Today, we left Erbil and drove to Dohuk — about a 2.5-hour drive. It is rolling farm land, kind of like the Midwest. However, it didn’t have the sweeping sense of the space and openness because, every once in a while, an entire hill was covered with dirt and rubble. As we started up into the hills of Dohuk, it reminded me of Indio and Riverside in California — lots of rocky and dusty hills, with an occasional boulder. I wouldn’t call it pretty but it was interesting.
There were lots of little towns along the way. Most were modern looking, but a few that seemed to be made out of the same bricks as the Citadel. I saw lots of people (including a few kids that looked around five) walking along the road looking for rides. The sign for hitchhiking is a flat palm held out instead of thumbs up.
Driving is obviously different. I shot video of cars on the wrong side of the road; cars passing three or 3-4 trucks at a time; cars passing on the gravel on the right side of the road; and lots of passing on blind curves and hills. I tried to upload it but it seemed to be taking forever and I’m beat. Anyway, our driver let us know that a particularly crazy truck that was bobbing and weaving in front of us was clearly driven by a Turkman. They are, apparently, notorious drivers. As nuts as it was, we only saw one pickup truck skid and slide off the side of the road.
We got in to the hotel, a “five-star,” checked in and almost immediately went to meeting with faculty members at University of Dohuk. So I’m not an expert on Dohuk yet. However, I did notice a lot more color on the buildings than I saw in Erbil. Our host described Dohuk as “an ice cream parlor” of color. I saw pistachio, vanilla, cherry vanilla, orange sorbet, chocolate, mint chocolate chip and even that weird fake blue Italian ice stuff.
Speaking of food. In Erbil, the menu is quite diverse. You can have lamb or chicken. You can have either as a kabab or sliced in a lump. That is basically it. I don’t think there is a word in Kurdish for vegetarian. Luckily, I have been able to find lots of hummus, babaganoush, some amazing vegetables, lots of rice and wonderful flatbreads. These are always available as side dishes for meat. So, once I get past the quizzical looks waiter I have been doing fine. But for my first meal in Dohuk, we went to a nice restaurant, which had one section designated for men and another designated for mixed seating. It isn’t a law, just a custom. We sat in the mixed section. To my left, there were four or five women in full-head covering and traditional dresses. To my right, I saw the Kurdish version of Snooki. She had big blow dried hair (dyed blonde), what looked like a spray on tan, lots of big earrings and jewelry. Her friends were also dressed in western clothes, mainly jeans and short sleeve blouses, but I think one had a nose ring. It was a fun lesson in diversity. By the way, I forgot to mention that when Zuleka (our Erbil interpreter) told her friends we were from New Jersey, and they apparently said “you mean like Jersey Shore?” I wanted to hide under a rock.
Some fun facts about Iraq:
1) Hot water on the right; Cold is on the left
2) A “five-star” hotel is actually pretty close to a five-star hotel. Beautiful room; lots of space; mini bar with alcohol; hot water; two restaurants; a pool; an ATM machine; satellite TV, a safe, laundry drops, soap, shampoo, conditioner. Not too shabby.
3) I knew having shined shoes was important, but didn’t know how important until today. I saw men who carried shine sponges with them.
4) Many college students dress up for class. Suits and ties and full dresses were more common than jeans and t-shirts.
5) The University of Dohuk does not have a student center. They have dorms, classrooms, offices and a recreation center; but no student center.
6) In the Iraqi higher education system, you get tenure when you get a job as an assistant professor. As you move through the ranks you teach less hours a week. Publishing and conference attendance matters for promotion, but not a bad gig.
More pictures tomorrow.