A Tour of the Kurdish Baazar - Through a Foreigner's Lens

The historical Citadel is a huge castle sitting on top of a hill about 30 meters high (roughly the height of a 10 floor building) and it is the nucleus of Erbil city, everything goes around it. The main streets (30 Meter St, 60 Meter St, 100 Meter St and the new road under construction 120 Meter Street all go around the citadel like the ripple effects of a stone falling into a pond. With roads from the outskirts of the city leading towards the citadel intersecting with the circular streets, you will have a perfect spider web of streets in Erbil. Until 100 years ago Erbil was only the citadel and one neighborhood at its foot. While most of the population has been evacuated from the citadel for restoration purposes (there's a museum on top of there), life is busier than ever at its foot. Erbil is about 8000 years old and is world's oldest continuously inhabited city. 

Such as the busy tea houses like this one, Chaykhanay Machko, or Machko Teahouse. This is Erbil's oldest teahouse which started in early  1900s. Still retaining its traditional facade and layout, the teahouse attracts swarms of people, both local and foreigners. Sometimes it would be so crowded that even the porch outside, and the shelter of the protective wall of the citadel are not enough to accommodate the large number of customers.  In traditional Kurdish teahouses (and traditional Kurdish culture as well), there's no sense of personal space. You would be sitting should to shoulder next to another stranger and enjoy your tea. 

Inside the teahouse you will find lots of different old and new photographs hung on the wall. Many of them of famous local dignitaries of the city, some of famous leaders and politicians, others of artists and poets.


And  of course there's hookah. 

The tea maker is busy brewing Kurdish tea.

Colored glass cover the traditional windows of the teahouse. And a the scene of a cage full of starlings might draw your attention. These migrant birds are found abundantly in Kurdistan. Hunters catch these birds and sell them in cages. Some people make good stew of starlings, others buy a few and release them right there. 

Kebab! Erbil is very famous for its Kebab. When you mention the name Erbil in other Iraqi cities, the name comes synonymous with two things: Kebab and yoghurt, especially in the Arab populated central and southern parts of the country. This man serves Kebabs on a small kart just on the corner of Machko teahouse. These are usually open in the evenings, unlike the restaurants. 


You will see many of these carts selling Baklava. Especially this kind of Baklava known as Bamya. It is the simplest, cheapest baklava, but to me it is the best!



A young man is trying on a new scarf. Traditionally, every male Kurds wore one of these which would come in checked white-black, white,-red, white-brown, white-green (and other) colors. These days, only the older generation wear these.

Craftsmans like this one make and sell a variety of tools and instruments. The round thing hung on the walls is actually a musical instrument called Daf. Kurdish Daf  is by far the best in the Middle East and Kurdish Daf players are the best in the world. Hazhar Zahawi is a famous Kurdish daf player who has worked with some of the most famous international bands and artists. 

This is Kurdish cheese, but can you guess what the container is made of? Yes! of course if you guessed "animal skin"! Of course the skin is especially prepared for use. it has to be an animal's whole skin which is then prepared in a way that serves like a sack to be filled with the Kurdish cheese or Zhazhi which is another kind of grinded cheese mixed with herbs.

Klash is the name for these beautiful Kurdish shoes. What makes these shoes incredible is that they are completely handwoven, and completely made of cotton threads, cloth, and animal skin. They are comfortable, light, and allow air in which prevents extensive sweating and the bad  smell!!



* AlexAndrea Tendasi currently works in international development.  She is also an avid photographer and writes poetry. AlexAndrea Tendasi  is a pen name the writer uses in honor of the most influential people in her life, her son, daughter and grandmother. 

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