Hewlêr, the capital of Kurdistan, and London of United Kingdom are my favourite two cities in the world. I have lived in London for 13 years, and Hewlêr for considerably less. My memories of these two cities are somewhat scattered because I hold a romanticised view of them.
For instance, when I was very little, and I remember this because I burned my socks. We had a domestic heater in Hewlêr, as did all families during winter. When mother lit the heater, the smell of burning kerosene filled the room, and I would put my feet up against the heater to warm myself up. I have burned countless socks as a child doing this, in London I eventually adjusted to central heating, although it was not as exciting.
I love the domestic heaters of the 90s, they made Hewlêr exciting for me as a child. It wasn't just the thrill I got from being a rebel by putting my feet up against them, but the countless other things I did with the domestic heaters such as heating chestnuts, and waiting for them to pop.
These cities are very precious to me because of the different memories I have while living in both of them. Unfortunately while hundreds of guides, and articles have been written about London, few have been about Hewlêr. Here are three different locations in Hewlêr that I love visiting, and if you plan on visiting Kurdistan this year, make sure you see these places!
- Qelay Hewlêr
The citadel of Hewlêr is one of the world's oldest inhibited cities, it has an agglomeration of houses. This is Saya's favourite place in Hewlêr because it represents Kurdish heritage untouched, and more importantly because it hasn't been industrialised. Since 2007, a High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) has been established to restore the citadel.
The narrow alleyways opposite the citadel are just simply breathtaking. Not because the quality of clothes are rich, but because of the luxurious food that is available. Some of the shops offer authentic Kurdish delicacies, which are not found in shopping centres or supermarkets. I have become a customer at two shops there, one of them offers honey that is made in Kurdistan, and the other has delicious sweets.
In the past tea-shops were for men only. Although it was not stated that women can't enter the premises of a tea-shop, but it was like a silent rule that everyone obeyed. Recently women have opened up their own tea-shops, but some were not happy with the segregation. Now there are tea-shops for both men and women in Hewlêr without segregation, although a significant number of tea-shops still remain in the conservative cultural sphere where men visit only, but they don't exclude women. Tea-shops are fabulous, they give a great sense of Kurdish culture, and really give off that cultural warmth that many Kurds abroad miss out on.