by Jeremy Star
I wanted plenty of daylight to cross the border so I headed for Silopi –15 kilometres from Iraq – for the night. After a day of walking, hitch-hiking and bussing I arrived at the Silopi otogar at 11pm. The bus station seemed someway outside of the city and since the bus was continuing I asked if I could stay on until Silopi proper. Sprechen sie Deutsch? An Iraqi on the bus – Egid - was returning home from working in Germany so we communicated in very broken German. Once he realized I was visiting Iraq he told me the bus was going there and suggested I cross the border that night. I had wanted to avoid arriving in Iraq in the middle of the night but he was also heading for Dohuk and assured me that everything would be fine.
The border was closed when we arrived, the workers were essen Egid told me – I should schlafen. When the border reopened everyone got off the bus and crowded around a small office to be stamped out of Turkey. There was no queue and Egid grabbed my passport and pushed to the front. Once everyone was processed and back on board we drove over the Tigris River into Iraq. The bus stopped again and everyone headed for a large waiting room. My passport was added to a pile and we were given cups of cay. Egid put his cell phone forward an hour so I did the same – 1am Arabia Standard Time. Soon it was my turn to be interviewed by a border official. Did I speak Arabic, Kurdish or Turkish? No, no and no but Egid rushed over to translate. I was interviewed and answered as well as I could in German. Wo wohnst du? Wie Lange? Ihre Arbeit? Our answers seemed to suffice and I was issued a 10 day visa.
The bus was going no further so Egid found a taxi and arranged a price. We jumped in and speed through the darkness along a twisting, turning and unmarked road. Zu schnell… nicht gut Egid said with a shake of his head. After passing through Zakho we were stopped at a checkpoint. A peshmerge solider asked for the curtain across my window to be pulled back so he could have a better look at me. Some sort of explanation was given and we continued on. There was a strong smell of petrol and through the window I could see brightly lit oil refineries flying by.
Dohuk was deserted when we arrived. Our taxi dropped us outside a hotel which was well and truly closed, as was one across the street. A plainclothes policeman with a gun slung over his shoulder emerged out of the darkness to check us out. I waited with our bags while Egid rushed around trying to find somewhere to stay. It was cold and I was pleased when Egid came back and led me to an open hotel. He showed me around my room – pointing to the squat toilet - Das ist OK? Ja. I paid with American Dollars and was given my change in Iraqi Dinars. Bist du hungrig? Ja!
We walked through the closed stalls of the bazaar to a simple soup kitchen which was the only place open. I imitated Egid as he carefully washed his hands and then took a piece of flat bread out of a large plastic bin. We tore our bread into pieces and put it into a bowl which was then filled with lamb soup. We ate in concentrated silence. Schlafen? Egid insisted on paying as we left and headed back to our hotel. He was continuing his journey home early in the morning so I said goodbye and many thanks to my first encounter with Kurdish hospitality.
More by Jeremy StarImpressions of Dohuk
More of Dohuk
Visit to Amedi (Amadiya)
Back Across the Border
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