Crackin' the Citadel (Erbil)
by Joe Scarangella
Membership has its privileges. 'Cause let's face it, i'm never going to be a rich man working in the places i do at the jobs i choose. So instead of monetary gains, i hope for experiential enrichment. With my latest job in Iraq, that's exactly how things are. The best part about working on a cultural conservation project in the cradle of civilization, is i get to work with many experts of their field. Most recently this paid off as i was given an exclusive look into the Citadel of Erbil by one of the restoration projects archeologists.
Iraqi Kurdistan isn't exactly over-flowing with what one might call "tourist attractions". But arguably the biggest highlight comes in the form of a mini-village perched on an ancient mound smack-dab in the middle of the Erbil basin. If the Citadels website is to be believed, it is the oldest continuously inhabited place on Earth, dating back 8,000 years. But the truth is, nobody really knows. The 30 meter mound on which the town now sits is likely a culmination of countless previous incarnation piled on top of one another. No excavations have taken place. As of 5 years ago, the town was in full swing. Completely inhabited by locals going about the daily local life. But there was no upkeep of the 200-300 year old buildings. It became a hazard. And the decision was made to kick everybody out (except for 1 family) to revitalize the place.
What this means for today's tourist is 95%of the city is closed off, completely off limits to the uninvited guest. The main central thoroughfare is open to the public, but armed guards are everywhere to ensure nobody strays any further. This is where my contact came in handy. I was given an all access pass to ramble in and out of any building of my choosing. And with my friend, a local archeologist working on the restoration, I was brought to some of the more interesting houses. But i'll let you in on a little secret. It ain't that big a deal.
For the most part, the houses are single story homes with a couple of simple square rooms. They are devoid of any artistry or decoration. If you know where to look (or are shown) there are a couple little things here or there of mild interest, but little spectacular. However, a few of the more stately homes are in the midst of complete overhaul by foreign teams. These once glorious homes are slowly being returned to their once proud state. Fountains, ceiling murals and decorative nooks are being painstakingly refurbished. My archeologist guide was not happy with this as the Disneyfication was not the path he would have chosen. But all renovation seem to be in-line with UNESCO guidelines, with hope of having the site declared within the next couple years.
Even with it's limited access to the majority of the homes, the Citadel in Erbil is unquestionable the architectural highlight of any visit to Kurdistan. And at a whooping admission fee of ZERO, you can't complain about the price. Besides, being elevated some 30 metres above the city gives an excellent view over the market below. And who knows? If you're lucky, you might get to play volleyball with the guards.
You can read more by Joe here: http://www.joestrippin.blogspot.com/.
More by Joe ScarangellaIraq (Kurdistan Region)
Stumblin' over History
Goin' without Knowin'
Fallin' in Northern Iraq
Charmed by Koya
Doublin' Up on Dohuk
Za-kho, Za-kho, Off to the Bridge I Go
Divine Lunchin' (Mar Mattai)
Shaqlawan Sugar Coatin'
Al Kosh, of Course!
A Day at the Museums (Erbil)
Parkin' it in Erbil
Suly the Sequel (Sulaymaniyah)
Duckin' into Dukan
Takin' the High Road (Dohuk - Erbil)
Iraq's B-Side (Amedi)
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