Nine changes in nine years!

Hellooo Loyal Reader (yes, from a very unloyal blogger, please do forgive me, soon you will know why, and I promise this time I have a good excuse *innocent face*)

It was only yesterday in a drive from Erbil to Masif that it sank in my head that next year will mark ten years, one decade, of my return to Kurdistan. And believe me nine years ago, Kurdistan (in particular Erbil) was a completely different place. I feel like I have grown up with this city, and seen many of its phases. I still can’t get over the fact I am nearly TEN years older too!!!! WOW!

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When you see a city grow in front of your eyes a special bond forms… Erbil under construction! Photo: Sayran Ibrahim
  1. I swear I had a dream for one day to drive the streets of Erbil and not see people selling petrol on the side of the roads in Jilikan (bottle/gallons) I wished we could have petrol stations.
  2. The only modern shopping place was Naza Mall. What? You don’t know where or what Naza Mall is? I don’t blame you. It was destroyed and smashed down. Who would go there when there is Family Mall? It was the only place where you could shop with a trolley, I remember looking forever outside just to find a place to sit down. It was that crowded. Compared to what we have today it was like a large supermarket.
  3. Ainkawa was salon central. Eyebrows? A bride? Best haircut in town? Fancy, posh and expensive Senses, Mounir or LBC didn’t exist. And no, it did not cost $1500 for a bride to get her hair and makeup done.

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    So many changes, and I was here watching it all happen… Photo: Narin Qaradaxi
  4. Cafe for the girls to catch up in? You have got to be joking! Abu Afif, on 60m road, was the only decent place where you could gather with a few girls for sweets. Even that was awkward. No Costa, Barista or O’caffe. A little later Rhein Mall was born and we were all over the moon.
  5. If you were a girl in a car young boys would slow down just to show their fellow passenger: “look at her, she’s a girl driving!” As if a monkey was behind the wheel. I am serious! Fast forward nine years it’s a complete different story.
  6. When it came to summer there was never greenery. Trees? Plants? Are you serious?! Today when I drive through the roads of Erbil I appreciate every public place I go where there are plants, trees, and flowers. In fact, the trees I saw being planted years back, I can probably sit under their shade today.
  7. Of course, construction has come a very long way, back then Naz City apartments were the major attraction, you would drive nearby and just stare at it at night. Who sees Naz City now when you have the entire skyline of Empire with Divan in the background and the huge Royal City complex.
  8. I remember when I first started blogging I would get so many emails from parents or youth abroad who wanted to return to Kurdistan but were trying to find options for English schools. We had the International School of Choueifat (yup! I googled the spelling) but even that was limited to grade 7 I think, and every year they increased a grade. Now we have an entire list of schools the Danielle Mitterrand French SchoolCambridge International School, British International School, the American International School, and the Fakhir Mergasori International School, I am sure I have missed a few too. But you get the point!
  9. The first piece of writing I ever wrote nine years back was about the ridiculous driving in Erbil: “Outrageous Road Rage” fast forward nine years and that, my dearest reader, has not changed!!! However, now there are endless amount of speed cameras–and we all have a compiled few hundred dollars of fines– there are more and more road signs, and bridges, U turns and other intersects to make driving much easier. We have traffic lights that actually work–most of the time!
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Siblings playing outside their ‘home’ in the Domiz refugee camp- Duhok, Kurdistan Region

Of course all changes and what so called “progress” come with its own pros and cons. We have more schools, yes, but is the quality of education better? Yes, there are more buildings and construction, but is there social progress to go with this? Yes, we have a ton of coffee shops and restaurants, but now-a-days the hookah has our young men addicted, something that didn’t even exist 9 years ago! Yes there is was rapid economic progress with thousands of new businesses opening and buildings going up over night, but did our university education change to have minds that can run those businesses and institutions? I doubt.

Erbil, and Kurdistan, has changed so much. At times it was like a new born child, it began to crawl then run before it learned to walk. It feels amazing to drive the streets or walk in places and see what has been built. Although I still have many wishes and dreams for My Nest in Kurdistan. I love what it has become, but I know it takes dedication and hard work of every single citizen to make it the Kurdistan of our dreams. It upsets me to see things slow down a little, to see a mother mourn over the body of her martyred son, and the father to bury him. It hurts.

I haven’t mentioned that during a time in the past nine years people would cross the border or come from other parts of Iraq on vacation, today compared to nine years back Kurdistan is housing 2 million IDPs and refugees in camps and host communities across the Region. I can only wish and pray when I celebrate my one decade back to my nest, things will be better.

Until next time

lots of love from

My Nest in Kurdistan

Sazan,

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