Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq lacks the world class attractions of other cities. Despite spawning urban souls for longer than almost anywhere on our planet, a sightseeing tour of the city will take in a few average mosques, a couple of nice parks and a busted minaret.
On only one attraction can Erbil compete and compete well: the Citadel. Erbil’s Citadel offers the freedom and fun that other citadels with a less filled in near past can lack.
Part of the attraction Erbil’s Citadel has over other fortified city zoning is that the lives that until recently were lived here can still be sensed within the crumbling houses and streets. Though only one family remains to keep Qalat Hawler’s (the Kurdish name for the Citadel) 8000 year old record of continuous occupation intact, it is possible, if no one is looking, to slip away and into some of the former homes of the three thousand people that lived here until they were evicted in November 2006.
Other than some bored looking soldiers I had this 102,000 square metre playground to myself on a rainy day. While using common sense when it came to what was dangerous and what was not, I was able to skip over or under the lines of tape used to guard side streets and poke around in derelict mud brick houses. I clamoured up stairs, disturbed pigeons, explored partly underground lower floors and looked down from rooftops into the courtyards below.
In the middle of the city, raised 32 metres above ground level, Erbil Citadel is easy to find.