Visit to Iraq in September 2006

On September 30, 2006, I visited northern Iraq with a Travelers Century Club group. I strongly recommend you first read the overall trip report before reading this specific report.

We got up at 3:30am at our hotel in Turkey and drove 2 hours to the Habur River border crossing. There were 8 of us in the TCC group including our guide, Herbert Goebels. In addition, we had our Turkish guide, his 2 assistants and our driver. They were all Kurdish.

The TCC group was in a state of high excitement the whole day, and even the Keystone-cops type of problems that delayed us 4 hours on the Turkish side of the border did not dampen our enthusiasm. We had to go back all the way to the town of Cizre, abandon our bus, get 3 taxis, get special licenses to use taxis, etc.

Herbert, who had made the day trip into Iraq in 2005, noticed that the physical facilities in Turkey to handle massive cross border truck traffic had been completely reconstructed. He noted that the sign at the Iraqi border that formerly identified the country as "Kurdistan" now reads "Iraqi Kurdistan Region". Our passports were stamped with "the Republic of Iraq - Kurdish Autonomous Region". The Kurds in Iraq have been ruling themselves since 1991.

The group enjoyed ourselves by being photographed with Iraqi border guards while Herb and our Turkish guide obtained our visas. Most countries won't let you photograph border guards. These guards were very friendly to us.

Iraq Border 1 Iraq Border 2 Iraq Border 3 Iraq Border 4 Iraq Border 5
Iraq Border Sign DMP at Iraq Border DMP Meets Border Officer DMP with Border Guard DMP with Border Guard

Near the border area in Kakho, we stopped by the ancient Delal bridge, built during Roman times, and were photographed as a group & with some of the local people, who were very friendly. I was photographed on the bridge, and if you look closely there is an Iraqi man bathing in the Habur river like others we saw.

TCC Group in Iraq Iraq Zakho Iraqi Family Jessica Smith Iraqi Bridge Habur River Iraq Border 5
TCC Group Photo in Iraq Zakho, Iraq Area Iraqi Family with Jessica DMP on Ancient Bridge Bathers in Habur River

The bazaar was very well stocked with all types of goods and compared very favorably with other bazaars on this trip. We busied ourselves taking photos of shoppers, shopkeepers, and each other. There is a unique type of baggy pants which a few of the older Iraqi men wore. In general, the men were dressed similar to what you would see in America. Women were generally in traditional dress.

Iraq Bazaar 1 Iraq Bazaar 2 Iraq Bazaar 3 Iraq Bazaar 4 Iraq Bazaar 5
Guy Selling Cigarettes Men Selling Food Guys Selling Cosmetics Guys Selling Toys Shopping for Watches
Iraq Bazaar 6 Iraq Bazaar 7 Iraq Bazaar 8 Iraq Bazaar 9 Iraq Bazaar 10
Ad on Ice Cream Shop Guys Selling Clothes Iraqi in Native Dress Women Shopping Iraqi with NY Cap

While traveling a memorable adventure can happen by chance or by taking a chance. During our visit to a Kurdish village while we were walking along the main (dirt) road, we noticed a man in traditional dress bring his sheep back to their pen. We asked him if we could visit his house to see what a home looked like. Our guide explained that we were American tourists -- along with our German guide, Turkish guide, and 3 taxi drivers.

The man immediately invited the 12 of us into his home. We took our shoes off inside the door and after a brief look at the compound were led into the main living room. It was comfortable and had enough seating capacity for us. Our host sat on the floor as did our Turkish guide (in light blue shirt) and asked if we had any questions.

We took turns asking questions. The questions and answers were translated between English and Kurdish by our Turkish guide. We learned that the man was 53 years old. That he had 2 wives and 2 sons. (In traditional fashion, answers to how many children do you have are answered as if you asked how many sons do you have.) The total number of his wives, his sons, their wives and their children living in the compound was 25. The compound had been in the family for 90 years. Our host, who was wearing an expensive gold watch, had a total of 300 animals. Although he lives less than 20 kilometers from Turkey, he had never visited there. Our host punctuated many of his answers with the classic Muslim phrase "thanks to God".

During the last part of the conversation, his son, who drives a BMW, joined us from work. He had had a cell phone for 10 years which is another small example of the pioneering progress in the Kurdish region. The rest of Iraq didn't get cell phones until after the fall of Saddam Hussein. We learned that things were very peaceful in their part of Iraq and conditions are improving. We didn't want to be impolite and avoided political questions.

Our host insisted that we stay for tea, and after his graciousness, we readily agreed knowing that we had 6 hours of hard driving on poor highways ahead of us. (We arrived at our hotel in Diyarbakir, Turkey at 10:30pm.)

After tea, we had a grand time taking photos of each other with our host and his grandchildren. In the middle of this, 3 of the neighbor's girls came over to see what was happening. One of the 3 yellow taxis we used is in the background. You can also see the son's BMW.

I was deeply touched by this sincere man's genuine hospitality. This was one of those rare opportunities to meet the silent majority in Iraq and Kurdistan.

Iraq Family 1 Iraq Family 2 Iraq Family 3 Iraq Family 4 Iraq Family 5 Iraq Family 6
Iraqi with His Sheep He Hosted TCC Group Enjoying Grandchildren Many Group Photos Neighbor girls look on Grandchildren!!

At the border area, I spotted the US Army, and had a chance to talk to the troops. Since they had been in Iraq for just 2 weeks there wasn't much new to learn. Once again, we busied ourselves in being photographed with our troops.

Iraq USArmy 1 Iraq USArmy 2 Iraq USArmy 3 Iraq USArmy 4 Iraq USArmy 5
Helicopter Helicopter Landing Supporting our Troops Supporting our Troops Jim & Janice Join In