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74 hours, 1,100 km, and 35 checkpoints in Iraqi Kurdistan

74 hours, 1,100 km, and 35 checkpoints in Iraqi Kurdistan

Old Apr 24, 2022, 8:15 am
  #1  
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74 hours, 1,100 km, and 35 checkpoints in Iraqi Kurdistan

With my Cyprus tourist visa expiring, and needing to leave the EU and return with my student visa, the search began somewhere not too far away to spend a couple of days. At first, Israel or Lebanon came to mind but after some more research, I landed on somewhere a bit more unique, that being Iraqi Kurdistan. When I first told my parents, they were just as shocked as anyone would expect them to be after hearing the word Iraq, but after a bit of convincing that it is indeed a safe place to visit, we were on the same page.


This was the original route I was planning to take, but some modifications had to be made. Stay tuned for those, and for more about the cities visited and the flights.






Apologies in advance about the lack of photos of certain cities or sites as I wasn't originally planning to write a trip report about it.
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Last edited by shayaanl; Apr 25, 2022 at 3:26 am
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Old Apr 24, 2022, 11:33 am
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I spent time in Iraqi Kurdistan late last year, and your map looks basically like the same places that I travelled. Did you travel alone, or use a guide for this trip?
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Old Apr 24, 2022, 11:54 am
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Journey to Erbil pt. 1

To get to Erbil, I had a choice between RJ, TK, OR MS. Royal Jordanian or Egyptair via Amman or Cairo respectively seemed like the most straightforward options, but I was looking for something a bit more interesting. I plugged the route into Aeroplan and ended up settling on this for 25k AP + ~$130 CAD in taxes and fees.



LCA-ATH GF

Gulf Air operates a fifth-freedom route from Larnaca to Athens, and from Athens back to Larnaca. Given that Aeroplan is partnered with Gulf Air, I was able to book this with them. It was either this or Aegean Airlines blocked middle seat J, so for obvious reasons this was the more logical choice. I arrived at LCA 3 hours prior to departure time as I was somewhat concerned about what issues I would face at check-in counter with respect to the destination or the number of flights. At check-in, I was asked for my proof of vaccination, hotel booking in Erbil, and my return flight confirmation. Canadians along with several other nationalities are eligible for a visa on arrival to Kurdistan. After some questioning about why I would possibly choose such an itinerary to get to EBL, I had my boarding passes in hand, and I was told to head to the over-sized luggage area to check my bag due to the number of segments.

Gulf Air J passengers have access to the Aspire lounge at LCA. The lounge is a modern space and offers a decent selection of cold food options. I spent most of my time on the outdoor terrace.


Fish tank at lounge

Lounge seating area

I proceeded to the boarding gate, and boarding began on time with priority boarding non-existent, and a single line formed to board. Gulf Air's A320neo's offer 20 seats in business class in a 2-2 configuration. Economy was full on the flight, and business class originally had 3 passengers, but 4 op-ups put the load in J at 7.

Seats

IFE

Moments after sitting down, a choice between orange juice, lemonade, and water was offered by the FA. Arabic coffee and dates were also served while on the ground. One of the male GF flight attendants wasn't wearing a mask the entire flight, even though the other FA's were enforcing Gulf Air's mask policy.


Welcome beverage



Views of Larnaca

Once in the air, a choice of a chicken salad or a selection of sandwiches was offered on this 90 minute flight. The salad was quite good, and the mangoes gave it a nice kick. A selection of bread was also offered, twice.

Meal service

View prior to landing in ATH

With a 7 hour layover in ATH, and having never been to Athens in the past, I decided to check out the city. I put my backpack up at luggage storage in the arrivals hall. Athens airport is connected directly to the metro, and a 50 minute journey got me right to the steps of the Acropolis. Access to the Acropolis was free since it was a Greek holiday.





The Acropolis was quite busy on this rainy April day. Majority of people visiting as far as I could tell were American tourists.

