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Kurdish-inhabited area by CIA (1992).jpg
Kurdish-inhabited areas.
Language Kurdish
Location Western and Northwestern Iranian Plateau: Upper Mesopotamia, Zagros, Southeastern Anatolia, including parts of northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey[1]
Area (Est.) 190,000 km²–390,000 km²
74,000 sq.mi–151,000 sq.mi
Population 45 to 50 Million (Kurdish Population) (Est.)[2]

Kurdistan (Kurdish: كوردستان/Kurdistan [3][4]), meaning "the land of Kurds",[5] is a country in the Middle East that refers to parts of southeastern Turkey (Turkish Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan), northwestern Iran (Iranian Kurdistan) and northern Syria (Syrian Kurdistan) inhabited by Kurds[6], It roughly encompasses the northwestern Zagros and the eastern Taurus mountain ranges.[7] Small areas of Azerbaijan and Armenia are also considered to be a part of Kurdistan. From a political standpoint, Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region which has gained official recognition internationally as an autonomous federal entity.[8] Kurds in Iran are also officially recognized as a minority, and there is a province by the name of Kurdistan in Iran.


Ancient period

Ancient Kurdistan as Kard-uchi, during Alexander the Great's Empire, 4th century BC

Various groups, among them the Guti, Hurrian , Mannai (Mannaeans), Medes and Armenians had lived in this region in antiquity[9] The original Mannaean homeland was situated east and south of the Lake Urmia, roughly centered around modern-day Mahabad.[10] The Medes came under Persian rule during the reign of Cyrus the Great and Darius. Kingdom of Corduene which emerged from the declining Seleucid Empire, was located to the south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia and ruled northern Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384. At its zenith, the [[Roman Empire[[ ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East. Corduene became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied with the Romans until AD 384. Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, i.e., to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakır in South-Eastern Turkey. Some historians have identified Corduene‎, with the modern names of Kurds and Kurdistan[11][12][13]. Although T. A. Sinclair has dismissed this identification as false, [14] however,  Kurds are commonly identified with the ancient Corduene according to Columbia Encyclopedia. [15]

19th-century map showing the location of the Kingdom of Corduene in 60 B.C

Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan and their corresponding modern names are listed below.[16]

  1. Corduene or Gordyene (Siirt, Bitlis and Şırnak)
  2. Sophene (Diyarbakır)
  3. Zabdicene or Bezabde (Gozarto d'Qardu or Jazirat Ibn or Cizre)
  4. Basenia  (Bayazid)
  5. Moxoene   (Muş)
  6. Nephercerta (Miyafarkin)
  7. Artemita   (Van)

One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurds is found in a Syriac Christian document of late antiquity describing the stories of Christian saints of the Middle East such as the holy Abdisho. When the Sassanid Marzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria. However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according to holy Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. Tamanon lies just north of the modern Iraqi-Turkey border. Also Hazza is located 12 km southwest of modern Irbil. In another passage in the same document, the region of Khabur is also identified as land of the Kurds.[17]

Medieval period

Map by Mahmud al-Kashgari (1074), showing Arz ul Akrad Arabic for land of Kurds located between Arz ush Sham (Syria), and Arz ul Iraqeyn (Iraq Arabi and Iraq Ajami).

In the second half of the 10th century, Kurdistan was shared amongst five big Kurdish principalities. In the North the Shaddadid (951–1174) (in parts of Armenia and Arran) and the Rawadid (955–1221) (in Tabriz and Maragheh), in the East the Hasanwayhid (959–1015) and the Annazid (990–1116) (in Hulwan, Kermanshah and Khanaqin) and in the West the Marwanid (990–1096) of Diyarbakır. Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was referred to a collection of semi-independent or in some cases independent states called "emirates". It was nominally under indirect political or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the famous textbook of "Sharafnama" written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597.[18][19] The best-known Kurdish Emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in present-day Iraq; Bakran, Botan (or Bokhtan) and Badlis in Turkey, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in Iran.   The earliest medieval attestations of the toponym Kurdistan is found in a 12th century Armenian historical text written by Matteos Urhayeci. He described a battle near Amid and Siverek in 1062 as to have taken place in Kurdistan[20][21]. The second occurrence is the following prayer from the colophon of an Armenian manuscript of the Gospels written in 1200[22][23].

Let Christ-God bless Khoja Hovhanes Mughdusi, from Kurdistan, who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and took the holy Gospels from the aliens.

The next notable use of the term Kurdistan is found in Nuzhat-al-Qulub written by Hamdollah Mostowfi in 1340.[24].

