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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

From Shaklawa it was onward to Hamilton Road in the north east of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Iranian border - November 2013.


iraqnote5Iraqi Kurdistan uses the same currency as the rest of Iraq, the Dinar









iraq431Gali Ali Beg Falls are just off the Hamilton Road near where it splits into upper and lower halves


iraq435The water feeding the falls flows down from the mountains. In other words, it's cold! Gali Ali Beg Falls


iraqnote4The waterfall features on the 5000 Dinar note


iraq437The striking landscape surrounding Hamilton Road is dotted with canyons, gorges and river valleys













iraq444Take the Upper Hamilton Road and you'll eventually come to Bekhal Waterfall













iraq447Talk about making a complete mess of a natural attraction! Everyone wants a slice of the action - Bekhal Falls


iraq446A seat with a prime location - Bekhal Waterfall


iraq453Pank Resort lies off the Upper Hamilton Road above the town of Rawanduz














iraq454The resort is a great spot to take in the gorge, river and Hamilton Roads below














iraq456From here you can see the Upper Hamilton Road on the left, and the Lower Hamilton Road just above the river in the centre - Hamilton Road


iraq461More great views of one of the canyons carved through the rocky terrain. In the top right is the town of Rawanduz


iraq466Hamilton Road was constructed in 1928 by New Zealander Archibald Hamilton to link Erbil to the Iranian border













iraq468 According to some experts the waters of the Great Zab River were diverted to support the real Hanging Gardens of Babylon at Nineveh, just outside Mosul













iraq476An election campaign poster for the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani - Sulav


iraq474Sulav is a small resort town used as a base to visit Amadiya


iraq469Amadiya has a superb location built on a plateau rising above the valley below













iraq473Haval Ali was my excellent guide and driver for the Hamilton Road day trip, pictured here with Amadiya in the background - Sulav













iraq479Pomegranates and pomegranate juice were for sale everywhere in Iraqi Kurdistan - Amadiya


iraq477The 30m high minaret of Amadiya Mosque - Amadiya


















iraq480More stunning mountain vistas can be had from Amadiya














iraq484An overview of the old town of Amadiya


iraq482Beyond the ancient Badinan Gate is a hilltop residence of Saddam Hussein - Amadiya


iraq510 A close up of the Saddam Hussein residence in the Gara Mountains













iraq485A bonus on the way from Amadiya to Duhok was visiting a different Saddam Hussein residence. This perimeter wall marks the boundary right next to the main road - Amadiya













iraq490Haval thought it unlikely Saddam stayed here many times at all, particularly with its proximity to urban areas and in a (ie Kurdish) hostile area. The Gara Mountain palace looked a more likely venue - Amadiya


iraq492Haval walks alongside the ruins - Amadiya


iraq494Apparently the building was destroyed during fighting between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Saddam's army in the early 1990s - Amadiya














iraq507The man-made lake is within the compound. Stories say the grounds were also home to many roaming wildlife - Amadiya














iraq501I wondered if the various graffiti contained political statements, or attacks on Saddam Hussein. I asked Haval what this said; his reply was something like 'For painting and decorating phone this number'. I burst out laughing! Amadiya


iraq495The gutted inside - Amadiya



iraq505The perimeter wall stretches for several kilometres - Amadiya














iraq506A road now cuts through the grounds - Amadiya














iraq528Azadi Panorama serves as a good introduction to Duhok


iraq529The sculptures seem to represent Kurdish history and culture - Duhok


iraq533The city of Duhok climbs up the mountainside - Duhok















iraq522An embracing couple at Azadi Panorama - Duhok














iraq531A mosque as seen from Azadi Park, which lies next to Azadi Panorama - Duhok


iraq515The grounds of Azadi Park also feature cafes and restaurants - Duhok


iraq541 A family outing to Duhok waterfall - Duhok














iraq545 Posing for the camera in front of Dohuk waterfall - Duhok

















iraq547Organising another photo opportunity - Duhok


iraq546This guy managed to climb a couple of levels to be with his sheep - Duhok


iraq535The Kurdish flag is emblazoned on the wall of Duhok Dam - Duhok















iraq537I guess this reservoir is supplied by Duhok Dam - Duhok















iraq536Masoud Barzani pops up again - Duhok


iraq539Ducks at the reservoir - Duhok



iraq550A steep road from the waterfall leads to Duhok Dam - Duhok














iraq558Back in the centre is a sign reminding everyone where they are - Duhok














iraq556Duhok Art Gallery exhibits works of local artists. It's free so have a browse - Duhok



iraq559The corniche running through Duhok to the dam was under restoration when I was there - Duhok


