Day Four: Amedi/Sulav, Iraq

by - August 15, 2012

Amedi, Iraq
With all of Iraqi Kurdistan to explore, and not much time to do it, we moved swiftly on from Dohuk to the town of Amedi in the north.  The policeman that we had hitched a ride with yesterday had also arranged for a share taxi to our next destination, Amediyah (Amedi).  It turned out to be a private taxi and cost us 20000IQD which wasn’t TOO bad for the 50km journey that snaked up through the mountains.  Amedi is nicknamed “the town that doesn’t grow” in Iraq, as it is perched on top of a steep sided plateau.  It is a stunning location and really looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings.  We stopped to take some photos outside the city, then got the taxi to drop us off at the bazaar.  Unfortunately, it soon became very clear that there were no hotels in the town.  The locals suggested that we tried the town of Sulav, about 5km away, so we got another taxi to take us there.  Annoyingly, there weren’t any hotels there either and the locals in Sulav suggested we tried in the valley between the two towns.  After a lot of searching we eventually came across a fairly decent motel room, that was inconveniently located between the two places that we wanted to visit.

The view over a minefield
The motel room was more like a little apartment so Tom and I went to a local shop and bought some food to cook our own lunch - it seemed easier than trying to find a place that would serve us.  After lunch I had a sleep (the 50 degree celsius heat is tiring me out) while Tom went for a little hike into the mountains to get some even better views over the city and surrounding countryside.  I would have joined him, but I hadn’t brought any suitable boots as I was under the impression that the countryside was covered in landmines, left from the Iraq-Iran war.  Tom didn’t believe me, so went on his merry way.  We later hitched a ride with a minesweeper who told us that the whole area was mined.  So Tom has now achieved the debatable honour of having successfully walked through a minefield.  The photos were worth it though.

Sunset over Amedi valley
Amedi is just about the smallest town that we have visited and has proven to be the place where Ramaddan is the most difficult to come to terms with.  At about 4 we walked into town to look around and saw most of the key sites - the mosque, bazaar etc, but the town was totally deserted.  At half 5 we realised that nothing was going to open for hours so we hitched a ride back to the hotel and sat around for a bit.  The view of the sunset from the town was set to be amazing, so we hitched back in and found a spot to watch it.  The sun had started to burn off the haze and the views down the valley at sunset were simply incredible.

Shisha bars (and a mini cinema) in Sulav
Muslims are allowed to eat after the sun has gone down, but that generally means that they go and eat with their families, rather than opening up their restaurants.  This meant that we had to wait another hour after the sun had gone down until we could eat.  We walked around for a bit and spoke to a group of kids about where the nearest restaurant was, only to find that it was in Sulav.  Having been under the impression that Amedi was a bit of a tourist trap for Iraqis, it turned out that there were no hotels or restaurants.  For the second time today, we headed over to Sulav and found ourselves a restaurant doing local food which wasn’t too bad.  As has now become our routine, we found ourselves a bar for some post-dinner shisha.  After sitting for a while we were joined by some guys who we had seen driving around Amedi in a white Hummer (which as you may have guessed didn’t blend in particularly well).  One of the guys was from Leeds, though he didn’t stay for long.  One of the guys stayed and talked to us for a few hours. He told us what it was like to live in Kurdistan - hated by the Turks to the north, Arabs to the west and south and Iranians to the east, they faced total isolation.  While they appreciated the peace and freedom from oppression that the British and American invasion had brought, the Kurds were unable to travel (get out as he called it) leading to a frustration that they were alone in their little region.  We also asked him whether the rumours about the city of Mosul were true, and whether we would be in as much danger as we had been told.  He said that if we turned up, somebody would watch us and wait until we stopped in a hotel or restaurant and would then make a call to bring in somebody to shoot us there and then - further confirming that Mosul and the rest of Iraq is a no-go zone.  We stayed out until about 1am, moving around the various shisha bars in Sulav and being treated to drinks (non-alcoholic of course) and shisha by his mates.

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