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!