Gyros in hand, I proceeded back to ATH for the flight to SKG.

😋

Last edited by shayaanl; Apr 25, 2022 at 2:43 am
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Old Apr 24, 2022, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by netllama
I spent time in Iraqi Kurdistan late last year, and your map looks basically like the same places that I travelled. Did you travel alone, or use a guide for this trip?
I opted to travel alone, and it actually worked out quite well. As I'm sure you recall, the driving is quite chaotic, and it took some getting used to but I enjoyed it!
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Old Apr 24, 2022, 5:01 pm
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Exciting TR - thanks so much!
what did you say when asked about going to Erbil?
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Old Apr 24, 2022, 11:14 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by gaobest
Exciting TR - thanks so much!
what did you say when asked about going to Erbil?
Thank you! The issue wasn't with Erbil per se, but more with why I'm taking so many flights to get there. I just said I love to fly and that did the trick!
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Old Apr 25, 2022, 1:23 am
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Journey to Erbil pt. 2

ATH-SKG A3
After returning to Athens Airport, I headed to the Aegean airlines check-in counter to collect my boarding pass for the flight to SKG. After some technical issues with setting my residency, and confirming visa on arrival eligibility, I was given my boarding pass, and was told to collect the boarding passes for the TK flights in SKG.

Due to a delay in the incoming flight, the flight to SKG was delayed and it ended up leaving just under 50 minutes late. With a 50 minute connection at SKG, I was fairly certain I would end up missing the onward flight. As I was watching the luggage being loaded onto the plane, I noticed they had set mine apart, and the baggage handler made a phone call. Turns out they were able to tell from their system of the tight connection, and they called the gate agent who then called my name. She offered to call Aegean's ticketing team to look for an alternative, but I already knew there weren't any available out of ATH the same day. I requested to continue on the flight to SKG given that I do have missed connection insurance should anything go wrong, and I hadn't booked any non-refundable hotels in EBL so I wasn't too concerned.




The bird taking me to SKG

On the flight to SKG, priority boarding was enforced by the gate agents. This flight was full in both J and Y, with a total of 2 rows dedicated to J passengers. A bottle of water was handed out prior to departure, and a selection of sandwiches was offered once in the air.

SKG-IST TK


Upon landing in SKG, I was met by a Swissport agent who was sent to ensure that I make it on to the TK flight.

There was another person connecting from the A3 flight to the TK flight, but the agent was only sent to fetch me. I'm not sure if that's because I was in J or because the gate agents in ATH were aware of my short connection.

The traditional TK welcome beverage selection was offered and I went with the lemonade. There were a total of 5 passengers in J on this flight.



The TK 737-800 seats

The meal on this flight was a Turkish Mezze dish. Warm bread was also offered.


Meal on the flight to SKG

Views of Istanbul



After an extensive taxi, we stopped and a bus was waiting to take business class passengers to the terminal.

Business class bus


The drive to the terminal from the remote stand took about 15 minutes, and we went through a tunnel under the runway. Just goes to show how big IST really is!


IST Airport


IST-EBL TK


I went to the TK business class lounge for a few minutes to get something quick to eat and a drink, before commencing the 20 minute walk to my gate.

TK J lounge

lounge

Once at the gate, vaccination certificates were checked again. Boarding began on time with business class passengers invited to board first.


TK's A321neo/737max cabin is quite visually appealing in my opinion.

TKA321neo J cabin


IFE and legroom

Welcome drinks along with the menu were presented while on the ground. One thing I noticed as passengers were walking by was that 80% of them were male. It seemed like there were only 4-5 passengers that weren't of Kurdish/Iraqi background on the flight.

Another thing I took note of was the reluctance of passengers to wear a mask. Upon boarding, the flight attendants were reminding passengers to wear masks, but at a certain point, they just gave up due to a lack of acknowledgement by passengers or because passengers would just remove them once they got to their seat.

