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.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Off to Iraq!

Well I never thought I'd find myself halfway to Iraq and actually be looking forward to it! But, for the next 10 days I'll be travelling around Iraqi Kurdistan partially for Lonely Planet and partially for some photographic projects and my own mere interest. Ok, so to most people the word Iraq means guns, desert, death and other nice stuff but Iraqi Kurdistan, in the far north of the country on the border with Turkey, Iran and Syria is something of a different face of Iraq. The area is largelly autonomus from the rest of the country and has been since a UN No-fly zone was imposed 20 years ago after the first Gulf War. Today it has it's own government, security and police force, borders. visas, flag and everything else that makes up a seperate country - except that it still remains a part of a greater Iraq. It's also safe (compared to the rest of Iraq anyway) and has seen very little of the violence that has engulfed the rest of the country. And not just does it act differently to the rest of Iraq but it looks different. It's got mountains. The Zagros mountains and they're really, really big mountains and it's got rivers, lakes, snow, water, forests and everything else that doesn't look like a desert.

I'm going to be flying into the Iraqi Kurdistan 'capital', Erbil, very late tomorrow night and will spend 8 days travelling around the main cities and through the mountains both updating the Iraqi Kurdistan chapter of the Lonely Planet Middle East guide and just seeing what Iraq is like - very exciting!

However, first I have to get there and that isn't going well. I should have been in Istanbul tonight but am instead in a hotel in Paris after snow in the south of France grounded my first flight and meant I missed the connection (hey there was almost a centimetre of snow you know!). With luck I now fly onto Istanbul and then Iraq in the morning but a four day air traffic strike begins in France tomorrow and nobody can tell me if my flight will actually leave. All going well though I will try my best to update this blog with words and photos  each day whilst I'm away. On the other hand you might just hear about my train ride back home when tomorrows flights are cancelled!

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