Sunday, March 20, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
To the special people reading this!
Before I write anything: Can you believe that this week FOUR people have come to Kurdistan this week, strangers, who have actually read my blog, and write now, as I am typing all four of them are here!
[[me= almost in tears… really happy]]
Okay, it's Thursday night— a long weekend going into Newroz: the best day on the Kurdish calendar—and I have decided to give you a little insight into my life this week in my corner of the world, that is, in my amazing corner of the world. First of all, you can't imagine how excited people are over here as they prepare for Newroz. I honestly think it is the only day in the year where Kurds actually do plan ahead. But believe me even if it rains and it becomes thunder, or a sand storm hits Erbil, still people are going to go out, have their Yapragh (A.K.A DOLMA) and Bryani on a mountain top dancing halparke until sunset. I know for sure that the girls are busy preparing their Jli Kurdi (Kurdish clothes) these few days; everyone is stressed out that the tailor won't finish them on time.
I've been working hard this week, so I will take you through my week by pictures I've taken by my phone*
Foreigners in Erbil
First of all, I really shouldn't use foreigners as a word to describe the guests coming into Erbil. They are, of course, sar sar w sar chaw. Today, Mivan (the no longer little brother) and I went out with two of our newly made friends from the UK. One of them, I hadn’t met before (took a lot of explaining with mum that it was okay to meet a stranger). Well, her name is Sara, a British girl, doing her masters at the University of York and she arrived just yesterday to do her research in Kurdistan. She came across my blog and we were exchanging emails regarding her visit (yup! She read my blog. And said that she found it "interesting" I wished she could repeat it over and over again-it was like music to my ears. Did I mention that a blog, after a few years, becomes like your child? If it's successful you feel proud, and if doesn't do well, then you feel like punishing it!!)
Above: Sara and Jessy outside a Jili Kurdi shop in Erbil
Any how, Sara seems to like it here. And we shared some thoughts about life in Kurdistan over a little snack in Family Mall. Though I insist to feed her falafl and gaas near the citadel, not the most hygienic, but it must be tried. Jessy (see my blog entry: A Brit in Jli Kurdi) also happens to be here, once again. After two visits, she insisted that the third visit would be during Newroz, and here she is for the third time in Kurdistan. She loves it here. You see Jessy is a young teenage girl, about 15, who I think is on a mission to get a Kurdistani Residency and hopes "never to return" her story is a unique one.
Above: Yes, you can get the original here in Erbil. Does it smell right? I think she knows what she's looking for
Walking through Family Mall we bumped into another bunch of people, also from the UK, and it was an interesting few seconds of conversation—they were also here for some research. For the first time meeting Sara, she probably saw me as either a) too nosy or b) too outgoing. I simply asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know what it was about Kurdistan that interested her so much. I wanted to know what it was that she liked about Kurdistan. I wanted to hear it from her. I asked her so many questions she probably felt like she was in a serious interrogation. After every sentence she said I would intervene: "why?" she replies and then I ask "How?" Sara told me she feels safe walking in the streets of Erbil more than any other place she had visited before, though she did say it was a tough duty informing her friends that she is going to Iraq, but "it’s safe, because I will be in Kurdistan" they still think she is out of her mind for coming here. I don't blame them for thinking this, because the international media is doing such a great job at showing the image of Kurdistan (NOT). Sara seems to like the natural beauty of the region, but also the people, "they are the nicest I have met" she told me, she likes the simplicity, the development but at the same time the culture.
Apple in Kurdistan
If it was up to me, I would still use a type writer and a brick Nokia phone. So, honestly, I really don't have any idea about technology—don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it all, and I appreciate the great minds behind them that actually produce this technology. In simple words Technology and I just don't have chemistry—but I know about this big phenomenon in Kurdistan called APPLE; the iPhone and the iPad.Above: Sara observes the sign in Family Mall's Digital City where you can buy Apple in Iraq
Everyone is talking about it, and a few people I know are saving money to buy them. Sara was surprised when she saw the only authorized Apple shop in Kurdistan, and Iraq (the new shop in Family Mall) I have to admit to you, with everything that I saw there, I think for the first time in my life I was interested in something called an iPod, and these iPads, they are a real heaven for people who have 6 notepads and 15 pens in their handbags (me!!!), call me old fashioned, but I wouldn't replace the paper and pen for anything in the world… even the iPad [Apple must do something really BIG to Kurdistan to have me as a customer]. I am glad that young Kurds, like other people in the world, can have access to these technologies. I don't see why not!