Modern period

In the 16th century, the Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between Safavid Iran and the Ottoman Empire after prolonged wars. The first important division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. This division was formalized in the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639.[25] Before World War I, most Kurds lived within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire in the province of Kurdistan.[citation needed].  After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies agreed and planned to create several countries within its former boundaries. Originally Kurdistan, along with Armenia, was to be one of them, according to the never-ratified Treaty of Sèvres. However, the reconquest of these areas by Kemal Atatürk and other pressing issues caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne, accepting the border of the modern Republic of Turkey and leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria under both treaties. The Kurdish delegation made a proposal at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1945, showing the geographical extent of Kurdistan as claimed by the Kurds. This proposal encompasses an area extending from the Mediterranean shores near Adana to the shores of the Persian Gulf near Bushehr, and it includes the Lur inhabited areas of southern Zagros.[26][27]

Since World War I, Kurdistan has been divided between several states, in each of which Kurds are minorities. At the end of the First Gulf War, the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged as an autonomous entity inside Iraq, with its own local government and parliament in 1992.

Tawûsê Melek, the Peacock angel in the Kurdish Ezidi faith


Kurds who speak a Indo European language known as Kurdish comprise the majority of the population of the country there are also communities of Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Azeri, Jewish, Ossetian, Persian, and Turkic people traditionally scattered throughout the region. Most of its inhabitants are Muslim, but there are also significant numbers of other religious such as Yezidi, Yarsan, Alevi, Christian,[citation needed] Jewish.[citation needed] The first Kurdish religion is Yezidi. In the 7th century, the Arabs forcibly converted Kurds into Islam.


The Zagros Mountains from space, September 1992.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, Kurdistan covers about 190,000 km², and its chief towns are Diyarbakır (Amed), Bitlis (Bedlîs) and Van (Wan) in Turkey, and Arbil (Hewlêr) in Iraq, and Kermanshah (Kirmanşan), Sanandaj (Sine) and Mahabad (Mehabad) in Iran.[28]  According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Kurdistan covers around 190,000 km² in Turkey, 125,000 km² in Iran, 65,000 km² in Iraq, and 12,000 km² in Syria and the total area of Kurdistan is estimated at approximately 392,000 km².[29] Others estimate as many as 45 - 50 million Kurds live in Kurdistan, which covers an area as big as France. The Kurdistan Province in Iran and Kurdistan Region in Iraq are both included in the usual definition of Kurdistan.

Historic map from 1721, showing borders of Curdistan provinces in Persia.

Iranian Kurdistan encompasses Kurdistan Province and greater parts of West Azarbaijan, Kermanshah, Īlām provinces.  Iraqi Kurdistan is divided into six governorates, three of which—and parts of others—are under the control of Kurdistan Regional GovernmentSyrian Kurdistan is mostly located in present-day northeastern Syria.  This region covers the greater part of the province of Al Hasakah.  The main cities in this region are Al-Qamishli (Kurdish: Qamişlû) and Al Hasakah (Kurdish: Hesaka).  Another region with a significant Kurdish population is in the northern part of Syria. The Kurdish-inhabited northern and northeastern parts of Syria in Kurdish is called Kurdistana Binxetê.[30] (See Demographics of Syria and Syria in the CIA World Factbook). A large area of [[Turkish Kurdistan|Southeastern Turkey] is also home to estimated 25 million Kurds.[31]


Typical forest in Kurdistan.

Kurdistan is a mountainous region with a cold climate and it receives enough annual precipitation to sustain temperate forests and shrubs. Mountain chains are covered with pasture, and its valleys with forests. There are around 16 million hectares (160,000 km²) of forests in all parts of Kurdistan. Firs, other conifers, and oaks can be found in those forests. Deciduous Platanus, willow, and poplar trees are found near waters and river banks.[29] The cutting of trees for fuel has reduced the size of forests over time.

Splendid canyon, north eastern Kurdistan


Mountains, even to this day, have been important geographical and symbolic figures in Kurdish life, there is a saying that says "Kurds have no friends but the mountains".[32] The Mount Judi is the most important mountain in Kurdish folklore and along with Mount Ararat, as one of them is thought to be the final resting place of Noah's Ark[33]. Other important mountains of Kurdistan are Zagros, Sinjar, Qendil, Shaho, Gabar, Hamrin, Nisir etc.


Zab(Zê) river in Zebari region, Iraqi Kurdistan.

