IRAQ – CULTURAL TOUR IN IRAQI KURDISTAN
Day 1: Arrival in Erbil
Flight to Erbil (not direct). Night in Erbil.
Day 2: Erbil - Dohuk
Morning departure for the site of Bavian or Khans. There you will see Assyrian sculptures
considered to be the most important remains in the Badinan region. They were part
of one of the summer palaces of Sennacherib, King of Assyria in the 7th century
BC. We will continue on to Dohuk and visit the Charsteen cave on the "White Mountain"
north of Dohuk. It would seem to date back to the Furthian era, as indicated by
the pottery remains discovered on its roof. On the right-hand side of the cave can
be seen five symbols etched into the stone, probably denoting the gods of the Sun
and the Moon, Ishtar, Mitrwa and Zrwan. We will then travel to Amadiyah, a small
Assyrian hilltop fortress. The trade caravans mainly came from Mosul and entered
the city through the western gate, which bears the same signs and symbols as those
discovered in Babylon. The origins of this gate are attributed to King Naram-Sin
(2254 - 2218 BC). Before returning to Dohuk, we will stop at Arader and visit the
church of Sultan Mahadouht. This church in particular houses tombs of the Assyrian
period. Night in Dohuk.
Day 3: Dohuk
We travel to Al Gara mountain and visit the remains of one of the former palaces
of Saddam Hussein, today abandoned. Then on to Zakho, a few kilometres from the
Turkish border. The symbol of Zakho, is the Delal bridge, also called the Abbassid
bridge because of the presumed period during which it was built from large hewn
stones. It crosses the Khabor river at a height of more than fifteen metres. The
history of the construction of this bridge remains unclear as no symbols, signs
or writing offer any precise identification of its date. We will then move on towards
the banks of the Tigris, with a halt at Pishkhabor, where the Turkish, Syrian and
Iraqi borders all meet. Return to Dohuk for the night.
Day 4: Dohuk – Erbil
Departure for Al Qush, the home town of the prophet Nahum, the seventh of the twelve
minor prophets. His ministry ran from 650 to 612 BC, at the same time as Jeremiah,
and he predicted the destruction of Nineveh. The synagogue of Al Qush contains the
tomb of the prophet. In 1948, most members of the Jewish community left the town
and the synagogue was abandoned. The site is today protected by the church, but
has not been Christianised and remains as it was originally built. The Rabban Hormizd
monastery, which was one of the spiritual centres of the Church of the Orient, dominates
the village of Al Qush. After a period of significant spiritual influence, this
monastery – which was home in the 7th century to the hermit Rabban Hormizd - has
been abandoned for centuries. The monastery was built on the hillside and was exposed
to attacks and incursions by the armed bandits who ravaged the Kurdish mountains.
Mar Hormizd church is the oldest of the buildings on the site and was built in 1300.
Despite its simplicity, it can be considered an architectural masterpiece. Visit
to the Mar Matti monastery atop Mount Maqloub, one of the best known to the Christians
of the Middle East. This monastery belonged first to the Syriacs and then the Jacobites.
Before returning to Erbil, we will stop in Lalesh where a large community of Kurdish
Yazidi lives. Visit to the sanctuary of the Yazidi religion in an old Christian
church. This church in particular contains bas-reliefs representing a snake and
a peacock, the symbols of the Yazidi religion. Night in Erbil.
Day 5: Erbil – Suleimaniyah
Departure for Suleimaniyah, a city close to the Iranian border. En-route, halt at
Koya – previously known at Kakon. The city was an important stopping point for the
caravans. The town is today a commercial, cultural and educational centre of Kurdish
life that enjoys a considerable reputation; numerous artists, poets and politicians
come from there. You will be able to walk through the traditional alleyways of the
town and visit Mar Bena monastery, bombarded when Saddam Hussein was in power. The
building is currently being rebuilt according to the original plans. Also, visit
to the Ottoman fortress, the 18th century caravanserai and the old mosque. We will
then continue on to Dukan. Walk around the lake and castle visit. Night in Suleimaniyah.
Day 6: Suleimaniyah – Erbil
Suleimaniyah was founded at the end of the 18th century, under Baban rule. The Babans
were to play an important political, economic and social role in the region. Walk
through the town and its wide boulevards lined with trees and imposing villas. The
town places particular emphasis on promoting Kurdish culture. The university houses
a Kurdish cultural centre and one of its faculties is devoted to Kurdish language
studies. Visit to the archaeological museum. Continuation to the monastery of Bazyan
(5th-6th centuries). The excavations that began in 1987 have revealed a number of
coins, two crucifixes – one of mosaic and one of bronze, two tombs and Sassanid
style mosaics (5th century). On the road back to Erbil, visit to the sculpted caves
at Qazqapan. The engravings represent two kings (of the Medes and of the Lydians)
with the attributes of the divine symbols of peace. One door leads to three funerary
chambers. This entrance is marked by two ionic columns dating from the 7th-6th centuries
BC. Later, stop at the prehistoric caves of Zerzi. Night in Erbil.
Day 7: Erbil
Day spent visiting Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous federal
region of Northern Iraq. Erbil, "Arba Ilu" the city of the four gods, was the religious
capital of the Assyrian kingdom and in it can be found in particular the temple
of Ishtar (goddess of fertility). The name of Erbil is also linked to the famous
battle of Gaugamela during which Alexander defeated Darius III. The day will begin
with a visit to the Al Khayat mosque. It was built about three years ago and is
the largest mosque in Iraq and the main gathering place for the Muslim community
in Iraqi Kurdistan. Erbil is well-known for its citadel, covering ten hectares,
which from a height of about thirty metres dominates the plain. Its first occupants
took up residence in the 6th millennium BC and the place also provided shelter for
its inhabitants during the numerous invasions and wars which marked the history
of the region. The city of Erbil gradually expanded into a circle around the fortifications.
The journey will continue with a visit to Erbil Museum. It was opened in 1989 and
houses collections ranging from the Sumerians to the Abbasids. Finally, visit to
the Choli minaret built by Muzaffaradeen Gokburi, Sultan of Erbil (563 - 636). Free
time in the bazaars. Night in Erbil.
Day 8: Erbil – Airport
Morning departure to visit Khanzad castle and then Raban Boya monastery in Shaqlawa.
Transfer to Erbil airport and flight.