Suly the Sequel (Sulaymaniyah)
by Joe Scarangella
Although I don't typically retrace my steps when travelling, there are times when it can be interesting to revisit a place. Often first impressions are can be undeservedly swayed by any number of seemingly trivial factors, like the weather on a particular day or a random bout of food poisoning. Recently, I opted to revisit the southern Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah. "It is also the most liberal Kurdish city. There is, quite frankly, little to do there." is what I noticed the first time nearly 3 years ago. If measured like this, than not much has changed.
With exception of the Citadel in Erbil, Kurdish cities aren't exactly known for their major tourist attractions or monuments. This is most definitely true for Suly. Although I was in town on a work visit, I managed to set up a local CouchSurfing host to try to get a little more of a local feel to the place. We arranged to meet up in the centre of town, the Suly bazar. The largest and most vibrant in the region, the market is fun. It's not much different to similar bazars in Dohuk or Erbil, but it's entertaining to wander around, check out the local artisans at work while avoiding congealing pools of blood from recently slaughtered livestock. But I had been to the market before, and was hoping for something a little less obvious. My CS hosts proposed visiting a park.
It is what locals do afterall. As there isn't much else for them to do, in the afternoons and early evenings the parks quickly fill with young lovers, families and wedding parties. It was nice enough people watching and walking around in the slightly cooler Suly weather. After our little stroll, I asked, "What's next?" "Umm..... well... how about another park?" And that was most of our day. Like I said, not much to do.
Perhaps saying that I didn't need to see the cities #1 "attraction" for tourists limited my options. Amna Suraka (Red Security Prison) is the region's genocide museum. Once home to the Ba'ath Party (of Saddam fame), the prison acted as a facility of torture and death. The site is well done. Bullet holes still remain in the walls. Tanks lay continuous siege on the place. And a number of disheartening displays are set up in the building. But having been once, I did not feel the need to go back. It's kind of like the Killing Fields in Cambodia. I'm not sure how much death one needs to revisit.
After visiting every park in town and not visiting the "sites", the day ended well. We opted for the other major local past time. We grabbed a couple beers and headed up the local mountain-side for an impromptu BBQ as the sunset over the valley.
Perhaps Suly isn't what you might call "action packed". I guess I can sum up the change I noticed over the years pretty easily. In Erbil, the city is changing quickly, but the people remain the same. In Suly, the city has remained the same, but the people are changing quickly. Liberal, open-minded and progressive can all be relative terms, I live in Iraq after all. But they can all be applied to Suly. Sure, it may not be the most photogenic or adrenaline inducing place, but the city gives an interesting contrast when travelling through the region. Suly is definitely a place for people, not buildings.
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
Duckin' into Dukan
Crackin' the Citadel (Erbil)
Takin' the High Road (Dohuk - Erbil)
Iraq's B-Side (Amedi)
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