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    • Day121


      November 4, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

      Die Route heute, wie auch schon gestern hat mir Ahmeds Vater empfohlen. Wohl leider nicht unter dem Aspekt diese mit dem Fahrrad zu befahren und einen Platz zum zelten zu finden. Am späten Nachmittag bin ich von der Fernverkehrsstrasse abgebogen, in der Hoffnung an einem Flusslauf etwas zu finden. An einem Gartengrundstück fragte ich, ob die Gegend sicher ist. Ich bekam zur Antwort, dass es zu gefährlich sei da es Hunde und Wölfe gäbe. Der ältere Mann, ein pensionierter Englischlehrer hat mir dann angeboten bei ihm zu übernachten. Ich bin dann mit zu ihm gefahren. Es gab auch was leckeres zu Essen und mir wurde meine Wäsche gewaschen. Daran könnte ich mich gut gewöhnen.Read more

    • Day142

      Crossing the border to Irak

      November 30, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ☁️ 27 °C

      So here we are at the Border to Irak. Getting out of Iran went smoothly, but getting into Irak, I am told will take 8 hours. Step 1 is to get our Visa and we have now been sitting in this very basic hall for two hours while our hand written application is being processed. Then follow the papers for the vehicles and then there is still the actual process of crossing into Irak.
      Allah will take care of us!

      Driving here was fascinating. As we drove along, groups of 3-5 pick-up's all driving very close and loaded in the same way, came roaring past us at high speed. Suddenly they all veered off the highway heading off at high speed into the fields. A few hundred meters later a police check-point appeared. Having passed this we continued on the highway to suddenly notice that the same pick-ups were racing alongside us a few hundred meters into the fields coming closer and closer and then veering back onto the highway to race on as before.
      Don't ask what that was but it looked intensely like the local smugglers ring.
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      Stay safe!!!

    • Day143

      Tigris and Euphrates rivers

      December 1, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      .So here we are, in Irak, at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This area between the two rivers, called Mesopotamia, is where civilisation (cities and agriculture) began 10.000 years ago. It is the place described in the old testament, it is where Babylon was.
      But on a more basic level
      It took the whole day to get across the border. Everything was dust, huge trucks, destroyed roads, and endless plastic rubbish.
      And today, we drove through Basra!
      What a shock!
      We have never seen so much dust, mixed with so much rubbish, broken buildings, broken roads, and millions of wires hanging overhead. Cows looking for something to eat amongst the rubbish, children playing on the street, fish being sold in the hot sun as trucks driving by in huge clouds of dust. It was "Armageddon," and we were gasping again and again at this scenery.
      But there was also beauty when people sat at the river in the evening smoking Shisha pipe or fishing from canoes or from the Ponton of a nearby bridge.
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    • Day143

      Pilgrimage to Kerbala

      December 1, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

      Islam has a huge schism between the Shiia and the Sunni which is at the core of all fighting within Islam. Like the Jews, who are waiting for jesus, the Moslems are waiting for Mahdi to return to earth. The Shia believe this is a descendant of Allah, the Sunni believe this can be any prophet. This difference has caused wars over centuries.
      In Ad 680 Imam Hussain rode to Kerbala to negotiate this point with tje Sunnis and was murdered together with his followers. This is celebrated on "Ashura" by the Shias who do a pilgrimage to kerbala in the thousands.
      This last pilgrimage was in September and everywhere we are seeing the traces of this. Along the roads pictures of Hussain, flags in various colours sometimes with Hussain's face on them, along the road small hostels consisting of a toilet and a floor to sleep on, and everywhere plastic drinking bottles.
      We had the honour of seeing one Pilgrim walking alone, but found some pictures of the last Pilgrimage in the Web.
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    • Day145

      The wetlands of Mesopotamia

      December 3, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

      Until the 80's the area between the two rivers consisted of thousands of km2 of wetlands, an ecosystem with channels criss-crossing and 2million inhabitants specialised on living here.
      One of the crazy projects of Saddam Hussein was to drain these wetlands to get rid of these people who were causing trouble and to create large-scale agriculture. However, without the yearly floods bring fresh water water and soil , the soil was too salty and nothing grew. The result today, is an endless desert with dust storms and shrubs here-and-there.
      An ecological tragedy!
      10% of the surface have been declared as national park but the water levels are no longer there.
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    • Day145

      Reflections and Impressions

      December 3, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

      When we entered IRAN, Margot and I were shocked by what we saw, the old cars, the apparent poverty and simpleness of life which we attributed to 40 years of sanctions and an inflation of 40% per year for many years. Allthough, I have to add, the roads were more -or-less ok with many new highways and a lot of construction work.
      We were fascinated by the friendliness and joy of the people. Most women smiled and when they saw Margot driving greeted her with cheers. Men were fascinated and wanted Photos with her. Most women were open and seemed confident. Many spoke english and in the cities many drove cars. The cities were more or less well organized.
      The initial shock of having all communication channels blocked and only very slow intermittent internet while we were constantly being shadowed and followed by secret police slowly changed. We were controlled every day, sometimes, several times, but the police were always extremely friendly, well groomed and usually spoke english, and it became more and more apparent that although they had the task of making sure we were not journalists and were not checking out strategic targets, they were actually worried about our safety and well being. On one occasion, they even brought food and drinks for the whole group!

