It’s bloody hot!
I only rode 127 miles today but I was knackered when I arrived in Arbil. The heat, dust, appalling roads, cars & lorries that have no idea about ‘lane discipline’ and there were road blocks every 20 miles or so, either police or military. They were very friendly asking where I was from, going. they asked for my passport but when they realised I was English they said I didn’t need to show it. 20 km from Arbil I turned onto the main road between Arbil and Mosul and everything changed, the traffic increased dramatically which meant everyone cues to get through the military checkpoints. I was told not to go to Mosul as there is trouble there so I understand the reason for the checks. I passed two checkpoints on the way into Arbil and both times I had to show my passport and the motorbike paperwork they gave me at the boarder. The military guys were again very friendly and after a while I could continue on my journey.
Arbil, what a city, the capital of Kurdistan and one of the oldest cities in the world. I head for the old part of town as this is where the cheapest hotels are (£15 per night). I wandered around for a while and whilst drinking tea a Syrian guy came over and we talked. He suggested he showed me the city so we headed off in his car and I was amazed. Wrongly, I assumed after the years of trouble it was traditional and run down. What I saw was a city with massive investment, miles upon miles of new building either side of wide boulevards, modern and expensive shops, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. My friend told me about the investment from American and Turkish companies. I could have been in any major city of the world. I wasn’t expecting this.
So again we have the two halves of a country (like Turkey), the traditional half which seems poor and the modern new half with massive investment.
Cars! Here is a country that loves cars, they are all new and massive ‘Land Cruisers’ etc. I haven’t seen a small car since I arrived in Kurdistan and why, petrol is 25 pence / litre. Why they need big cars I don’t know as it’s so crowded they are either in neutral or first gear the majority of the time.
So my day was mixed, I rode across pot holed dusty roads through check point after check point and then I arrive in one of the oldest cities in the world that has parts that have the look of any modern city. Arriving in Arbil feels like arriving in Disneyland, outside is run down, you need to pass through security to get and once in there is little security and it’s peaceful.
Interestingly everyone in the country and old city smiled and wanted to talk to me, nobody in the new part did.
My new Syrian friend and I talked for hours about the troubles in His country and how he is making a new life for himself in Arbil. He came here with many other Syrians with the UN, now he works hard and sends money home to his family. He is positive and proud to be Kurdish.