Day Five: Amedi to Dohuk to Erbil, Iraq

by - August 15, 2012

The road to Baghdad (we turned off)
Not a whole lot of sightseeing planned for today was we tried to get back to Erbil.  When time is tight, it is obviously preferable to complete a loop of the country, but the fact that we flew into Erbil in the centre, and that the region is a thin strip, meant that we have had to use the capital as a bit of a base.  We therefore got a share taxi back to Dohuk (with a family of four - a tight squeeze for 7 people in a 5 seater taxi) and then on from Dohuk to Erbil.  The Amedi-Dohuk journey cost us 8000IQD while the Dohuk-Erbil taxi cost us 15000IQD.  In the latter journey we were joined by two guys, a policeman and a Syrian army deserter.  They were both friendly and eager to find out about us.  We were fascinated by the Syrian, but didn’t feel it was right to ask him too much about his experiences.  Apparently there is a refugee camp near Dohuk for Syrians fleeing the civil war - it would be interesting to know whether the Iraqi Kurds are only sheltering Syrian Kurds, or whether Syrian Arabs are welcome too.

The Rotana Hotel, Erbil
Having left Amedi at midday we arrived in Erbil at 5pm and found ourselves a hotel.  While we were reasonably happy with the Qandeel Hotel that we stayed at last time we were here, we thought we could get more for our money and with a bit of haggling stayed at the Lomana Hotel for 20USD each per night - only a couple of pounds more than the first place, but with a big jump in quality.  Feeling classy, the two of us decided to visit the nicest hotel in town for dinner at their Lebanese restaurant.  The Rotana Hotel is a true 5 star hotel, located in a guarded compound on the edge of town.  It is where diplomats and the odd head of state stay so we dressed up in shirts and tried to fit in.  By a strange coincidence, the British consulate had sent a delegation to the hotel that night to make a presentation to local businessmen about the legacy of the London Olympics and explaining why Britain was a great place to invest in.  We missed the presentation, but were allowed into the hall afterwards to look around.  We were met inside by a Scottish lady from the British consulate team and briefly by the Iraqi Olympic minister.  It was interesting to talk to them about our experiences - they were surprised that we were backpacking and said that backpackers really are few and far between.  After this pretty cool experience, we moved on to the restaurant where we had a wonderful meze dinner followed by shisha.  While it was far more expensive than the food we have been used to (we worked out that we could have had 35 kebabs from street sellers for the same price), it worked out at about the same price as a standard restaurant in the UK.  Considering the location (and the company) we figured it was more than worth it.

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