Highlights of a busy weekend. Friday was spent on a 250 kilometer ride through northern Duhok province, and Saturday visiting the ancient mountain-side monastery of Alqosh.
My Friday ride was a massive loop, taking almost all new roads to places I had not yet been. My first stop was the small city of Zakho on the Turkish border.
Above, the old Ottoman bridge of Zakho, spanning a tributary of the Tigris River. Zakho lies on the northern border of Iraq with Turkey. From Zakho I drove eastward towards Amedi, passing first through the small town of Derker Ejem. I could see a distant switchback on a steep mountainside, and naturally enough made it my next destination.
Less than a kilometer from where the road curved out of sight from the town of Derker Ejem below, I reached a Peshmerga checkpoint where I wasn’t allowed past. First time it’s happened for me, and almost certainly because of PKK activity in the hills bordering Turkey.
After failing to get past the checkpoint I turned around and continued what was a beautiful ride without a problem in the world.
The following day I visited the ancienct Rabban Hermizd Monastery of Alqosh with a few colleagues. Alqosh lies to the south of Duhok, a few kilometers from the main thoroughfare that connects Kurdistan to Mosul.
The beautiful monastery dates back to about 700CE, and the town of Alqosh has been permanently inhabited for nearly two and a half millenia. Alqosh itself is a Christian settlement, and one of the few settlements anywhere in the world where Aramaic is still spoken; a now-obscure, and slowly dying, albeit beautiful, Christian language spoken by Assyrians and Chaldeans (Christians of northern Iraq and northern Syria as well as southern Turkey).
Alqosh has at times come under threat from ISIS, but the terrorist organization has never managed to take control of the town or monastery.