Erbil, also known by its Kurdish name, Hewlér (هەولێر), is the largest and fastest growing Kurdish city, with a modern twinge that surprises many foreigners. With shopping malls, highrises, and swanky hotels everywhere, Erbil is far from what you would expect of an Iraqi city. Old and new coexist side-by-side in a city where a few minutes’ walks can take you from your five-star hotel to a bustling street bazaar.
Erbil’s beautiful ancient citadel is a highlight for anyone visiting the city. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this old part of the city has been inhabited for 8,000 years and therefore offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities. The citadel towers above Erbil and invites exploration of its magnificent castle, the Mulla Afandi mosque and its 18th-century hammam, or bathhouse.
If you love indulging in some retail therapy then there are plenty of opportunities to splash your cash in Erbil. One of the largest and most modern shopping malls in the whole of Iraq is based there; the Majidi Mall has all the stores you would expect to find back home, with familiar fast food chains and high street fashion brands aplenty. Another must visit is the Qaysari bazaar; based in the city’s largest square, this vibrant market is the perfect place to find some hidden treasures and to test your bargaining skills.
Safety and Security
Living in Iraq, you might think that terrorist attacks would be a real cause for concern, however, Erbil is one of the safest cities and is located in the most stable region of the country. There are many checkpoints into the city which are extremely successful in deterring crime, and the strong presence of Peshmerga, the Kurdish military forces, also keeps the peace.