Erbil: Photographs and Paragraphs

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Langa Bazaar in its full madness. Located on the far eastern side of the city only a five minute drive from my school in the neighborhood of Sarwaran, it is one of the premier markets in the city with seemingly anything and everything one could ever want.

Clothes are piled into heaps of little organization, laid on tarps all over the pavement in areas claimed by different vendors.

The Bazaar has two major components, outdoor vendors with their merchandise (clothes) strewn everywhere, and indoor vendors selling food, household items, tools, toys, and supplies.

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I visited Langa Bazaar on a Friday afternoon with Amanda, George, and Spencer.

The market was crowded and busy when Amanda and I first met George and Spencer at noon, but patrons dwindled, slowly at first, and then rapidly, as shops shut down for afternoon prayer.

Activity on Friday resumes in the late afternoon, but for a span of several hours much of the busiest sections of the city shut down as everyone respects prayer.

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The Jalil Khayat Mosque, one of the most strikingly beautiful buildings in all of Erbil, and with its two massive minarets the mosque is visible from almost anywhere in the city.

I use it as a bearing when I’m commuting to school in the morning even though it is in a neighborhood nowhere close to Sarwaran.

The beautiful mosque was opened in 2005, and was obviously stylized after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

It sits on Kurdistan street near the center of the city, and because of its centrality can be seen in any direction, even the far reaches of Ankawa, far from the center of Erbil.

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The heart of the citadel bazaar.  The Bazaar spreads out over a series of narrow streets and pathways from the southern end of the citadel like arteries from a heart.

The paths continue for hundreds of yards in several directions where vendors, like Langa Bazaar, sell everything imaginable.

My personal favorites have been the fresh fruit vendors selling dates and exotic tropical fruits I’ve never before seen or tasted, as well as the butchers that very publicly display their large and fresh cuts of goat and cow.  I’ve yet to try any of the meat, having been warned that it is often unrefrigerated, and only fresh for a very, very short period of time.

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Eventually the alleyways and capillaries of the citadel market open up to the main square of the city, where beautiful fountains and open courtyards lead the eyes and feet towards the old citadel.

The old clock tower on the right side of the photo, is one of the signature sights of Erbil, and in a near- perfect fit, vendors try to sell knock-off Rolex and other high end watches directly below it’s large time face.

The walkways are almost always crowded with tourists strolling through, people haggling for price, and individuals seeing and trying to be seen.

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Directly below the citadel is a lovely little tea shop where Amanda and I have tried to make a habit of frequenting.

After watching old locals sit for hours seldom saying a word, we wanted to channel our best “keeping time” habits of Sierra Leone, sitting and enjoying the sights and people watching for hours barring a few interruptions of conversation.

Watching the sun slowly dip over the central courtyards and fountains and then plunge the clock tower into shadow affirmed why it is such a beautiful and popular place to let the afternoon weekend hours disappear.

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Gardens in the old citadel.  The citadel, although impressive and beautiful in its maturity, was somewhat lifeless in color and ambience.

The entire place had a feeling of desertion, in part because I assumed many locals had been kicked out in order to foster renovations, and also due to the monotone of color within the complex.

The citadel had only recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as a result has received UN funding for its renovations and improvement.

Significant areas of the ancient area have been closed to the public until further notice as a result, and what little areas are allowed to be walked through don’t make for an opportune experience.

Seeing these flowers in the center of the open square on the citadel did make for a pretty little break in the bleak brick architecture, and provided a much needed spark of life and diversity.

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This is one of my favorite photos I’ve yet taken in Erbil.  Approaching the open square in the center of the old citadel, I walked past a Kurdish family and stooped to take their photo with the Kurdish flag proudly waving in the background.

There is a very distinct pride in this small and often picked on region of the world. It is not a brash or flaunted pride, but very understated.

Kurds are very self affirmed of their abilities, whether in their bid for an ultimately unified country, or as the primary combatant to ISIS.  I loved this photo because I thought it captured that quiet pride and confidence, a Kurdish family below their vibrant flag.

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The view just outside the citadel walls, atop the steep road leading to the ancient gateway.  It is the best unobstructed view I have yet seen of the city, and if full access was allowed in the citadel, I’m sure the view would be just as beautiful in any direction.

This particular photo is shot looking north.  The neighborhood I live in, Ankawa is out of sight behind the two high rises in the far left of the photo.

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