There are many rivers in Kurdistan that are at least as important, if not more important, than oil. The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rainfall and in winter a heavy coat of snow, are a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East. This is the source of the famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as well as numerous other smaller rivers like the Khabur, Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil, the major tributaries of which spring from the mountains of Kurdistan. Those rivers that are entirely or nearly entirely in Kurdistan are usually of historical importance to the Kurds. Among these are the Murat (Arasān) and Buhtān rivers in northern and western Kurdistan (in Turkey); the Peshkhābur, the Lesser and the Greater Zab, and the Sirwan/Diyala in central Kurdistan (in Iraq); and the Jaghatu (Zarrinarud), the Tātā'u (Siminarud), the Zohāb (Zahāb), and the Gāmāsiyāb in southern Kurdistan. With their water, the Tigris and the Euphrates give life not only to the Mesopotamian plain and the whole of Kurdistan but also to Iraq and Syria. These rivers, which flow down from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are also very significant for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria have built numerous dams across these rivers and their tributaries. The most important ones are a series of dams that were built by Turkey as part of the GAP project (Southeast Anatolia Project). The GAP project is still not complete, but it already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey's electrical-energy needs. Due to the extraordinary archæological richness of the land, almost any dam built in Kurdistan drowns a portion of Kurdish history.[34]


Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east and to semi-contiguous Kurdish-inhabited regions to the west on the Mediterranean shore. The region includes Lake Van, the largest body of water in Turkey; in the entire Middle East, the only larger lake is Lake Urmia—but Lake Urmia is not nearly as deep, so Lake Van contains a much larger volume of water. The Zarivar Lake west of Marivan, as well as Lake Dukan near the city of Silemani, are significant tourist sites.[34]

Underground resources

There are many oil and mineral resources in Kurdistan. KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan only by itself is estimated to have around 45bn barrels of oil reserves making it sixth largest in the world, mostly recently discovered.  Extraction of these reserves is said to begin within the first three months of 2007. These are excluding those of Kirkuk and Mosul, cities claimed by the KRG to be included in its territory, though in these two cities oil was extracted predominantly by Iraq's former Baath regime. As of July 2007, the Kurdish Government is inviting foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the next half decade by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d).[35] Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 100 TCF. Other underground resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include copper, iron, zinc and limestone which is used to produce cement. The world's largest deposit of rock sulphur is located just southwest of Erbil (Hewlêr). Other important underground resources include coal, gold, and marble.[36]

Subdivisions (Upper and Lower Kurdistan)

In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography (published 1846), John Miles describes Upper and Lower Kurdistan as following:

Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. In the former is the province of Ardelan, the ancient Arropachatis, now nominally a part of Irak Ajami, and belonging to the north west division called Al Jobal. It contains five others namely, Betlis, the ancient Carduchia, lying to the south and south west of the lake Van. East and south east of Betlis is the principality of Julamerick, south west of it is the principality of Amadia. the fourth is Jeezera ul Omar, a city on an island in the Tigris, and corresponding to the ancient Bezabde. the fifth and largest is Kara Djiolan, with a capital of the same name. The pashalics of Kirkook and Solimania also comprise part of Upper Curdistan. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia. [37]

The northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are called upper Kurdistan. It includes the areas from west of Amed to lake Urmia. The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan. the main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Hewler. The city of Kirkuk was often called the capital or the largest city of lower Kurdistan.

Conflict and controversy

The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions including; the Koçkiri Rebellion of 1920, the Sheikh Said Rebellion in 1924, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the Dersim Rebellion in 1937. These were forcefully put down by the Turkish authorities and the region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965.[citation needed]

The city of Batman, eastern Turkey

In 1983, the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response to the activities of the militant separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [38] which is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. [39] An extremely violent Gerrilla war took place through the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, in which much of the countryside was evacuated, thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed and numerous extrajudicial summary executions were carried out by both sides.[40] More than 37,000 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homes.[41] The situation in the region has since eased following the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999 and the introduction of a greater degree of official tolerance for Kurdish cultural activities, encouraged by the European Union. However, some political violence is still ongoing and the Turkish-Iraqi border region remains tense.[42]