Plant a tree
This morning on the way to work, I had to stop to take these two pictures. There are hundreds and hundreds of trees being planted in Kurdistan. If you read my articles a few years back, I once wrote: "I have a dream for the roads to be filled with trees, I want the city to also look green, and reflect of the beauty of our mountains" Today, I felt tearful, as I saw three long main roads being planted with trees. (Do you notice the symbolism and metaphor of planting a tree?). As I stopped to take the pictures, I wanted to get out and actually plant one myself. I can't wait until they grow big, with their large branches and green leaves swaying in the air, giving shadow to the roads. I feel so humbled to sleep tonight and know that probably over a thousand trees were planted in my city today. You may find this rather ridiculous of me, but every tree planted for me gives a meaning of growth, of hope, of security. Every tree, to me, is a sign of the people's dedication to the development of this nation, it symbolizes optimism and aspiration. More importantly, it shows the way we think of tomorrow. We are a nation that is planting.
I actually received this really fancy VIP invitation card for the Erbil Autoshow, if only they knew my ideal dream car is a 1980's Volkswagen they wouldn't have bothered. But the invitation did give a feel of just how 'fine' the cars will look. It started today (I couldn’t make it) and it will continue until the 20th of March.
The Erbil Festival this week was beyond what words can ever explain. It was a real insight of Kurdish folklore and culture—I must say that I am really proud of our Governor. Every tent in Shanadar Park represented a certain area within the Erbil province. It was incredibly beautiful; I felt as a Kurd I was discovering Kurdish culture. The people in the festival were great; they would explain what all the little tools were. [I have a dream that one day in my future house to have a Kurdawary room. A room with a samawar (something we use to make tea), lantern, red hand-made rugs, and decorate it with everything else that is Kurdish. I wouldn’t minf having my entire future house with the whole Kurdish theme. My brother jokes that I am going to have Hassan Zirak playing in an old cassette player all the time as well—why not?!]
Above: That is a Samawar
Above: Shanadar Park in Erbil, A day before the festival begins, packed with people
Above: Dastani Korre
Above: This are is supposed to be Shaqlawa, on the day there was actually Nana Qaysi, something you must try when visiting Shaqlawa. This picture was taken during the preparation, a day before the festival
Above: And finally, there is nothing better than Five Star Shelm- No gloves, no forks! But trust me, there is this special taste to it. You know when you eat something and you are sure it's not hygienic, but you just can't resist the taste!
When you smell it you feel hypnotized, fresh, joyful and immediately you want to close your eyes and imagine yourself on one of the mountains of Kurdistan. I mean it. I bought my first bunch of Nergis flowers—exclusive from our mountains at this time of year—at a traffic light from a young boy for 1, 000 IDs— just under $1. I was putting my entire nose into it all day at work, and back home I put it in some water, and as I write right now, it's still alive and smells just as good—three days later! You're life is gone (ba firo) if you don't indulge in the beauty of a bunch of Nergis flowers. Seriously!
Now I know what a Kurdish father is thinking when he decides to name his daughter Nergis.
Memories- young Kurds have dreams
I spent last weekend clearing up the endless notebooks and files I had stacked up for years. I was looking through one of my notebooks; it was of our top graduates, who had supposedly received scholarships to study our masters abroad. We spent a few hours in the cafeteria, expecting a NO or YES answer-- which our entire future depended on. I can't express the amount of stress we were going through. This is actually something we drew while waiting for an all important phone call in order to go and meet the Minister of Higher Education.
Above: I couldn't rotate the picture, I think you kind of have to tilt the screen (or your head) to understand what is going on.