Menu

TK A350 parked next door

With a desire to get some rest prior to landing in EBL, I opted to skip the main course and went with only the appetizer on this flight.

Appetizer

Route to EBL

EBL Airport

I headed over to the visa area at EBL, and after a 5 minute wait in line, the customs officer informed me of the $70 visa fee. In the past, a visa to Kurdistan was free of charge for 30 days for citizens of a number of countries but as of last year, the $70 fee took affect.

My several attempts to withdraw money with an Amex, HSBC Mastercard, and a Visa debit card were all unsuccessful at both the functioning ATM's in the terminal, so I exchanged some euros at a less then optimal rate.



And now the real journey begins!
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Last edited by shayaanl; Apr 25, 2022 at 2:37 am
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Old Apr 25, 2022, 6:20 am
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Into Erbil

Before leaving the airport, I purchased a sim card with 5gb of data for 10,000 IQD (~$7) at the Asia cell kiosk. The service was incredible the entire trip, even in the most rural areas of Kurdistan. There are some other cell companies in the airport that offered slightly cheaper prices but I had read from previous trip reports that Asia cell is superior.

To my surprise, there were taxis waiting right at the airport terminal to take passengers into the city. I had read online that you first have to take a bus to an arrivals hall and then gat a taxi from there. The catch with the taxis from the airport is that they ask significantly higher prices. They wanted $35 USD (all future amounts are in USD unless noted otherwise) for a 10 minute ride into the city. Thankfully a Dnata worker at the airport informed me that the bus still does exist and the taxis are significantly cheaper from there. Onto the bus I went and at the arrivals hall, the airport taxis wanted $25 for a 6 minute right into the city. I wasn't too fond of that price, so I checked what other options are available. Careem (the middle east's version of Uber) wasn't able to do airport pickups. At this point, it was 4 am and I was about to go with the airport taxi but then i saw a taxi at the airport dropping a passenger off at the airport but he wasn't able to pick me up from within the compound, so I walked through the parking lot to the exit where he fetched me and we headed to the hotel. For some reason, there was another person already in the passenger seat. Not sure where he came from!


For my one night in Erbil, I was originally planning to stay at the Cristal Hotel at a cost of $165 for the night, but then I realized that didn't really make sense since I was only going to spend 6-7 hours in the hotel, so I settled on the Noble Hotel for $88. The room was pretty nice and had a view of the Ainkawa district. By the time I got to my room, it was 4:30 am, and I ended up sleeping until 9 am.


View from hotel room

One thing that surprised me about Erbil was the number of luxury cars. Everything from a Range Rover, Sport SVR's, G63's, X7, etc. was to be found. Of course there were also a ton of Land Cruisers as one would expect to see in this part of the world.

RR outside of the hotel

My plan was to pick up the rental car and leave the city by 2pm, so that gave me a few hours to explore. After eating the included breakfast at the hotel (which was A la carte due to Ramadan), I called a Careem to take me to the Citadel area.

I found this new development in particular quite impressive. Certainly not something I had expected to see in this part of the world.



One thing I noticed around Kurdistan was that there were several unfinished buildings. I'm uncertain as to whether they have been abandoned or if they're still in progress.


Construction

Mosque

Citadel

The taxi dropped me on a street adjacent to the citadel. The first thing I noticed was that masks were not present at all, which was nice to see. Walking around the city felt extremely safe, and most people assumed that I was a local. That is until they realized that I speak zero Arabic or Kurdish! I took a walk through the market.



Fake

Street



Walnuts

Goat heads

The weather was quite pleasant, sitting at around 27 degrees Celsius. The entrance to the Citadel was a bit hidden, and there was a guard at the bottom to make sure no unauthorized cars go up. I was the only person visiting the Citadel at the time, so it felt like I had it to myself. In the past, it wasn't possible to visit the Citadel but that changed several years ago and now a restoration project is being funded.

