Saturday, March 2, 2013

Capital City

Just outside those two gently rocking rivers, the witnesses to the birth of civilization, sits a city of many names.  It is the capital city of Kurdistan, Hawler; Erbil in Arabic and English.  Many claim it to be the oldest, continually inhabited city in the world.  It's citadel proudly set atop a tel speaks to the many generations who have called this place home.

I'd like to tell you of the many great sites of culture and society I pondered on my first trip to Erbil, but if I did I would be lying, and lying is not cool!  

I went from one mall to a bigger mall, and then promptly got back on the bus at dusk and was whisked back to Sulaimani.

One of our lovely coworkers here at AUIS had arranged for a small fleet (two) of buses to take anyone who wanted to go to Erbil this weekend for a shopping trip.  

While Erbil is not a huge city in terms of what an American might picture, it is more developed in terms of infrastructure and international business than Suli.

So I was journeying in hopes of reaching the renowned Carrefour...Carrefour, did you see what I said? I have an inexplicable love affair with this French-owned hypermarket.  I witnessed its majesty from afar in Sevilla, I experienced its hypnotic wares in Cairo, and now it was my chance to revel in their goods in Kurdistan.  It was not an opportunity to be passed by.

All in all, it was a successful trip.  Things that are readily available at any and every store in the states can be down right impossible to find in Suli, but sometimes appear in Erbil.  I picked up jars of salsa, knock-off Lucky Charms, goat cheese, sliced roast turkey, tortellini, cookie sheets, and some new all cotton bed sheets, all of which are scarce or non-existent most of the time where I live.

There is never a dull moment at the two story house of dreams.  I felt very fancy ordering my lebnah and feta cheese with zatar in Arabic.  Because Erbil has such a diverse population, with Kurds coming from Turkey, Syria, and Iran; and hospitality and retail workers coming from everywhere, many languages are understood and spoken.  My Kurdish is still very basic, so it was a treat to order in Arabic and have the cheese guy perfectly understand me and not walk away with four kilos rather than the quarter kilo I actually wanted.

Over in their delightful seafood section, they had an open tank of live fish, just chillin'  and minded their on business, until a friend and I walked over and proceeded to stare and talk about how they are killed.  One apparently didn't like that because it attempted to jump out of the tank and attack us...The guy behind the seafood counter found our shrieks of horror quite funny.

Over all, my favorite part of the trip was the drive there.  It was a cool and foggy morning, with an air of quiet dignity surrounding the mountains.  It was very easy to picture the many peoples who have traversed this oft contended land.

Families were out for day long picnics, and the sky was dotted with children's kites.  Tents were set up to shade mothers and aunts from the noon day sun that eventually peeked out.  Many that I saw were wearing the traditional Kurdish garb that is still popular with both the older and younger generation.

I was able to witness more culture through those little glimpses from my bus window than I did all day, and no matter how fabulous Carrefour is, they can't compete with that.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
-Carl Sandburg

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