Weekend Highlights 2

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.

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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.

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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.

A refugee camp visible far below the switchbacking road above Derker Ejem
A refugee camp visible far below the switchbacking road above Derker Ejem

After failing to get past the checkpoint I turned around and continued what was a beautiful ride without a problem in the world.

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The road towards Bamarne
The road towards Bamarne
Approaching Azire
Approaching Azire

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Looking out towards Gara Mountain. Saddam Hussein's palace, which I'd visited the weekend prior, sits atop the high peak in the center-right of the photo
Looking out towards Gara Mountain. Saddam Hussein’s palace, which I’d visited the weekend prior, sits atop the high peak in the center-right of the photo
Heading south towards Sarsing, and from there, towards Duhok
Heading south towards Sarsing, and from there, towards Duhok

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.

The town of Alqosh lying on the slopes of a small mountain. The monastery of Rabban Hermizd lies tucked away into the rocky mountain on the right side of the photo
The town of Alqosh lying on the slopes of a small mountain. The monastery of Rabban Hermizd lies tucked away into the rocky mountain on the right side of the photo
The slow approach to Rabban Hermizd through a narrow canyon
The slow approach to Rabban Hermizd through a narrow canyon
Directly below the monastery
Directly below the monastery

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Looking south over the plains of Nineveh towards Mosul
Looking south over the plains of Nineveh towards Mosul

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One of the most beautiful roads I've ever seen... the final approach to Rabban Hermizd Monastery
One of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen… the final approach to Rabban Hermizd Monastery

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The monastery had a maze of caverns, caves, basements and that descended deep into the mountain side. Sometimes they were large chambers with beams of light streaming in through small openings, and sometimes they were one shade of darkness away from complete and terrifying opacity
The monastery had a maze of caverns, caves, basements and that descended deep into the mountain side. Sometimes they were large chambers with beams of light streaming in through small openings, and sometimes they were one shade of darkness away from complete and terrifying opacity

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Christian graffiti in one of the small abandoned huts
Christian graffiti in one of the small abandoned huts
I could never get sick of this view
I could never get sick of this view

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A more focused look down at the plains of Nineveh, towards the other Christian villages of Telkuf and Telskof
A more focused look down at the plains of Nineveh, towards the other Christian villages of Telkuf and Telskof
Looking southwest towards Erbil
Looking southwest towards Erbil
Houses and shelters carved into the rocky hillside
Houses and shelters carved into the rocky hillside
Leaving Rabban Hermizd at sundown, with a perfect glow cast upon the red mountains. The monastery is visible in shadows on the right, an abandoned house in the foreground
Leaving Rabban Hermizd at sundown, with a perfect glow cast upon the red mountains. The monastery is visible in shadows on the right, an abandoned house in the foreground
A shot of the more contemporary church and monastery sitting at the base of the mountain, just outside the village of Alqosh
A shot of the more contemporary church and monastery sitting at the base of the mountain, just outside the village of Alqosh
Just another sunset in Iraq, Mosul Lake and the Tigris River in view just below the mountain ridge.
Just another sunset in Iraq, Mosul Lake and the Tigris River in view just below the mountain ridge.
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3 thoughts on “Weekend Highlights 2

  1. Great pictures. The beauty we rarely see as such, for it is different than what we see around us…but is beauty nevertheless.

  2. Dawson,
    These photographs leave me speechless & I certainly understand why you would never get tired of looking at (wow, you were there.!!) the switchback road through the mountains. Certainly a journey you will never forget.
    Stay safe.
    Dolores Freeman

    1. Dolores,
      Thanks as always!

      I remember you mentioning awhile back that you wanted to meet. I wanted to let you know that I’ll be back in California month from tomorrow. First time in well over a year! I hope we can meet, as I’d like to see Carl and Merrie as well, it’s been too long!

      All the best!

      Dawson

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