Under Kurdish Skies
The bus from Diyarbakır takes us to a small podunk town on the border called Silopi, which straddles the Tigris. One of the other passengers, an English teacher named Abd al-Rahman with a giddy, giggling demeanor befriends us and offers to find us an ‘honorable’ taxi driver to take us to the border. He is from Silopi, but teaches in Diyarbakır where he went to university. He tells us he recently went to Istanbul “just to see it,” but felt very uncomfortable on Istiklal because of the state of undress in which many women find themselves.
We say goodbye, and our honorable driver makes for the border. On the way, he stops to pick up another passenger, Ayub Raja, an Iraqi Kurd from Zakho with family on the Turkish side.
We drive to the border crossing, past trucks upon trucks waiting to get in. Our driver fills out the required paperwork, going back and forth between windows. Ayub helped us greatly, vouching for us on the Iraqi side, putting down his address and phone number as contact information for us. My American passport has six full pages of Israeli stamps, including one embassy-issued full-page student visa. The official did a double take, shook his head, and stamped.
At 9, we leave the border station and drive to Ayub’s house in Zakho. We stay for a few minutes, meeting his family, saying our goodbyes and effusive thanks for his help at the border. His brother goes out to talk to our driver, telling him not to go via Mosul (outside of Kurdish-controlled territory). He comes back and tells me not to sleep, and make sure the driver stays awake. He says to Rachael, “Sleep for you, ok.”
We’re in Irbil by 11:30.
Next in the series: Irbil: The Citadel