From Duhok, I wanted to explore the small town of Amedi. I had read about this place where the Three Wise Men had come from, which was perched on top of a uniquely shaped plateau in the rolling hills of Kurdistan. I decided to take a day trip on my own this time and I can safely say it was very easy and thoroughly enjoyable.
Tourism is certainly still in its infancy in Iraqi Kurdistan and people are still getting used to seeing tourists around. But a foreign, female tourist exploring on her own, now that was something completely unexpected. People were very surprised that I had come to Amedi on my own with no guide in the hope to just explore; it was certainly a new concept. However, true to my previous experience of the Kurdish people, they were extremely helpful and made sure my day turned out perfectly.
From Duhok to Amedi
I walked from my hotel in Duhok to the main bus station in the city, underneath a motorway in the centre. I asked around for Amedi and people were happy to point me to the right vehicle. There was a shared taxi ready to leave with two other people and we were on our way pretty quickly.
The drive took about two hours and cost me 8000 dinar (AUD$10).
The drive to Amedi was beautiful as we got closer to the rolling hills of the north of the country. I immediately recognised Amedi from photos as we were approaching, as the unique village perched on a plateau is quite distinct. The driver dropped me in the middle of the village and I got out thinking, “Okay, now what?”.
The streets were practically deserted and so I decided to just walk around. I only knew of one thing to see there and that was the old stone gate. It’s still completely intact but there’s no consensus of how old it really is, but considering the village has around 5000 years of history, I guess we can just say that it’s ancient.
The village is claimed to have been home to the Three Wise Men or the three priests who made their way to Bethlehem to visit baby Jesus. It’s also known as a place that Muslims, Christians and Jews have called home in peaceful coexistence for many years.
As I walked around, there was really not much going on at all but I had one young guy poke his head from outside a house to say if I needed anything I could ask him because he spoke English. He pointed me straight down the street and after navigating some random back roads I finally emerged at this ancient gate, which also happened to have sweeping views of the surrounding valley and mountains.
As I walked back through the town I stopped at the old mosque and a couple of other old stone buildings that had plaques attached to them to seemingly indicate that they were of some sort of historical significance.
Another, “And, now what?” moment ensued as I had no idea of how to get back to Duhok. I had almost seen no other adult in the village and only some kids playing football.
From Amedi back to Duhok
I walked to the main road that led out of the village, where there was a petrol station and a couple of men who were standing there said, “Taxi?”. Just in perfect timing, another car pulled up and a man wound his window down saying, “I speak English if you want me to help you?”. I told him I wanted to go back to Duhok but when he discovered that I hadn’t been to Solav, a cluster of restaurants and souvenir shops on the other side of the valley he told me to get in and he’d drop me there.
I got out in Solav, which is a small group of tourist-oriented shops set up for Kurdish day trippers from Erbil and Iraqi visitors from Baghdad. A lot of people stared, completely unsure what to make of me, but I discovered that most people just stop in Solav to take a photo of Amedi from afar before sitting at one of the cafes or restaurants and heading back.
Once I got my photo of the village, I headed to where I saw a car park assuming that some shared taxis may stop there. I passed a small snack shop on the road and I asked a young guy and his father. The older man immediately got up and gave me his chair and the young guy told me to wait as the taxis usually pass frequently. I felt bad taking the man’s chair but he walked to the side of the road watching the traffic for me until he waved a vehicle down that happened to have just one seat left going back to Duhok.
I couldn’t believe how helpful people had been and the driver of the shared taxi even offered to drop me at the hotel but I just got out in the central bazaar area so I could walk around a bit there.
How I got in to duhok
I decided to hire a private driver to take me from Erbil to Duhok, stopping at Akre, Lalish and Alqosh on the way. Although it was not how I usually travel, it was the easiest way to see all three places, than dealing with shared taxis over multiple days.
I got in contact with Haval, one of two tour guides in Iraqi Kurdistan, and he organised the driver for me. He is contactable on WhatsApp and Facebook and his details are easy to find on Google. It cost me USD$125 for the entire day. We left at 8am from my hotel in Erbil and arrived at my hotel in Duhok at 5pm.
You can read about my day exploring Akre, Lalish and Alqosh here.
Where I stayed in duhok
In Duhok, I stayed at Kristal Hotel which came highly recommended to me by Shah of Dolphin Hotel in Sulaymaniyah and it seems to be the most popular choice for foreigners. They gave me a very nice, large room with a city view for USD$40 per night. The staff were all friendly, although English was limited and they had free water, tea and coffee all day.
How I got out
From Duhok, I took a bus across the border to Turkey. There are quite a few companies doing the trip and I went with Cizre Nuh which left at 9.30am from their office. Kristal Hotel had called to reserve me a seat but it was unnecessary as the bus literally only had around 7 people on it. I had no idea where their office was but my friendly taxi driver (who spoke no English) did all he could to find out for me where the bus would leave from and I couldn’t help but think that it was a perfect last experience of the Iraqi Kurds; friendly and helpful beyond imaginable.
Read my experience crossing the border here.
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