Apr 13, 2013

Farewell Erbil

I wrote this on my way back from Erbil:

"Here I am sitting in my plane seat next to a giant human being, waiting for this loud seating dispute between the waiter and a passenger to end before we take off. Yes, the body odor of a sweaty Iraqi is exactly what I had been dreaming of the last two nights to be having on my flight to Beirut. I really miss Beirut, though it's been only three days away.
Kurdistan National Flag. Courtesy of Nath Halawani
Lots of substantial updates took place in my absence. The new PM is the savior we've been all waiting for, it seems. The weather has took another crazy turn the wrong lane. Yesterday it rained as if it were a stormy January night, today it seems it gotten back to miami-like weather: high levels of humidity made sure the hair of every single girl on the shores of Lebanon got a nice unexpected curl.

My trip to Iraq is a business-related trip that cost my company somewhere over 5000$, 1200$ of which went only to the hotel rooms. By business I mean two meetings, 30 minutes each. By meeting I mean a silly superficial presentation to a potential client. By client I mean another snobby manager with his team of technicals who only wants the most for their moderate budget. I was trying to sell our company product for telecom operators in Iraq, and I nailed it.

But this post is not about Beirut, and surely not about my first-time successful business plans (and the only ones actually), it's much more about the two enchanting nights I spent in Erbil, with the company of a few amazing people, the kind of people that makes a place like Erbil the most lovable ever.

Maskouf Fish grilled the Iraqi traditional way. Courtesy of Nath Halawani
I spent my first night with eyes wide open, the need to sleep was nowhere to be found then. Result? A very vague memory of the next morning with a two hour nap in that afternoon. Keep in mind that the first meeting took place on that same morning, when of course I was supposed to be fully energized and ready to kick ass.

I don't hide that I tried to take the chance and close my eyes whenever I could: when waiting in the hotel lobby, in the car on our way to the first client, on the way back to the hotel, etc.. That kept going on until I threw myself on my bed in the afternoon.

Courtesy of Nath Halawani
The citadel of Erbil, one of the greatest monuments there, if not the only, was the highlight of my first day there. With the help of both Botan and Basak, we had the best tour around the citadel. I really enjoyed them telling me their college days stories as they were having classes in a nearby university in Erbil, 10 years ago.

Botan, Waleed and Basak
Outskirts of the Erbil Citadel. Courtesy of Nath Halawani
Downtown, as locals call it. Courtesy of Nath Halawani
Just like in Turkey, Kurdish people are famous for their sweet tooth. One of the most renowned sweets around Iraq and/or Kurdistan is Mann & Salwa. Iraq is known to have the tastiest and highest quality of that sweet delicacy. On the other side, and after that walk around the old souks in Erbil, I couldn't but notice how spread out the Luqum was, otherwise known as Turkish Delights.

Turkish Delights in Erbil. Courtesy of Nath Halawani
Having spent Day #2 in Sulaimaniyyah all drained and powerless, taking photos was the least I thought of doing. It was that spontaneous: Waking up in the morning, checking out from the hotel, meeting with Najib and driving three hours straight all the way to Sulaimaniyyah, where our second meeting would take place. Long story short, it didn't take me long before realizing we were at the airport VIP lounge (VIP my ass btw) waiting for our plane to start boarding.

I am now the most blessed sucker on earth, actually on clouds. What's in front of me can't be simply put in words. Floating on white fluffy clouds with the sun rays hitting exactly your window as in trying to say hi, while the soil below out the window is struck with the most wonderful rain storm ever, is literally all a man like me could ask for. Why is it so hard for a wish like staying dangled herein for a couple hours is so hard to achieve? As my ears start to pop of pressure, and as I keep on blocking the view to the Iraqi next to me, all I could think of was my eternal childhood dream. Yes you got it, the dream of being Superman for a few hours, minutes, let alone a few seconds. I was superman, and I got a few photos to prove it. I cut through clouds as if it were the first time of my life. I had my breath taken for a fraction of a second. I literally started snapping pictures like maniac with my blackberry, something I don't often do."

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