After having camped in a field along the road I decide I’m not awake enough to hitchhike, besides there’s hardly any traffic on the road. So I start walking. It doesn’t take long however for a car to stop however, two friends on their way to Erbil to sell some gym equipment, and they speak a bit of English perfect. After a while the younger of the two men begins to tell me how the American army is responsible and actively helps out ISIS. I often hear conspiracy stories on the road and usually I just remain quiet and smile, but this time the other guy turns his head, looks me in the eye and asks, ‘you don’t believe that, right?’.
They drop me off in the center of town and since I have some hours to kill before my couchsurfing host gets off work I decide to visit the local historical museum. As I make my way past the bazar surrounding the old citadel I notice how few women there are and how seriously people seem to look, my host later tells me it’s rare to hear someone laugh on the streets of Erbil. As I continue my way a rather concerned looking youngish western man in a suit emerges from a car and asks if I’m in need of help. I guess tourists aren’t a common sight in these parts.
I spent the next morning visiting the relatively liberal Christian neighborhood which currently houses many Arab Christian refugees and has a very different feel compared to the Kurdish parts of the city. Later I go to the old citadel in the city center, but it’s under reconstruction and large parts are closed off, and honestly though it’s one of the oldest cities in the world Erbil doesn’t impress me much.
So the next day I hitchhike out of town to a beautiful canyon my host recommended I visit. I try to find an old church in a town along the way but I can’t quite seem to find it. It’s one of the few historic artifacts in a region which architectural legacy was largely bulldozed into oblivion. I meet up with my host and another guy again in the evening. We eat and drink tea on a long street filled with tiny restaurants and tonnes of plastic chairs occupied by men who enjoy the coolness of the evening. Afterwards we go for a walk and with some local insight I do get to see some interesting places, but I’ve already decided to leave the next day.