by Jeremy Star
Determined not to overpay for transport again I researched share taxis. I discovered that for major destinations there were waiting places called garajs. I asked a man where Amedi garaj was and he gestured that I should catch a taxi there. He flagged one down which took me a short distance to a large parking space with a dozen concrete shelters labelled with various destinations. I was directed to a shelter where I sat and waited for half an hour or so. Someone who spoke some English told me not many people were travelling today because it was a holiday. The following day was also a holiday so would I like to pay 60,000 dinars for a private taxi now? Nope.
I waited, becoming more discouraged and more likely to pay for a private taxi. A life in places where things are instant and scheduled hadn’t prepared me for this tempo and uncertainty. Two local men in a nearby shelter happily played backgammon while they waited. Would they play one game or ten? It didn’t matter. An hour passed and then a driver suddenly announced he was heading for Amedi and would take me for 7000 dinars.
The driver was grumpy and reckless. He reluctantly put his seatbelt on whenever we approached a police checkpoint and then undid it immediately after. After about forty minutes he offered me a cigarette which broke the ice. I had heard that the road passed one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces so I tried saying Saddam Hussein while hand signing a house. He pointed out a speck on a mountain top and stopped so I could take a photo. Further along he pointed to a closer, badly damaged building. I asked if we could go there but he motioned that it was a ruin and that he was going to Amedi. I asked him to stop, paid and got out. Amedi could wait.
After passing through the remains of a large gate I came to a helicopter landing pad complete with markers and road cones. From there the road wound its way up to the complex. I trudged up and looked around the outbuildings which were covered in graffiti and surrounded by piles of rubble. The concrete walls were still intact but the roofs were caved in and the internal features stripped. The view was stunning and I could see the outline of the property marked by the high security wall. There were fruit trees scattered around and a dam built for swimming in the distance.
The main building was structurally intact. It was gloomy inside and I scattered a flock of birds living in the roof as I walked in. The staircase was still functional so I explored the second floor and the roof, wondering what each room was used for and where the dictator might have slept. Most of the furnishings were long gone but a few tiles and fragments of plastering indicated the buildings former glory. Outside I poked around a pile of rubble and found a brick labelled FABRICA SIENA – confirming that building materials had come all the way from Italy which I had read. Unexploded ordnance crossed my mind and the place had an eerie stillness so I headed down the hill.
As I walked back towards the main road a group of children emerged out of the empty landscape, running towards me. I felt a wave of fear, outnumbered and isolated, but needlessly as they happily continued on past me. I hurried away shaken, and paid for my suspicion missing a photograph of the band of children, running across the dusty hillside in the late afternoon sun.
More by Jeremy StarInto Iraq
Impressions of Dohuk
More of Dohuk
Visit to Amedi (Amadiya)
Back Across the Border
Back to list of experiences