Entrance to Citadel

Citadel

Museum of rocks at citadel

Kurdish flag

Construction at Citadel

Vodka for sale

Entrance to mosque

Being Ramadan, it was quite difficult to find food in the city, and I was starting to get hungry for lunch so around noon, I took a Careem back to the hotel. The chicken was delicious, and I enjoyed every bite of it. It costed 18,000 IQD (~$13)



Next came the challenge of finding a rental car. I was really hoping to rent a Land Cruiser on this trip, as I've always been fascinated by the car. Perhaps its because it's not available to buy in Canada. Being 19, I was initially expecting my rental options to be limited due to age, as both Hertz and Avis requires drivers to be 23 and 21 respectively according to their websites. I was in contact with a local company known as Param rental cars prior to my trip and they told me that they can rent a car to me at 19. The problem was that they weren't able to guarantee a Land Cruiser. I also contacted Hertz in advance and they informed that they actually can rent to 18 year olds, and that they have the Series 300 Land Cruisers, but that I would need to visit them in person.

The Hertz office was an 8 minute walk from my hotel so I headed over, and they informed me that the cost to rent a Land Cruiser is $180 per day. I was fine with that until they told me that thy don't have any of the new Land Cruiser's available, and that it would have to be a 2018 series 200, and that it would be the same price. The biggest obstacle with Hertz is that they hold passports while cars are out for rent. This becomes an issue at the checkpoints where they demand to see your passport most of the time. Hertz's solution was for me to take a photocopy of my passport and give it to them at the checkpoints, but they also wanted to see my passport stamps at the checkpoints, mainly the Iraqi stamps so it's a good thing I didn't take Hertz up on that offer, otherwise it could have been quite the challenge especially since I don't speak the local languages.

Once I received confirmation from Avis that they don't have any Land Cruisers available, I called Param Rent a car who also informed me that they're Land Cruiser is not available ($125 per day at Param), but they did have a Jeep Grand Cherokee available at $90 per day with unlimited mileage which I was ok with. It turns out I was originally speaking to the owner of the company, and when I arrived at the rental office, the staff were unaware that I was coming. They also were somewhat hesitant about renting a car to me due to the fact that I don't know anyone in Kurdistan. You see, apparently certain local car rental companies require a local guarantor in order for tourists to be able to rent a car. I began to lose hope, and they asked that I sit until the owner comes.

Another observation: Most people were quite surprised to see a Canadian tourist exploring Kurdistan for such a short period, but they were all quite welcoming. Outside of the hotels, I saw less then ten foreign tourists in all of Kurdistan.

Once the owner arrived, everything was sorted out and they wanted to keep a piece of ID from me, so I offered them my old driver's license. With the contract signed and payment and deposit made, I was taken to the car, a 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, which was actually a US Spec imported from the US with about 17,000 km on the odometer. The car was in great shape. The only warning light was that the front right turn signal is inactive but that doesn't particularly matter in Kurdistan where the turn signal is somewhat of a foreign concept.


Rental car

Last edited by shayaanl; Apr 25, 2022 at 6:39 am
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Old Apr 25, 2022, 10:44 am
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this is a cool report and a fascinating destination! looking forward to the rest of it
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Old Apr 25, 2022, 11:06 am
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Glad you didn’t have to turn in your passport to get the car. I am impressed and frightened with this TR :-)
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Old Apr 25, 2022, 1:16 pm
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Over to Duhok

After starting the car up and maneuvering my new Jeep out of the tight laneway, I went back to the hotel to load my suitcase and check out. It was then time to start the drive. My plan was initially to drive from the hotel straight to Mar Mattai Monastery on Highway 2 as shown in the map below. I was concerned about crossing into federal Iraq on this route, for which I don't have a visa and because that area is notably less safe then Kurdistan. As a result, I ended up adjusting my route, heading north-west on the Erbil-Duhok highway, then south-west to reach Mar Mattai, avoiding Mosul entirely.