Kurdistan has an extreme continental climate—hot in the summer, bitterly cold in the winter. Despite this, much of the it is fertile and has traditionally exported grain and livestock to the cities in the plains. The local economy is dominated by animal husbandry and small-scale agriculture, with cross-border trading (especially of petroleum) providing a major source of income in the border areas. Larger-scale agriculture and industrial activities dominate the economic life of the lower-lying region around Diyarbakır, the largest Kurdish-populated city in the region. Elsewhere, however, decades of conflict and high unemployment has led to extensive migration from the region to other parts of Turkey and abroad.[40] There are many rivers flowing and running through mountains of Kurdistan making it distinguished by its fertile lands, plentiful water, and picturesque nature. The mountainous nature of Kurdistan, the difference of temperatures in its various parts, and its wealth of waters, make Kurdistan a land of agriculture and tourism. Because of its high altitude, the climate of Kurdistan is harsh. There is a lot of snowfall in the high mountains. Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700 and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateaux between mountain chains.[29]

See also


  1. ^ "Kurdistan - Definitions from". Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  2. ^ "Kurdish Studies Program". Florida State University. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  3. ^ The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, conducted by D. Brewster—Page 511, Original from Oxford University—published 1830
  4. ^ An Account of the State of Roman-Catholick Religion, Sir Richard Steele, Published 1715
  5. ^ Kurdistan, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  6. ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2005.
  7. ^ Kurdistan, Britannica Concise.
  8. ^ Iraqi Constitution, Article 113.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Mahabad - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  11. ^ Rawlinson, George, The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 7, 1871. (copy at Project Gutenberg)
  12. ^ Revue des études arméniennes, vol.21, 1988-1989, p.281, By Société des études armeniennes, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Published by Imprimerie nationale, P. Geuthner, 1989.
  13. ^ A.D. Lee, The Role of Hostages in Roman Diplomacy with Sasanian Persia, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Vol. 40, No. 3 (1991), pp. 366-374 (see p.371)
  14. ^ T. A. Sinclair, "Eastern Turkey, an Architectural and Archaeological Survey", 1989, volume 3, page 360.
  15. ^ Kurds, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001.
  16. ^ J. Bell, A System of Geography. Popular and Scientific (A Physical, Political, and Statistical Account of the World and Its Various Divisions), pp.133–4, Vol. IV, Fullarton & Co., Glasgow, 1832.
  17. ^ J. T. Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq (368 pages), University of California Press, ISBN 0520245784, 2006, pp. 26, 52.
  18. ^ Sharafnama: History of the Kurish Nation
  19. ^ For a list of these entities see Kurdistan and its native Provincial subdivisions
  20. ^ Matt'eos Urhayec'i, (Armenian)Ժամանակագրություն (Chronicle), ed. by M. Melik-Adamyan et al., Erevan, 1991. (p.156)
  21. ^ G. Asatrian, Prolegomena to the Study of the Kurds, Iran and the Caucasus, Vol.13, pp.1-58, 2009. (see p.19)
  22. ^ A.S. Mat'evosyan, Colophons of the Armenian Manuscripts, Erevan, 1988. (p.307)
  23. ^ G. Asatrian, Prolegomena to the Study of the Kurds, Iran and the Caucasus, Vol.13, pp.1-58, 2009. (p.20)
  24. ^ G. Asatrian, Prolegomena to the Study of the Kurds, Iran and the Caucasus, Vol.13, pp.1-58, 2009. (see p.20)
  25. ^ C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.43, No.4, pp.271–299, 2002.
  26. ^ C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.43, No.4, p. 274.
  27. ^ The map presented by the Kurdish League Delegation, March 1945
  28. ^ Kurdistan, Encyclopædia Britannica
  29. ^ a b c Kurdistan, Encyclopaedia of Islamcurrently offline
  30. ^  Geographic Distribution of Kurdish and other Iranic Languages]
  31. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Kurds show coded support for PKK
  32. ^ John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, No Friends but the Mountains: The Tragic History of the Kurds, ISBN 0-195-08075-0
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b Economy: Water, The Encyclopædia of Kurdistan
  35. ^ Iraqi Kurds open 40 new oil sites to foreign investors | Iraq Updates
  36. ^ Official statements on the oil and gas sector in the Kurdistan region, Kurdistan Development Corporation.
  37. ^ A Dictionary of Scripture Geography, p 57, by John Miles, 486 pages, Published 1846, Original from Harvard University
  38. ^ Kurd, The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas, 2005
  39. ^ "[1], NY Times, 28 September 2007
  40. ^ a b Martin van Bruinessen, "Kurdistan." The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, 2nd edition. Joel Krieger, ed. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  41. ^ "Kurdish rebels kill Turkey troops", BBC News, 8 May 2007
  42. ^ "Turkish soldiers killed in blast", BBC News, 24 May 2007

External links

Coordinates: 37°00′N 43°00′E / 37°N 43°E / 37; 43

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Iraqi Kurdistan article)

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East : Iraq : Iraqi Kurdistan
Travel Warning

WARNING: Although the Kurdistan Regional Government administered area has significantly greater stability and statistically a lower risk of terrorism compared with the rest of Iraq, this does not include Kirkuk or remote areas bordering Turkey. If you must visit these areas consult your embassy and see War zone safety.

