Long fighting to be recognized as a separate country, Iraqi Kurdistan is not like the Iraq you hear about in the news. Bars, secularism, equality, you’ll be so pleasantly surprised. It is located in the Northern part of Iraq and considered as an autonomous region with its own history, culture, and values. The 5-day expedition is an add-on part of our Mudita trip to Turkey where we do a commuinty development project with our partner in Mardin. Iraqi Kurdistan is definitely for the true travelers who want to explore off-the-beaten-path destination, full of stunning mountainous sceneries and welcoming locals. Check out our itinerary!
Erbil is the capital and largest city of Iraqi Kurdistan with a population of around 1.5 millions. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back at least 6000 BC. It’s full of history, rich culture and kind-hearted locals who will offer you the best hospitality. The city was under many regional rulers like the Babylonians, the Persians, the Medes, and the Greeks and today you can still see what those cultural trace being left behind.
In the city center, you will find the Citadel of Erbil that was built 7,000 years ago and now it’s under restoration by UNESCO. People believe that Abraham has been through this place during this pilgrimage and Darius III also escaped here from his loss to Alexander the Great in Geugemela. There’s also a textile museum inside the citadel where it contains cultural artifacts and contents like the Kurdish fighting tools, rugs, dresses, and jewelry – both from Kurdistan region and nearby.
Another must-visit is the Choli Minaret, the famous leaning minaret dating back since the 12th century in the Atabag period. It’s made from tiles and bricks from Egypt. The main part of Erbil’s historical mosque is completely deteriorated, leaving this minaret the symbol of their surviving culture
SADDAM’S HOUSE OF HORRORS
Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors or the Amna Suraka Prison is located in Sulaymaniyah and was once the headquarter of Saddam and his intelligence agency in 1986-1991. The building compound was used to imprison and torture the Kurdish population. Visitors can still see its original structure with loads of bullet holes. There’s a Al-Anfal memorial or the hall of mirrors, constructed to remind about the Al-Anfal genocidal campaign of Iraq against the Kurds that caused over 100,000 deaths from mass destruction, chemical attacks, toreture, bombs, and deportation. The hall has 4,500 light bulbs illustrating the number of settlements that got destroyed and 182,000 shards of glass symbolizing the Kurds who got killed during the incident.
Get your camera ready for a ride to the countryside of Kurdistan with the most dramatic scenary along the way. We will be driving about 2 hours towards Soran where we will spend the day hiking and exploring the region and its waterfalls, mingling with the locals and their culture. Rawanduz is a small town overlooking the gorge and its mountains. Visitors can choose to do an easy 1-hour hike around the canyon and up to 3 hours to the bottom and back. Only 10km away is the Bekhall warerfalls which is a tourist hotspot for summer resort vacation and you can find a bunch of local shops and food stalls along the street.
Even if you are not joining our Mudita project in Turkey, you can still come on this expedition to Iraqi Kurdistan for the adventure of a lifetime. We welcome every traveler who want to explore this hidden gem of the Middle East and soak up the pure Kurdish culture and the best natural wonders it has to offer. Sign up to secure your spot and see you on the road!