Impressions of Dohuk
by Jeremy Star
When I woke up I peered out of the hotel window for my first views of Dohuk in the day light. I looked down onto a corner of the Bazaar and a man wearing baggy pantaloons, a cummerbund and turban. Out across dusty roofs, dotted with satellite dishes and water tanks, I could see a rocky ridge and clear blue skies. I packed up my things, braced myself for the stares and stepped out onto the street.
I walked around the Bazaar in awe, confronted by unfamiliar people, clothing, language and landscapes. Slowly I began to get my bearings, passing the spot where the taxi had dropped us a handful of hours before. Like the rest of the city it had sprung to life and there was a crowd of taxi drivers and hustlers who spotted me and beckoned me over. Mosul! Mosul! one of them yelled while making a throat-slitting action. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is 80 kilometres southeast of Dohuk and currently one of the most dangerous places in the world.
After leaving my backpack at a cheaper hotel my next task was buying Iraqi dinars. There are no working cash machines in Northern Iraq so I had withdrawn extra Turkish lira to exchange. I found a man sitting on the street at the edge of the Bazaar surrounded by a group of men and large bundles of cash. I showed him a 100 lira note, pointed to his calculator and said dinar. He keyed in 82,000 which was a fair rate so I handed over my lira and was given a bunch of notes and a friendly smile in return.
Equipped with local currency I went in search of food. I was dithering outside an eatery, when a nearby voice said in an American accent, go for it, I think you’re hungry! An Iraqi of around my age walked over from an electronics shop and helped me order a falafel kebab. It was served with a small bowl of chick-pea soup, a bottle of water and a plate of sweet onion, bitter olives and what appeared to be pickled carrot. I ate and paid and then went to look for the Iraqi with the American tongue.
Varman worked in the small electronics shop repairing cell phones. He had learnt English working as an interpreter for the American army in Mosul. We talked while he tore apart and repaired several cell phones – a skill he had taught himself through trial and error. Glasses of cay appeared and I was given a seat while business as usual operated around us. I met Bekas, the owner of the shop, who also spoke good English having travelled abroad to buy stock for the shop. We discussed places to visit and Varman offered to arrange a taxi for me to the Yazidi temple at Lalish the following day. As I was leaving Bekas told me I should be careful, so far from home without friends. But I told him that wasn’t true – I had just made two.
More by Jeremy StarInto Iraq
More of Dohuk
Visit to Amedi (Amadiya)
Back Across the Border
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