Kurdistan refers to portions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, however only the Iraqi region of Kurdistan is discussed here. See the articles on Turkey, Iran, and Syria for information regarding the other regions of Kurdistan.


Iraqi Kurdistan refers to the 4 Kurdish northern Iraqi Provinces, which are autonomous of the central Iraqi government and ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government. These provinces achieved de facto independence after an uprising in 1991 and their autonomy has now been enshrined into the Iraqi federal constitution. The 4 Kurdish Provinces are, Arbil, At-Ta'mim, As-Sulaymaniyah, and parts of Diyala and Ninawa.


The major cities controlled by the KRG are:

Other destinations

Kurdistan is, at certain times of the year, a land of rugged beauty, characterised by mountains, ravines, waterfalls and natural water springs. It has long been famed in Middle Eastern literature as a paradise on earth, owing to its plentiful scenes of natural beauty which are in such contrast to the somewhat arid scenes so prominent in surrounding areas. However, don't expect particularly beautiful landscapes in the dry summer.

  • Hawler Citadel: There is a 4,000 year old castle right in the middle of the Kurdistan regional Capital, Hawler (also known as Erbil). Hawler is one of the world's contenders for the most ancient continuously inhabited city, having a history stretching back to the days of ancient Babylon. The site of the famous battle between Alexander the Great and King Darius, is also a short drive from Arbil city and can be fascinating for history buffs. Nowadays, the citadel (controlled officially by the Peshmerga - Kurdistan military) continues to be the main attraction, along with some slightly confusing souks beneath. The city is expanding in all directions, with the recent development of a huge shopping mall.
  • Parastaga Zardasht: A recently discovered ancient Zoroastrian/Mithradate temple in Duhok province.
  • Chemi Rezan: The famous caves in which the earliest human ceremonial burial site was discovered by german archeologists. The area is now carefully protected, however access is still possible.
  • Kirkuk citadel: The ancient citadel of the city of Kirkuk, another millenia old monument. - Note that Kirkuk is not considerd safe at present.
  • Haj Omaran: A ski resort in the north of Hawler province.
  • Gali Ali Bag: The highest waterfall in the middle east.
  • Bexal: Another beautiful waterfall.
  • Jinokan: Yet another waterfall.
  • Zakho bridge: The oldest example of a open arch brdge in the middle east, dating back to Abbasid times.
  • Dokan lake: A large lake laying at an altitude of 900m.
  • Lalish — "Holy See" of Yazidis
  • Numerous religous sites: Especially of the Judeo-christian faiths, such as the tomb of the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk province, the 9th century St. Thomas monastery and Jewlakan, Jewish quarter of Silamani, with its numerous newly renovated synagogues.
  • Gondik — ancient cave paintings
  • Amedi — a 4,000 year old town perched on the peak of a mountain, rumored home of the Biblical Magi, and confirmed home to Assyrian ruins


Having been spared the war of 2003, Kurdistan-Iraq is a very different place from southern Iraq. With a minimal level of terrorist activity and massive economic development, Kurdistan is fast becoming a "gateway to Iraq" with high levels of foreign investment and development of infrastructure.

Be careful when discussing nationalist issues which many Kurds feel strongly about. Also read up on the Al-Anfal campaign by Saddam Hussein to exterminate droves of Kurds in the late 80s - although this was over twenty years ago, the event coloured the last few decades of Kurdish history. There are several powerful reminders of it, such as the Amna Suraca prison in Suleymaniyah.

In general, people are very friendly, so be open to new experiences.

Get in

Citizens of the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and Australia are given a free stamp on arrival. Most other nationalities must produce a valid "Iraq - Kurdistan Region" visa on arrival. However, you will have to report to the Residency Office within 10 days of your arrival. This involves many forms to fill out, around $30 USD in fees as well as a compulsory blood test to check for Hep C and HIV. Be prepared to wait for around 2-3 hours throughout this whole process.

Border control is fairly strict (understandably). If you have a contact in Kurdistan, come armed with their name and address. If you don't, make sure you have a very good idea of what exactly you will be doing and where you will be staying. You are also more likely to get in if travelling with someone else, and if you are well-dressed.