The driving in the city was almost thrilling, with drivers expecting other drivers to move around for them. People didn't look prior to making turns or lane changes and just expected others to react according to what they do a significant amount of the time, but I got the hang of it in a few minutes. Having driven in other countries in the Middle East may have given me an advantage in this regard, though it was far calmer in those other countries.

Once I was on the Erbil-Duhok highway, things became more relaxed, and the highway was an impeccable three lane freeway. The driving was more disciplined here with people staying in their lanes some of the time and attempting to use their turn signals on occasion.

Here's some footage of the highway, with what appears to be Peshmerga vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.


And then came the first checkpoint. I had done some research prior to my arrival on what to do at these checkpoints. The common consensus was to just say Salam and wave, and proceed unless they ask other questions. That's exactly what I did, and it worked just fine, but presumably that's because they assumed I'm a local One down, 34 to go.

After turning off the highway, I ended up on this road that felt like a roller coaster at times! Here's some ducks crossing the street.



Goats

The quality did get much better a bit later. The road was quite empty, apart from the cows chilling on the side, so I was able to get the Monastery in very good time.




Prior to turning off into the road that leads to the Monastery, there was another checkpoint. I tried the Salam route again, but it didn't quite work this time, as he replied in Kurdish and I simply had no idea what he was saying. I responded in English and he asked for my passport, and asked me where I was going, and what job I have in Kurdistan. I told him I'm a tourist and perhaps he understood what I meant since a look of shock appeared on his face!

The drive into the Monastery was a little terrifying, since it was so close to the cliff and there were no barriers. Here's a video of the drive. I stopped recording when I got to the top as there were soldiers manning a checkpoint. Ouch at 2:29.


Once again, my passport was requested at the checkpoint and the guards were laughing, I'm just not too sure what they were laughing at. They told me to give them whatever guns I have in my possession as they're not allowed to be taken beyond the checkpoint. When I told them I have no guns, they were satisfied and opened the gate for me.

The Monastery is simply Magnificent. The fact that it's nearly 1800 years old makes it even more marvelous.


Mar Mattai


You can also walk up to the Monastery should you wish to skip the drive.






After checking out several of the spaces inside the Monastery, I hopped back into the car, and headed to the market to pick up some drinks where I met some people my age, and tried to have a conversation with them but they language barrier did make it difficult, but they did seem like very genuine people.


I headed back onto the highway and had to backtrack a bit in the direction I came to get to the road to get to the next monastery on my list, that being Rabban Hormizd monastery.


At this point, I was confused as to where I should go. Google maps wanted me to take the road where the X is marked, but there was no road there to be seen, and I couldn't see the road beyond the checkpoint on the map since, well since it was not on the map! I drove around looking for the road and eventually concluded that it must be on the other side of the checkpoint, and it was.

Confusion


I ended up at the same checkpoint in the presence of the soldier that was shocked that I'm a tourist once again. This time, he told me to pull over into secondary so to speak, so I stayed there, and no one came to speak to me, so I went out of my car and presented my passport to the other soldier who gave me the ok to continue.

The road passed through some very small cities, along with a refugee camp. The quality varied greatly along the way, from mud to newly placed tarmac.





Irrigation

A few checkpoints later, I made it to Alqosh, A Christian town that houses the Rabban Hormizd Monastery.



On my way to the Monastery, I came across a Kurdish wedding procession as seen in this video;


I finally reached the Monastery and realized it was...closed.


Closed

This was the best view I was able to get of it through the fence


Rabban Hamzid Monastery

🚗

After a few uneventful checkpoints came an eventful one on the way to Duhok. I said salam, they said something, I showed my passport, they asked me to pullover, except at this one they inspected every page of my passport and were saying the names of the countries in it out loud, as if they were doing it out of curiosity more then anything. They shook my hand before giving me my passport and I continued to Duhok.

Duhok appeared to be a somewhat quieter city, and these buildings looked great right in front of the mountains. Another sight I was surprised to see in Iraqi Kurdistan.


