December 26, 2010
Finally got my hands on some Lonely Planet info on Iraq, which is about a 35 or so page chapter from a much bigger book on the Middle East. The chapter begins with a few paragraphs about the glorious past, being home to the Garden of Eden,, the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Then come the warnings. “Iraq is a war zone” is how the next page starts, before going into the risks of terrorist attacks, military combat operations, suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), land mines, sectarian violence, kidnappings, highway robberies and petty crime. It also explains how foreigners are primary targets of militant groups such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq and that attacks can occur anywhere, at anytime. Of course, it is speaking of the Iraq we all hear about, the one in the news and on the front pages of magazines. We are going to a different part, the “safe” part. Mountains, lakes and vistas. Ancient towns and developing cities, the past and the future merging together.
And tomorrow, the big adventure starts. We leave my house at about 4am. The original plan has changed a bit. We will be spending the first day in Mardin and then head into Iraq first thing on Tuesday morning. All the information I could find told us we needed to take a complex series of buses, taxis and other transport to get from Mardin across the border. As it turns out, we can take a single bus from Mardin to Erbil, in Iraq in just about 6 hours which means we should be there in time for a late lunch. That is all thanks to one of Preston’s student. And while the Lonely Planet and other sources suggest we take private taxis, we were told by relatives of Preston’s student not to take the private taxis due to the risk of kidnapping and being turned over to Al-Qaeda or perhaps worse. He told us it was fine in the cities, but should be avoided otherwise. But from what I have been reading, it seems safe enough and we will have to take one for at least a part of our journey from what I can work out so far…
I have also received information from a blogger I discovered in Iraq who has provided tons of great information for us, and hopefully we will all be able to meet up and have a face-to-face conversation and hopefully some tips on some great local cuisine and a chance to experience new customs. Of course, I will be armed with my camera and so excited about all the pictures waiting to be discovered.