This is the blog of journalist, Lonely Planet author and photographer Stuart Butler. It features news and travel updates from the regions in which Stuart works, including northeast Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan), Yemen and Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Iraq diary

Today we drove east from Erbil to Sulamaniyah via the very small town of Koya. The driver of our share taxi obviously thought we looked bored so tried to liven things up by killing us all with his crazy driving and then giggling to himself at every near miss. Who said it wasn’t dangerous here?! The driving meant we didn’t have much time to watch the scenery which was possibly a plus because it couldn’t have been any more grey and bleak. It started as gentle hills and then got more and more rugged and through the rain and grey you could see huge snow capped mountains in the distance. Koya was just a small town with an interesting souk and an old castle. Some woman from the council was dragged out of her office because she spoke English and made to give us a tour of the town. She looked really happy about this. She did get quite excited when it came to showing us the museum but unfortunately it had been so long since anyone had asked to see it that all the locks had ceased up and nobody could open the door. Frankly this was something of a relief.

Sulamaniyah, when it came, was a surprise. For a start it’s huge and really spread out with massive four lane highways that are impossible to cross, shopping malls by the dozen and lots of stuff that may once have been buildings but are now just crumbling wreaks. Basically a typical Middle Eastern city. We asked someone what the best thing was to do in Sulaymaniyah. They said to go bowling so that’s what we did. Yes, Iraq is not exactly how I imagined it!

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