Duhok


I then headed to my hotel for the night, Dilshad Palace. The manager told me the rate is $120, and I asked him to do it for $100, to which he instantly agreed.


😍

After settling in to the room, I ventured back out for a night drive to the top of the mountain overlooking the city. Here's the view from there.

View from mountains

There's actually cable cars that look quite neat at night that take you to a restaurant at the top of the mountain.

Cable cars

I then went to the city centre to get some shawarma. Although I was hoping to spend some more time in the centre, I was quite tired after such a long day so I headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Last edited by shayaanl; Apr 26, 2022 at 12:07 am
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Old Apr 26, 2022, 2:37 am
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Wow this is an intriguing trip! Very interesting to follow!
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Old Apr 26, 2022, 6:55 am
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The long way to Sulaymaniyah

After some rather poor quality sleep due to the hotel not having functioning air conditioning yet, I woke up around 8 am, and headed down for breakfast at this self designated five star hotel. The buffet selection was abysmal but there was an unmanned omelet station, and after searching for someone, the chef made his way in and prepared me one. The only way to get to the car from the lobby is by going down fifty steps, and due to it being low season and Ramadan, they didn't have anyone to help with the bags. Not a big deal as I had no problem carrying them, but if they're going to call themselves a five star hotel, there should always be someone ready to help. The plan for today was to visit Geli Ali Beg waterfall. Bekhal Waterfall, Dukan Lake, and then finally make it to Sulaymaniyah. Bokriskan is added into the map only because I wanted to take a more scenic route in the very east of the country.




I ended up leaving the hotel around 9 am, and the city was extremely quiet and the roads were empty, The road was one lane in each direction for most of the journey to Akre with some questionable overtakes by the locals. Once in Rovia, the road to Akre turned into a highway to Akre, an empty one at that, with a few easy checkpoints along the way.


Drive to Akre

That is apart from the livestock crossing of course.


Akre was a charming city to drive around, and I spent about half an hour exploring it.


Akre

Akre

From Akre, the drive to Geli Ali Beg waterfall was about an hour. I filled up the Jeep's tank on the way for 850 IQD per litre ($0.58) All the gas stations across Iraqi Kurdistan only take cash.



View from Geli Ali Beg parking lot

There were some shops and restaurants at Geli Ali Beg but none of them were open, including the one below right by the entrance. Even though the shop was closed, everything was left unlocked out in the open, which was quite common to see in the region. The entrance fee to the waterfall was 1,000 IQD ($0.7) but there was no one at the door to the waterfall and the door was open, so I just left the cash by the entrance.


Entrance to Geli Ali Beg

The waterfall was cool to watch for a few minutes, and I was the only one there most likely due to Ramadan.


Geli Ali Beg waterfall

Waterfall

On the drive out from Gali Ali Beg, there was a viewpoint that I parked at for a bit.


Viewpoint


The Bekhal waterfalls were quite cool, with the mountain backdrop behind them.


Bekhal

There was a staircase that took you down a few levels to the base of the waterfall.




Next up was Rawanduz. I wasn't originally planning to stop there but it was on the way so I figured why not. The view was phenomenal.


Rawanduz

After that, I kept driving, and I was a bit hungry at this point, and I saw a sign for a city called Soran, so I went there, and got some pastries from a local shop, and walked around the bustling market. I also picked up some dried fruits and a couple of souvenirs to take back to Cyprus with me.

Upon leaving Soran, on my way to Dukan lake and then Sulaymaniyah, I faced some trouble at the checkpoint. I said Salam to the soldier, and he asked me something in Kurdish. He then asked me where I'm going and for my passport. He informed me to pull over and come out of the car. He called the soldier checking cars going the opposite direction, who informed me that Sulaymaniyah is 400 km away by road, when it reality it's actually 200 km. I knew it was 200 km, but I wasn't going to doubt what he's saying, so I told him I'm aware of the long distance, and wish to continue, expecting him to let me continue my drive, but he didn't. He told me to wait in the car for a few minutes, as he talked with his comrade, presumably about my situation. He then told me to exit the car again and follow him to an office where he called someone's name, perhaps a supervisor. When the supervisor didn't respond, he gave my my passport back and told me to continue on my way. Phew.

