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, 12 February 2012

Taking the high road in Iraq

Think Iraq is all desert and sand dunes? Think again. The last couple of days have been spent up in the Zagros mountains bordering Iran and Turkey and you’re more likely to see a snowman up here than a camel. Actually, if the truth be known we didn’t see any snowmen or camels but we did see big wheels. Lots of them. Take any beauty spot and you can be certain than an Iraqi will have tried to improve on nature by building some monsterous hotel or theme park. Of slightly more interest to most western tourists we did see a ski resort they were in the process of building – though they did seem to have picked the rockiest and most snow free mountain slope around on which to build it. Away from the tack though the scenery was truly beautiful; huge snowy mountains and deep valleys and gorges. In another time and place this could be a major trekking and winter sports holiday destination.

As public transport is limited up in the mountains we hired a taxi and driver for three days – the driver is a funny guy who has taken great pleasure in playing practical jokes on us like pretending to take the wrong road and drive into Mosul (which would be very, very bad) and other such hilarious antics – this proved a wise decision when we couldn’t find anywhere to stay in the mountains and so were able to carry on last night to the city of Dohuk. The city had something of a surprise for us this morning (and no, it wasn’t yet another kebab – well ok we did only have kebabs but that wasn’t the surprise) - an art gallery. Now I don’t want to sterotype but I wouldn’t imagine a place like Iraq to have art galleries. Even bad ones. But Dohuk had an art gallery that wasn’t just not bad, it was really good. And it’s not just Dohuk. In Sulyamaniya the other day we visited another almost equally good gallery. Yes another unexpected side to Iraq.

After the human art we went off in search of more natural art. Back into the mountains we drove into scenery that was possibly more stunning than yesterdays. Huge mountains seperated by a wide fertile valley in the middle of which the small town of Amadiya was perched atop a table top shaped mountain rising out of the valley floor. The weather was gorgeous, we sat in a restaurant in the sun and had a big lunch (kebabs - again....) looking out a stunning mountain vista. Who would imagine that Iraq could actually feel like a holiday destination? I’m surprised to say it but I’m really enjoying this place!

No comments:

Post a Comment