By plane

Kurdistan is subserved by 2 international airports:

There aren't many flights (very few to Europe) but give the internet a trawl and you might find something. It'll be expensive, too.

By bus

You can take buses from Istanbul to Silopi, the closest town on the Turkish side, and then take a shared taxi across the border to Zakho, the closest town to the border on the Iraqi side. If coming from Syria, don't attempt to cross straight from Syria to Iraq - extremely bad idea. Instead, get to Al-Qamishli in Syria, walk across the border to Nusaybin, and ask around for a bus to Silopi. To get to Al-Qamishli from Damascus is about 9 hours, and to get from Nusaybin to Silopi is about 4 hours.

Further advice on entry on these routes can be found at:

Get around

By taxi

Take a shared taxi from the garages at each city. Buses are not safe/may go through Kirkuk or Mosul. Taxis are not that cheap - sometimes as much as 30,000 IQD - but they are basically the only way around.

By plane

Air travel between Silamaniya and Hawler is available and cheap (around 100$ for a round trip), although this is only a 2 hour trip by road.

By train

The railway is not yet operational, although there are plans to refurbish this line which was once the final leg of the "orient express" railway.


Kurdish is the official language and most widely spoken. You will be able to find people to understand basic Arabic and basic English. Also, higher learning institutes produce teenagers eager to practise their foreign language "skills" in many towns and a large number of expat Kurds have returned home, bringing with them languages as diverse as Swedish and Japanese.


Meat! As with many other middle eastern people, Kurds are voracious carnivores. Local foods include: Kebab, dolma (stuffed grape vines), yaprax (assorted stuffed vegtables ranging from onions to courgettes, shila u brinc (the Kurdish national dish, composing rice alongside a soup, which is made from many vegtables such as okra "bamiya", and the infamous gipa (much like scottish haggis).

However, it's not exactly going to be haute cuisine. Be prepared to have a fairly grubby food experience. The shawarma shops are surprisingly tasty, with slicings of meat served in very nice samoon breads - but they aren't exactly A* cuisine. Apart from that, there are a lot of kebab or roast chicken restaurants where you will get some bread, some rice, some soup and some meat.

The less adventurous traveler will be reassured to know that some Western-style food establishments are now open in the major population centres, such as Domino's Pizza and numerous fried chicken and burger joints. However, it's not that easy to find them and they won't be much better than the local food.


Bottled water is widely available. For some reason, it's basically impossible to find large bottles - you'll just have to buy lots of small ones (250 IQD each give or take a little). They'll be sold by vendors on the street who keep them in buckets full of ice, because electricity is very inconsistent in the whole area. Make sure they are sealed when you buy them. Don't drink the tap water - what's the point in risking it?

It is a Muslim nation so alcohol is not particularly widely available or freely consumed. However, if they can find it, visitors are advised to try the Kurdish "Arak" (there are loads of Araks throughout the Middle Eastern countries - Lebanon, Syria etc. and Kurdistan has its own version), a concoction of fermented dates and aniseed which can, as local tradition has it, "make the dryest eye cry". European beers, lagers and ales are also obtainable as are locally produced wines, which make up for what they lack in sophistication with character. Or in other words, are disgusting.

Where alcohol is found, however, such as in the Irbil suburb os Ainkawa (A Christian village originally accessible by a short taxi ride from downtown Irbil), the travelor will find a fairly wide selection of liquor and the prices are quite reasonable.

You wouldn't really go to Kurdistan to get drunk though - you won't find many drinking companions, if any. If you want companionship, find yourself a coffee shop to sit in.

Stay safe

While Kurdistan Iraq is a reasonably safe place, the journey can become dangerous if you cross into the areas of Iraq outside of Kurdistan regional government control. Southern Iraq is extremely unsafe as compared to Kurdistan, with bombings and attacks on foreigners commonplace. The border is well demarcated by the Kurdish security services.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. A region in the Middle East inhabited mostly by the Kurds. It encompasses parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria.

Related terms




Kurd + i + stan

Proper noun


  1. Kurdistan, land of the Kurds


Proper noun


  1. Kurdistan

Simple English

File:Kurdish-inhabited area by CIA (1992).jpg
Kurdish-Inhabited Areas
Location Parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia
Area (Est.) 190,000 km² - 390,000 km²
74,000 sq.mi - 151,000 sq.mi
Population 25–30 Million (Est.)[1]
Kurdistan is a mountainous area in the Middle East, that is mainly inhabited by Kurds."

The Kurdish people is estimated to be around 35-40 million people.


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