Michael Totten Is IN Iraq
This is a fantastic piece about Michael’s adventures in Kurdistan.
ErbilÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s tiny international airport ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ with its tiny little customs booth and its tiny little luggage rack ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ doubles as a military base. Civilian craft only started landing there a few months ago. A kiosk called ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTourist InformationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? was set up by the main entrance next to an office that rented ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œphones for tourists.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? I had a hard time believing many tourists actually went there on holiday unless they were visiting from other parts of Iraq. As I later found out, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œtouristÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? simply meant visitor.
Civilian cars werenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t allowed anywhere near the terminal for security reasons, so I had to take a bus to a checkpoint a mile or so away where my pre-arranged driver Mr. Araz picked me up.
Driving to the center of any city from an airport rarely leaves a good first impression. The only exceptions I can think of are the trips into Tunis and Istanbul. But my fifteen minute ride to the Erbil International Hotel (aka, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe Sheraton,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? even though it isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t really a Sheraton) was particularly unpleasant. The city didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t look like anywhere I wanted to be. Few things in this world are uglier than totalitarian cities. And while Erbil isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t totalitarian anymore, Saddam Hussein left his stinking thumbprints all over the place. Erbil desperately needs an aesthetic makeover. (As I later found out when I could explore the city properly, it is getting one.)
Trust me, this is a great day by day account of his experience. Jeezus…Totten is much braver than me. So much braver…
Do read the whole thing, and wait for the subsequent updates…