Sulaymania or Selaymani or Selmini or about 5 other different spellings of the city was where we headed today after our complimentary breakfast. We checked out of the room and left our bags at reception before grabbing a taxi to Sulaymaniah Garaj where we were able to get a shared taxi for the two and a half hour long journey.
The Lonely Planet guide book to the Middle East recommends asking the driver of the shared taxi to take the longer mountain route as it is safer, we forgot to do this until we were already underway. This meant that the road we took had frequent checkpoints, technically passed into southern/actual Iraq and meant that we drove through the outskirts of Kirkuk, a city which has seen coalition bombing campaigns. That being said we saw no evidence of fighting anywhere throughout the whole journey. The most dangerous thing was the erratic driving style of everyone on the road and our driver’s passion for speed. Other than that the journey passed without incident and we paid a couple of extra dollars to be dropped outside the museum.
Amna Suraka (Red Security) is a museum in the compound where Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, tortured and killed 182,000 people between 1986 and 1991. We had to wait an hour before it reopened so went an got something to drink. On our return we were given a private guided tour (for free) of the compound. The first area was a long room which had 182,000 shards of glass covering the walls an ceilings, a shard for each person killed, it put into perspective quite how many people died at the hands of Saddam Hussein. We were then shown the prison and torture cells where most the atrocities occurred and where the prisoners were housed in foul conditions, it was very sobering reading some of the descriptions on the wall. The final area we were shown was a memorial which had the names or pictures on the wall of everyone who was killed.
By this point it was lunch time so the obligatory schwama had to be bought alongside more water. The other two ‘attractions’ in Sulaymaniah are a mosque and a bazaar. The mosque was underwhelming but the bazaar was worth exploring as there were dozens of side alleys and warrens you could explore, everything you could possibly want to buy was on sale somewhere, if you knew where to look. We had a tea at a cafe before getting a taxi back to Erbil, via the Kirkuk row again.
When we were back in Erbil we decided to do what we had done last night and go get a tea (or two) and sit on the main square watching the world. We also got ice cream which was very interesting flavours but very nice. Knowing that we had three flights to undertake and not wanting to pay extortionate prices for airport food we went in search of some bread to take with us. After finding a bakery we asked for 4 small loafs of bread, clearly there was a miscommunication and we got a whole bag of 10, freshly baked, loafs, all for the princely sum of $1.
Back at our hotel we recuperated, used the WiFi and read until midnight where we caught another taxi to the airport for our onward flights to Jordan.