iraq560But the Roza Istanbul Cafe is still up and running - Duhok















iraq561Anyone for a shisha? Duhok



iraq563I passed St Ith Llaha Church at sunset on my way to Dream City - Duhok


iraq565Mickey Mouse welcomes all to Dream City - Duhok














iraq566Dream City is especially busy at weekends. There's plenty of fairground rides, arcade games, restaurants and it even has villa-style accommodation - Duhok













iraq568Michael Jackson and some 'crazy disco music' in Iraqi Kurdistan - Duhok


iraq570Definitely the wrong day to visit the market. Friday morning in a rather sleepy bazaar - Duhok


iraq571Though I did manage to find this fruit and vegetable stall - Duhok


iraq576I took a half-day trip from Duhok to Al Kosh and also Lalish, the most sacred place for followers of the Yazidi faith













iraq578One of the followers showed me around the complex. This is the storage room containing barrels of pressed olive oil - Lalish














iraq582Bright scarves in the Sanctuary. I was shown how to tie knots in them in order to make a wish - Lalish


iraq577The Sanctuary houses the tombs of important Yazidi sheikhs - Lalish


iraq585The Sanctuary, and other temples, are topped by what I'll describe as ridged conal pyramids - Lalish














iraq591Take your shoes off on arrival and meet the friendly Yazidis. The Yazidi faith is an ancient religion influenced by Zaroastrianism and Sufism. Recently the minority sect has been targeted in the melting pot that is Mosul - Lalish














iraq594After my taxi driver repeatedly got lost on the way to Lalish, almost heading through a checkpoint to Mosul, we eventually made our way to Al Kosh, though not without some trepidation on my part..

Unknown to me beforehand the military checkpoint was manned by Arab Iraqi soldiers displaying the Iraqi flag, as opposed to the Peshmerga and Kurdish flag I was used to. It made me feel a bit queasy.. But all was fine as we headed for the wonderfully positioned Rabban Hormizd Monastery, above.


iraq600But before getting to Rabban Hormizd, a kind man (left) ushered me into his cave dwelling below the monastery, where I indulged myself in yet more sweet chai, with the taxi driver (right) - Al Kosh


iraq601I duly wrote compliments in his welcome book, from which I got the impression that all foreign visitors are duty bound to visit him prior to the monastery. But a pleasure not a chore! Al Kosh













iraq603I love the viewing gallery - Al Kosh















iraq608It's another place in Iraqi Kurdistan with fantastic views, this time of the plains leading to Arab Iraq and Mosul just over 40km away - Al Kosh


iraq614Rabban Hormizd Monastery clings to the mountainside - Al Kosh


iraq609aThe monastery was founded in the 7th century AD - Al Kosh


eng6243Definitely not taken in Iraq but at the British Museum in London, where the stone panels decorating the South West Palace of King Sennecharib at Nineveh are displayed













eng6244Nineveh, located just outside Mosul in northern Iraq, was the capital of the ancient Assyrian empire from 705BC to 612BC, during the rule of Sennacherib - Nineveh













iraq631Delal Bridge is a (locally) famous limestone bridge over the Khabur River - Zakho


iraq634The Khabur River from Delal Bridge - Zakho


iraq636aThe inviting gardens of a restaurant next to Delal Bridge - Zakho














iraq638Sipping tea from a typical chai glass, no doubt made in China - Zakho













iraq621There's a busy market opposite Bazaz Hotel reception - Zakho


iraq625Iraqi Kurds wore a blend of western style clothing for both men and women, though I noticed more veiled women wearing black in Zakho and Halabja


iraq619Closer to the centre of town is another riverside restaurant worth checking out - Zakho














iraq620The cook passed on some useful Engish to the waiter serving me. 'I am donkey' he said with pride, much to the amusement of said cook (and myself!) - Zakho













iraq639iraq640Paintings on a school wall represent traditional Kurdish costume - Zakho


iraq641Barcelona and Real Madrid are massive in Iraqi Kurdistan and every guy seems to support one or the other. Don't recognise these players though.. Zakho


iraq643A nice place for a drink and an ice-cream is this one on Bederkhan Street near Bazaz Hotel, with a walled courtyard in the back - Zakho













iraq644Crossing the river that marks the border between Iraq and Turkey at Ibrahim Khalil

Beware the guys driving across the border! Cigarette smuggling from Iraq to Turkey is pretty much the norm (in full view of Iraqi officials) and you'll no doubt be asked to take some. I declined and took my luggage with me every time I had to disembark for customs, visa, immigration etc.


turkey1The border crossing took 2hr15min including the rides from Zakho to Ibrahim Khalil and on to Silopi in Turkey, where my luggage lies at Silopi otogar


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


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