Getting lost in Iraq, finding Alqosh
Our plan was to spend 2 weeks in Kurdistan, a northern and independent region of Iraq. My research consisted of a few hours on the internet which resulted in a rough route. We knew it was safe for travel and that people were kind and friendly.
For our first day we chose Alqosh. I’d read somewhere that it was a nice place and assumed it was in Kurdistan so after few hours of riding in scorching heat, we were pretty surprised to find ourselves in Iraq proper.
At the entrance to the town, we were stopped by a soldier at the checkpoint. He didn’t like our idea of camping in Alqosh and insisted that we would have to leave within a couple of hours. We were tired from the heat, didn’t really know where we were going, and on top of that we were now being told that we couldn’t stay overnight in our first destination. All this made us want to turn around and leave, but luckily we went against our feeling.
When we drove into the centre, we were amazed to find Catholic churches and houses painted with biblical scenes. It seemed more like something we’d expect to see in Mexico, not Iraq.
The town was pretty heavily guarded. At our first stop, soldiers armed with guns came to us, wanting to know who we were and what we wanted. When we got to one of the churches, there was another group of soldiers guarding the entrance. Inside the church there was a special celebration, which we were allowed to attend only after confirming that we were also Catholics.
After we’d left the service, the soldiers wanted us to see some interesting sites; a friendly young boy called Fadi showed us around the town, and we got to meet some welcoming locals too.
St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Alqosh
That night we camped in the grounds of St. Joseph’s Orphanage after spending a great time with the boys who live there, and the priests who look after them. They greeted us with a warm welcome and made sure that we weren’t hungry or thirsty.
We’d heard lot of good things about Kurdish people but that day we got to experience real Iraqi hospitality.