One question I hate answering is, “where is Kurdistan? I can’t see it on the map.” Kurds (the people) are from four different regions: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, which initially makes one land when put together, but the governments of the four sectors refuse to recognise Kurds. But it does exist, it’s not a place made up by George R. R. Martin.
This summer, I visited Iraqi-Kurdistan, landing in Erbil, the capital (not to be mixed with the capital of Iraq, Baghdad).
As much as I always love to prove everyone wrong about the Middle East, it has not changed in mannerisms and tradition. But there is something about the marble houses placed in sandpits. The herds of white cars and washed-off-yellow taxis. The 2006 wardrobes of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie roaming the streets. Iraqi-Kurdistan, is an anthology of references.
Somewhat of the country felt like a parody. The most memorable moment I can recall was when I was in a taxi and as any tourist would, I was taking photos, only I was told to stop snapping by the taxi driver because it was, “government area,” and we could potentially get sniped. For a country who lives off on democracy, or they say so, I almost felt like I was under Kim Jong-un’s laws.
The amusements continued everywhere. Seeing restaurants called ‘Cuban Restaurant’ that served traditional Kurdish cuisine. Getting a two-year guarantee on items I bought as gifts without getting a receipt. And the best one, being asked if I can speak English.
Whilst the Kurds have finally found peace, or the closest thing to it; there is still a battle of the races: Kurds vs Arabs. A revenge/defence strategy because of hate groups such as ISIS and also because of the massacre of Kurds in 1988 by Saddam Hussein; the Kurds are not open to the Arabs, as they once may have been pre-1988, maybe.
The identity of the country is only beginning to form now post-ten-year war that has slowly died down. However, in lifestyle, the country is doing as well as Turkey. But in terms of politics, there is a long climb to reach the same position as their fellow Arabian neighbours.
In its wholeness, the country sits somewhere between Agrabah with portable wi-fi and Lisbon family values.