The drive from here was on smaller roads, and I started seeing more Iranian license plates as I got closer to the border.


First snow covered mountains


Iranian license plate

After several other checkpoints, all was going well until I reached a small checkpoint on the way to Dukan circled in red.



The solider asked for my passport, then told me to pull over to the side and go towards the office to speak to his superior. Using google translate, his superior informed me that Turkey is going to bomb the road I'm planning to take and that it isn't safe for foreigners, and that I should turn around because of the potential danger. So I turned around and headed down the adjacent road passing through Warte.

Here's a video stuck behind a truck on the winding part of that road.




I then made it to the town of Ranya. I've been meaning to get my house keys copied for a while now, and where better to do it then Iraqi Kurdistan! It costed 4,000 IQD to copy both keys, and it was intriguing to watch the process. On my way out, I left a 1,000 IQD bill where I was sitting and the shopkeeper came running after me to hand it back to me.


Key copy

Drive to Dokan

Dogs

As I was approaching Dukan, what felt like a scene from a movie occured. I was driving down the road and I was about to turn right onto the highway that leads to Sulaymaniyah, and I saw several cars together in what appeared to be a motorcade. There was a Range Rover, a Maybach, a new Escalade, and a ton of Land Cruisers with 2 army police Expeditions behind them. I was driving directly behind the last expedition, for a few km and I took my phone out to take some pictures of the motorcade. One of the soldiers must have seen me do this since the last 2 expeditions stopped right in front of me, and 10 soldiers got out with guns and approached my car. Another 2 Land Cruisers filled with men in suits must have turned around and stopped in the opposite direction. The soldiers from the expeditions came to my window and started talking in Kurdish. When they realized I don't speak any, they said phone, and they went ahead and deleted all the photos I took of their cars, and they also deleted all the photos from my recently deleted, before getting back in their cars and speeding off to catch up to the rest of the motorcade.



Another Iranian plate

I then decided to proceed straight to the hotel after that interaction, and I ended up catching up to the motorcade again, making sure to keep my distance this time. There was a Camry driving extremely recklessly trying to overtake the motorcade. Perhaps he missed the bright flashing blue lights somehow, but he also got stopped by the Expeditions. It must have been a quick stop because a few minutes later the Expeditions were racing again trying to catch up to the motorcade once again.

For my one night in Sulaymaniyah, I stayed at the Grand Millennium which was bit of a challenge to reach due to the fact that it has it's own road leading to the hotel. A few u-turns later and I was on the road. Here's some footage from that road.



The hotel is said to be the tallest hotel in all of Iraq, and the second tallest building in the country. I paid $105 including breakfast.


Sweets in lobby


View from room

View from room

After spending some time at the hotel, I drove into the city, and stopped to get some roadside shawarma right at iftar time. It was a very unique setup. What's nice about the shawarmas here is you can put the toppings in yourself. It costed 1200 IQD.





I then moved on to the bazaar where I bought some sculptures and a few pieces of art.




I was very interested in this set but the shopkeeper was adamant that they aren't for sale. Oh well.



Out of cash, I tried the atm's at a few hotels without success, and ended up finding an exchange office on the main street where I changed my remaining Euros, before heading back to the bazaar to buy some more things. I then headed towards the hotel, and parked somewhere to try some of the interesting street food, before returning to the Grand Millennium.

Last edited by shayaanl; Apr 27, 2022 at 12:28 am
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Old Apr 26, 2022, 8:46 pm
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Fascinating TR, thank you
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Old Apr 26, 2022, 11:28 pm
  #15  
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So amazing. Wonder what the police Expeditions and Land Rovers were escorting.
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