"Erbil...or Hewler" Top 5 Page for this destination Arbil by maykal

Arbil Travel Guide: 92 reviews and 253 photos

The Arabs know it as Erbil, the Kurds prefer to call it Hewler, but whatever name you use, this city is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. At the heart lies the ancient citadel on top of a mound, a mini city within a city now overgrown and lying semi-ruined. Surrounding it, a huge covered bazaar, a maze of alleyways selling everything from headscarves to old coins with Saddam on them. Erbil is also a city of parks, new ones with impressive fountains popping up all over the modern suburbs, in between five star hotels and shopping mall developments.

I'll be honest and say that Erbil didn't grab me straight away. After Dohuk's lively bazaar, Erbil seemed very quiet even though it is the main city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Arriving on a Friday didn't help, but I was surprised to find Saturday just as silent once the sun had set. Erbil lacks the mountain views of Dohuk and Slemani, the bazaar seemed smaller and less exciting, the famed minaret park was closed, and the citadel was not as good on the first visit as I had been expecting. My hotel was awful too, so much so that did what I rarely do...I checked into a second hotel, which turned out to be not much better. So leaving Erbil for Slemani was something of a relief.

However, Iraqi Kurdistan is sort of a dead end, and once you reach Slemani, you have no choice but to backtrack...so I had to pass through Erbil. This time, I got myself a good budget hotel, found parts of the bazaar that had eluded me the previous time, spoke to a lot more people, discovered the delights of tamarind sorbet, and generally enjoyed myself. I found old streets and new mosques, impressive fountains in huge parks and art galleries, and finally a part of the city that doesn't shut down after dark. The more I explored, the more I grew to like Erbil.

Will Erbil become a tourist hotspot one day? Well...maybe. It has definite potential. The citadel, once restoration is complete, will be incredible, and the bazaar is already a must-see. With parks popping up all over the place, as well as an abundance of hotels, and with mountain resorts just a short ride away, Erbil could one day start to attract those looking for a more unusual and offbeat city break. For now, it's just Iraqis, Turkish businessmen, and the odd backpacker...

  • Intro Updated May 11, 2010
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Reviews (20)

Comments (5)

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    May 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    Great to find this. My husband (MrL) is off to Erbil on Monday - a business trip, though he's not Turkish. His first visit, a sandstorm closed the airport when he tried to go earlier this year. I'm really looking forward to seeing his photos and hearing about the trip. Maybe I'll make it there myself one day.

  • Paris92's Profile Photo
    Jan 31, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Your pages are really incredible--many congrats on the Barney awards nomination!

  • fabrice's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    there are so many beautiful things to see in iraq, I hope to go back one day

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo
    May 26, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    i hope to check out the restaurant area one day... thanks for the great transportation tip :-) I want to go there...

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    May 12, 2010 at 4:27 AM

    Interesting tips about “the oldest continuously inhabited urban area on earth” -- which I had never heard of, but thanks for changing that.



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