I couldn't help but smile when I saw this in one of my notebooks. If you look carefully it tells a story
- It is about going from Erbil (the round ring roads and the Citadel) to the UK for a masters,
- After a return we would go back to Oxford (someone has written "Xoshnaw in Harvard" just above Oxford—far right. Xoshnaw is the family name of a large tribe that are now in Erbil and more in Shaqlawa),
- On the return someone has drawn a ring, symbolizing marriage, then there is an arrow (go again) and get our PhD degree.
- When we return as Doctors, we live a long life, and then win a Nobel Peace Prize. (If you can see in blue pen someone has added Kurdish last names to well known first names: Barack Barzanji, Bill Garmiyani and Steve Xoshnaw—I am guessing it means Kurds will be people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs).
- The top left reads: Who said we can't dream? This, my dear reader, shows young Kurds DREAMING!
Kurdish Youth and Peace
I took part in a little gathering put together by the INI in Erbil, called World Peace Builders. It was an interesting session, participants acted out a scenario and then we discussed issues and questions related to ethnicity. So, why do I bring this up?
Above: Some of the young people acting out a scenario, in the garden of the INI office in Erbil
I bring this up because on a Friday afternoon, there are activities and events in Erbil that are educational for young people. They open our minds, they create a certain atmosphere to allow for the discussion of certain topics that we wouldn't otherwise speak about, and above all that, it is an opportunity to meet other people, exchange views and form friendships.
Did it ever occur to you how funny it is, that I write this way of Erbil but I am actually not from Erbil originally? This is why it's so great. Erbil is everyone's nest. No matter where you're originally from…
Above: Picture says a thousand words, no comment.
*All pictures taken by ME, I apologize if they aren't clear. It's basically daily life in Erbil captured by the lens of my Samsung mobile with a 3.2 mega pixels. Me + Technology= not best friends!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I have been blogging for a while now--and if you're also a blogger you would know how it feels when you hear from people who read your entries-- it just feels special. So, more than three later I have some followers* (a few. But it's enough to let me keep writing). In regards to yesterday's entry I got an email (yes, an email from someone who actually reads this blog), I decided to share it with you. You might say that I am writing some of the entries in such a way only because I am a Kurd. But here is something from an outsider in Kurdistan (but always remember: outsiders are always sar sar o sar chaw [on our heads & eyes! if that makes any sense]) I didn't obtain permission to publish this, therefore, the name shall remain anonymous!
so.. here we go:
I don’t know you like or you are not pleased to see my email. But I am writing to let you know that I was reading your .blog. I am not a usual Blog reader. But I found your Blog while browsing about Kurdistan.
On Friday 11th march I decided to have my prayers in the big mosque near my hotel ( Erbil international Sheraton hotel) and after the prayers I decided to walk towards Minara park as one of my friend told me that there near to this area is the grave (Marqad) of Prophet Ozair.. Well I found a small mosque like building but the door was closed and there was noting written on it . The other thing I noticed that day was extra amount of security on the roads. I was thinking that today due to this especial day the government is expecting some protest so they have this extra arrangement. At that time I hade a mix feeling.. Should I go back immediately to hotel or just see what’s going on.. well to be honest a bit scared as well.. but i continue walking. first towards the hotel and than I decided to eat some thing near citadel. There were sounds of load horns and songs from citadel. Than i have again seen many roads closed. and a lot of security and a lot of police with shields disappearing in a police station .it scared me. But than i was near citadel area and have see some of the people are there. some shops were open. I move more forward and I can see 100s of people in front of citadel waving flags. My fears calm down a bit and i have decided to go more forward. Now I was with in the crowd of people who were waving flags of different parties and also Kurdistan flags. Young people were dancing on some songs.. The whole seen was marvellous. It was really nice to see these people celebrating. But what was the real occasion i don’t know at that time but have only the hint that it is there national day. But it was for me really amazing. It remind me our old days when we celebrate our independence day but its no more like that. But this seen was also different. I have never danced in my live , may be because i am shy but on that music and on the style Kurdish people dance, i was feeling some thing with in me to dance with them. Than I was feeing more hungry and decided to move from there and come back to hotel, and in my way i have seen more and more people coming towards citadel .. it was really a nice experience and i can see that in your blog too.
