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Arbil

Next morning I headed out in search of the Mudhafaria Minaret, also described as the Choly Minaret, tucked away in the corner of a park which looked like they had blown the national budget on. Partially collapsed, it was difficult to say by just how much, it still stood 36 metres high and had been constructed between 1190 and 1232 by the King of Arbil, Muzaffer al-Din Abu Sa'eedal-Kawkaboori. Though much faded from its prime you could just about see how it had once been richly adorned with blue tilework and the brickwork had been arranged in a very complex geometric pattern. I managed to squeeze inside it and climb up to the verandah level, too narrow to step out onto though, and further on upto a tiny window giving great views of the park. I didnt chance climbing to the top just to fall off the thing however, with only the odd bored sentry in the park I probably wouldnt have been found for weeks. Some of the bushes in the park had been spelt out into the word Newroz in Latin script, which I later discovered to be the Islamic new year.

Over to the bazaar and the main streets around the Citadel again and I came across Felafel for the first time, deep fried patties of chickpea paste, a sure indicator of an Arabised society and very tasty when hot. The only and very scant information I had on this town was directions to the Arbil Museum, which I suspected might not be there now, bombed during one of the wars or ransacked in the aftermath. Beyond expectation though I managed to track it down only to find it shut, and the guards on the gate wouldnt so much as let me take a photo of it. It seemed ridiculous, life itself was being held in a straightjacket. Just along the busy highway a contemporary Art Gallery exhibition was a poor substitute but still a surprising find nonetheless. Back towards the Citadel and I checked out the Kurdish Textile Museum, housed in one of a few restored houses just within the entrance gate. A very nice villa with a small central courtyard given over to serving tea, it was thoroughly bedecked in carpets and tapestries of all colours, designs and eras, though it was too much work to try and understand the intricacies between one traditional style and another. Where the museum had failed me the carpet house made up for it in part, there were wall mounted maps and plaques indicating the Kurdish region, which described the genocide by the former regime as Anfal, a term with which I was not aquainted. Saddam dstroyed more than 4000 villages and implemented forced relocation, the banning of farming in certain areas, the laying of landmines and the forced settlement of nomadic peoples. There were posters of the villages of Uraman-e Takht and Roste during the Newroz festivities, very traditional and colourful.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Iraq

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