132Prisoners' clothes at Amna Suraka - Sulaymaniyah


iraq142One of the upper floors has been left unlit, presumably to reflect reality, and is decidedly spooky - Sulaymaniyah


iraq77The Hall of Mirrors is a memorial to the victims of Saddam Hussein's Anfal Campaign - Sulaymaniyah














iraq86A photo gallery lines the walls and ceiling of this room in Amna Suraka - Sulaymaniyah















iraq101The basement of Amna Suraka has graphic photos of the victims of the Halabja chemical attack in 1988 - Sulaymaniyah


iraq103Amna Suraka basement - Sulaymaniyah


iraq112Hooks used for torture hang from the ceiling of Amna Suraka - Sulaymaniyah















iraq91It was strange to pose for a smiley photo at such a chilling place, but the Peshmerga (Kurdish security forces) asked for a photo. I guess they see this place every day and have moved on. Note the Iraqi weaponry in the background - Sulaymaniyah













iraq144Slemani Museum is an archaeology and history museum on Salim Street - Sulaymaniyah


iraq156Opposite the museum is the excellent Agha Cafe, perfect for a coffee and a puff on a hookah pipe. It was turning people away for El Clasico as it was packed to the rafters - Sulaymaniyah


iraq157This topsy-turvy statue was pretty much the first thing I saw on arrival from the airport - Sulaymaniyah













iraq160A series of murals lie opposite the Sardam Publishing House on Salim Street - Sulaymaniyah














iraq161Presumably they depict significant moments in Kurdish history - Sulaymaniyah


iraq167This guy insisted on having his photo taken next to a statue of a horse. I'd love to know the significance of horse in suit and tie. Or maybe it's just art - Sulaymaniyah


iraq172There's a small balcony on the ninth floor of the Ramada Hotel which affords quality views of Salim Street and the city centre - Sulaymaniyah













iraq174The view through the windows of Ramada Hotel's ninth floor restaurant - Sulaymaniyah













iraq177The shared taxi ride from Sulaymaniyah to Halabja


iraq213A picture of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, opposite the Halabja Monument - Halabja













iraq211A sign leads the way to the controversial Halabja Monument - Halabja














iraq181The monument is dedicated to the 5,000 who died and up to 10,000 injured following a chemical gas attack by Saddam Hussein's regime on 16 March 1988, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war - Halabja


iraq199The attack was orchestrated by Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali. The monument's adjoining museum displays the rope used to hang him in 2010 - Halabja


iraq182In 2006 it was burnt down by locals who complained about squandering money on the memorial at the expense of investing in the community. But it's current state is due to a scheduled overhaul - Halabja













iraq187The peaceful grounds surrounding the monument - Halabja














iraq193Iraqi tanks on display at the Halabja Monument - Halabja


iraq196The museum contains many disturbing photographs of the victims of the Halabja gas attack, which is seen as a separate event to the genocidal Anfal Campaign conducted between 1986 and 1989 by Saddam Hussein - Halabja


iraq204Halabja Monument museum - Halabja














iraq207The museum has the original death certificates of Saddam Hussein's sons Qusay and Uday, both killed in Mosul in 2003 - Halabja













iraq206..along with a copy of Saddam Hussein's death certificate, the infamous President of Iraq from 1973 to 2003 - Halabja


iraq214The Grand Mosque in Halabja



iraq215A bit more Barcelona Real Madrid rivalry. Along with Messi, nearby were Xavi and Ronaldo (graffiti rather than in person) - Halabja














iraq216Walk past the Grand Mosque for a few hundred metres and on the left is a park - Halabja














iraq228Mother and son walk through Halabja Cemetery - Halabja


iraq219Halabja Cemetery contains mass graves for those who died as a result of the chemical attack - Halabja


iraq222Statue at the Halabja Cemetery. I wonder if it represents the hand of Fatima, used as a sign of protection - Halabja














iraq225Behind the statue are hundreds of gravestones - Halabja














iraq231At the cemetery entrance is a clear instruction to Ba'ath Party members, of which Saddam Hussein was a leading member - Halabja


iraq233Passing jagged peaks on the road from Sulaymaniyah to Dukan














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LINKS - online Erbil magazine - travel info - Kurdistan Regional Government - Kurdistan tourist site - more travel info


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