I like Kurdistan, the more i read about it the more i like it. I have liking to it before i decided to came here. Now I am here. I really love it. The most amazing thing here is the nice people and your culture. I like these clothing’s .. That’s why i brought one for my one year old son.
I don’t know why i am writing to you all this but may be to let you know that I like it..
Sorry If I have wasted your time…."There you have it.
*Mum officially resigned from reading the entries, Kulka has been quiet and not posting much--but she's on her way to Kurdistan for the first time! thanks to some influence from my blog ;) so my loyal readers are O.H, H.A, A.K, Kulka and Taboula!! :) I hope you realize all these entries are written for you four!
Friday, March 11, 2011
Today, 11 March, was a special day (the anniversary of the Kurdish uprising in Erbil), although most of the days in March are special in their own right. Last year I remember it was my final year at Uni and for the first time in my life I celebrated Raparin (uprising) day like never before. The feeling was different. I can't explain it in words, but I knew this year I wanted to feel the same way. So I got all colored up- Red, White, Green and Yellow! I chose to dress and accessories in the colors of the Kurdish flag rather than affiliation to any political party.
* Yes! You read correctly-- Readers! I was telling a few friends about my day and I wouldn't send them any pictures. "See my blog tonight!" That way they have no other choice. Thus, I am almost certain there are going to be atleast two or three people reading this entry. :)
I know I'm not the perfect photographer, but please note that all pictures were taken by ME- today! For the purpose of this blog only.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I am going to do a little photo blog for you in the coming week or so about Salons in Erbil. There is one in every neighborhood and almost one in every main road. It is superb business. As a matter of fact I went to a local salon--or beauty shop-- just last weekend for a trim and I came back with information about which person in the neighborhood is getting married, which is getting divorced, which in-laws are good with their daughter-in-law and which are really bothering her. I knew about how much gold one of the grooms did and even witnissed an arguments between a bride-to-be and her sister-in-law. What an experience!
Let me clarify something, there are salons in Erbil where you will not notice any of this. These include the Lebanese Beauty Center (on Shorsh road!) who pamper you to the extent that you feel like you are Miss Universe, then there are the ones in Ankawa and other places across Erbil. Some have a reputation for charging a lot of money-- I don't know if its for the coffee they serve you or for washing your hair twice even though you washed it before going there!
It is all about your financial capabilities, some people go and do their nails, because they "can't make it for lunch because of the manicure appointment!" I really don't like to see this emerging culture here, but it seems like it is already appearing. Then there are the neighborhood salons that provide the basic beauty necessities of any woman including an average middle class who might be a house wife or a government employee.
I wait for my turn--in this one there are no appointments, first come best served-- so I take the time to 1) observe 2) Ears drop. On purpose! I must admit after almost two hours I came out a whole lot wiser, and here is why:
The really pretty girl: This was a really realllly pretty (no. Beautiful) girl in her amazing Kurdish clothing, long black hair, asking to get her make up done, she was one of the bride's sisters I guess. She asked the beautician she wants 'natural make up'. But I can swear it took 45 minutes to complete and the base was three layers of foundation stroked by a brush that would otherwise be used for painting with water colors.
This really made me think of the word beauty among Kurdish girls today and our grandmothers years back. If you're a girl just take a look at the top of your dressing table or by your bathroom sink at the number of beauty products you use to keep "Beautiful". After I returned home I looked at a picture we have of my grandmother when she was young, it's an old black and white picture (that looks like its been brought from the world's oldest museum). She looks... beautiful. I observe her physical features closely and wonder to myself: What did beauty mean to my grandmother? How did she keep herself looking so great? There was certainly no Vaseline, Dove, Olay, Head and Shoulders, Pantene; nor was there Fair and Lovely, Maybeline or Loreal.
I do a little bit of research, using a close friend, Google, he tells me that beauty, including that of the radiant, natural looking skin that we all want is influenced greatly by stress. I don't need to research the cause of stress, from life's experiences I have learned a simple equation:
So according to the above equation, maybe my grandmother didn't have the stress that deal with in our everyday lives today. Which brings me to another equation:
* Mum isn't following anymore these days. So I hope there is one of you out there who is reading... :) I appreciate your time.