A Travellerspoint blog

Syria

Along the ISIS front from Grozny via Erbil & Kobane to Kilis

After attending the Extreme Traveler International Congress in Grozny, we decided to drive back home "the hard way" and to learn something about current affairs on the road via Georgia - Armenia - Karabakh - Iran - Iraq - Turkey (incl. Kobane, Kilis and Iskenderun / Ceyhan).

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Road Map

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ETIC (click for info)

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Start at Grozny City Hotel

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First night at the fantastic ROOMS Hotel Kazbegi on the Georgian Military Highway, just after the Russian - Georgian border. (View from terrace towards Mount Kazbegi, where Prometheus was chained to, after he stole the fire, according to the Greek sagas of Aischylos),

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A quick drink and cigar at the bar of the Royal Tulip Grand Hotel Yerevan, then a full night-drive onwards via Karabakh to the Armenian - Iranian border at Meghri. Opening hours 24 / 7, but if you have a car you need to get it registered during Iranian office hours. (US, UK and similar citizens need to drive with a guide). Iran is 1 of only 5 countries that really require a Carnet de Passage. Very friendly procedures however.

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Beautiful drive inside Iran between Meghri and Jolfa, along the Azerbaijani (Nakhchivan) border and the scenic Aras river valley (the ancient Pihon, the river that flows through the biblical garden Eden, according to David Rohl) ...

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along the defunct Baku railway line ...

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through Tabriz ... (Foto: wikipedia)

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towards the Urmia Salt Lake ...

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which can be crossed on an amazing 1.7 km long bridge (center; foto: Pars Times).

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Signs in the last Iranian town pointing towards Iraq and the Piranshar border gate, aka as Tamarchin.

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Inside Iraq: getting gas the old-fashioned way in the Kurdish mountains, driving down the British-built but beautiful Hamilton Road towards Erbil.

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Arriving at night in Erbil, with our worldclass Divan Hotel skyscraper visible on the right hand side.

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Lobby of luxurious Divan Erbil

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Early next morning, Harald is ready to hit the throttle of his Cayenne again ...

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starting with a short city tour of boomtown Erbil (Oil business, Western backing and Turkish investors !) ...

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also known by the Kurdish name Hawler, an early city of worship of Ishtar (aka ... Isis !), the site of Alexander the Great's Battle at Gaugamela, and the 1. century BC Jewish Kingdom of Adiabene (according to Flavius Josephus) ... a true navel of the world like Verdun, Lechfeld or Tsaritsyn ...

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one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited towns, with a central citadel ...

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which is a UNESCO world heritage sight (Foto: wikipedia) ...

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and shows clear signs of a future independent Kurdish state.

North Iraq / Autonomous Region Kurdistan has its own government, own parliament, own constitution, own police force, own military (the peshmerga), own flag, own hymn, own passport stamp, own visa regime, own diplomatic missions (in 13 countries plus the EU), own national soccer team (www.conifa.org), and - most importantly - their own oil wells, even plenty of them. Between 1991 and 2003 they had their own currency. It shares only a name, and the extant power base with the other Iraq.

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Masoud Barzani, Kurdish President, from the famous Kurdish-Jewish Barzani tribe, who control the area since at least 500 years, at the White House in 2005 (Wikipedia).

Interestingly, the area was also known as the Rabi's area (Diyar Rabi'a) where all current Arabian royal houses originally come from (Al Saud, Sabah, Khalifa, Maktoum, Nahyan).

North Iraq / the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan is and has always been traveler friendly and safe.
To understand the current security situation click here.
"Since March 2003, not a single coalition soldier has died nor a single foreigner been kidnapped in the areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). We understand that some of the foreign offices of several governments, warn against some, essential or all travel to Iraq. We do however note with positive interest, that several countries make a strong distinction between the improved security situation of Iraqi Kurdistan (aka the Kurdistan Region) and that of the rest of Iraq."
"... the U.K. FCO travel advice for Iraq was recently downgraded from advising against all travel to Erbil to allowing essential travel to Erbil and the rest of Kurdistan. This is clearly in recognition that the recent threat to the region has been lifted and business is as normal." (Sept. 2014)
For excellent current information plus a huge list of hotels click here.
Hundreds of international flights to and from Erbil per week show the strength and stability of the country (click here).
For quality Erbil car hire click here.
To understand the booming Kurdish property market click here.
If you think that North Iraq is a hopeless and poor desert country, a dangerous place, and under threat (now by ISIS) you are a stupid goy,

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One of the many luxury hotels and shopping malls, the Grand Swiss, here 20 km north of Erbil city centre.

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Get an impression how modern Erbil really IS

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Typical street scene with SUVs and pick ups on the new highway, initially north-east (!), towards Dohuk and Zakho (border with Turkey)

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A Swedish Village along the way, indicating the large Kurdish diaspora coming back home for a better future.

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Impressions ...

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along the excellent new 4- to 6-lane highway, all the way from Erbil to Zakho, ...

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strategically built "inland" to avoid the volatile areas around Mossul ...

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unfortunately past the imposing historic city of Amadiya (with a Turkish military outpost on top; foto: Wikipedia) ...

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to the huge Ibrahim Khallil / Zakho border post (where lots of Northern Iraqi / Kurdish oil is exported to Turkey on trucks) ...

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then for several hundred kilometers along the Sykes-Picot borderline between Turkey and Syria (fence on the left) past Mardin and Sanli-Urfa (the ancient Edessa) ...

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to Suruc, which is currently a hotspot for clashes between Turkish Kurds and the Turkish Jandarma ...

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and a world media hotspot too ...

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covering the Battle of Kobane right across the hill (foto at one of the many refugee camps) ...

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where Turkey had just allowed 150 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters (foto of Mustafa Barzani who already fought Saddam in the 60s) ...

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to cross for fighting the so-called ISIS (mainly a CIA psy-op).

Kobane's real name (on all maps and by UN terminology) is Ain Al-Arab which means "Source of the Arabs".
Kobane or Kobani derives from the Kurdish misunderstanding of German "Kompanie" when they had built a Baghdadbahn train station here in the early 1910s.
Kobane is the unfortunate theatre for a modern reality show,
"He who has power over words, has power over the state" (Confucius)

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Then onwards for a short night in the Mertur Hotel Kilis, right at the border post to Aleppo, from where the whole operation against Syria's Assad government was initially started.

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An Atatürk memorial in Kilis (a sign of old secular Turkey while President Erdogan promotes new values).

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Continuing right along the Turkish - Syrian border fence with beautiful olive oil vineyards ...

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on a big road (although hardly visible on goodle maps) with Syria visible in the valley (left) ...

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towards the strategic points of Iskenderun (foto) and Ceyhan with their heavily fortified ports in the Mediterranean Sea (end of the oil pipeline from Northern Iraq) and Incirlik Airforce Base (US, UK) where I could see a large plane (C-17 Globemaster ?) on approach, just above the highway.

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For a better understanding of the oil game in the region (Source: Medium.com )

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A fist and a flag as a sign of Erdogan's new Turkish power, with a stronger focus on Turkish Islamic values, in front of a new mosque near Iskenderun.

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Iskender = Alexander; town founded by Alexander the Great after the Battle of nearby Issos in 333 BC (Painting of Battle of Issos by Jan Brueghel, Source: wikipedia)

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Posted by LuxuryRogue 02:23 Archived in Syria

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