      IRAK seems totally the opposite.
      The rubbish and dust here are extreme, making Iran seem clean!
      The cities and infrastructure are in a desolate state, with people looking suspicious and seldom reflecting any joy.
      Women are hardly visible in society, and when we see one, she pulls up her Chador over her mouth and looks away.
      Not one woman is driving!
      Military check points are every few kilometers with our passports being taken away by the police or soldiers who then phone around for ages to find out what they should do with them. 2 hours is not seldom. This process is exhausting! Rough commands are shouted at us in arabic and doesn't really give us a relaxed feeling!
      No one speaks english!!
      But then, is this surprising? This country has literally been at war for the last 40 years, with Saddam Hussein being the key driver!
      (Irak/ran 1980-88, Kuwait 1990, first Gulf war 1991, Massive uprising in Irak 1992 brutally smothered by Saddam Hussein, 1998-2003 second gulf war which literally flattened the country.
      Before all this, one group was constantly massacring the other every few years while Saddam"s secret service radically got rid of all opposition. After Saddam was gone, it was Al-Qaida and ISIS, all of Sunni faith, who occupied half of the country, massacring everything that had a different religion.
      Reading Iraks history is like a horror story and extremely depressing.
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    • Day148

      Kerballa-shrine of Hussain

      December 6, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

      Karballa is the shrine of Hussain Ibn Ali, the son of the Ali from Nadschaf and grandson of Allah. He is known as the "Prince of martyrs" , he is the epitomy of courage and heroism, and example for all.
      After his father had been murdered in Damascus and Yazid had unrightly seized leadership of the Muslim world, Hussain who was the logical successor and very pious, rode from Mecca to Damascus to negotiate with Yazid, taking only his family and friends with him. On the way, his group of 72 was intercepted by an army of 4000 calvary. A battle to the death ensued with Hussain, the last man standing, his body full of arrows had his head cut off. This place is Kerbala
      Hussain is the Che Guevara of the Muslim world and is probably one reason why martyrdom is so attractive (my opinion)
      Pilgrims walk thousands of km to come here, reenacting the battle of Kerbala on the way and imitating the suffering of Hussain.
      The irony was, however, that the atmosphere at the shrine was totally different to that of Ali in Nadschaf. It was more like a "christmas market" in germany. Families mixed with pious believers, chatting, singing, laughing. Even in the court yard next to the shrine amidst those praying, I saw men talking, arguing and laughing together.
      It had nothing of the fanatism of Nadschaf.
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    • Day146

      Nadschaf, the tomb of Imam Ali

      December 4, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

      Nadschaf, together with Karbala, is the greatest destination for pilgrims of the Shia faith (like Santiago di compostella in the Christian world). Here, Imam Ali, the son in law of Allah, who was stabbed to death in front of a moshee to prevent him from taking up the succession from Allah, is buried. It was his death that triggered the schism in the Muslim faith between Sunnites and Shiites.
      His shrine is visited by millions each year, coming from Iran, and far away locations such Pakistan.
      We visited in the evening during prayer time. (Women separated from men) and had to go through nomerous check points when driving into town and then again three body checks when entering the holy area. (They are terrified of a repeat of what happened in Shiraz).
      It was an experience I will never forget. Thousands of people praying with an Imam singing from the loud speakers while another with deep voice kept on repeating "ALLAH".
      As I entered the shrine, hundreds of believers, in a religious trance, screaming and shouting, shoving their way into a small space to kiss and touch his tomb with their prayer chains.
      Besides feeling panic rising in me, it was also the unstoppable religious energy in the space that made you realise that whoever harnesses this energy for a cause can not be stopped by any number of machine guns (as was the case when Khomeni started the Iranian revolution)
      To feel this energy is terrifying. Margot , who experienced the women side of the tomb, reported the same.
      In the middle of all this coffin bearers carried coffins (with content) around the shrine shouting "no god, except allah" (see video)
      Apparently, the graveyard of Nadchaf is the largest and most expensive in the Arab world because everyone wants to be buried close to Ali. The grave yard occupies 1/3 of the city's surface.
      Read more

    • Day147

      Razarza lake, a break among rubbish

      December 5, 2022 in Iraq ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

      After Nadschaf we wanted to chill a day at Razarza lake on the outskirts of Karballa, the Tomb of Hussain.
      Arriving on its shores in the middle of the desert, it was again the endless plastic rubbish that dominated the picture, followed shortly afterwards by thousands of flies, and then at sunset, by millions of midgets, so small that they slipped through our mosquito netting.
      A dream of a place!!!!!
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Republic of Iraq, Irak, Iraq, ኢራቅ, Irac, العراق, ܥܪܩ, İrak, Ірак, Ирак, Iraki, ইরাক, ཨི་རག།, Irák, ཨི་རཀ, iraqdukɔ, Ιράκ, Irako, Iraak, عراق, An Iaráic, Iorac, ઇરાક, Iraƙi, עיראק, ईराक, Իրաք, Írak, イラク共和国, ერაყი, អ៊ីរ៉ាក់, ಇರಾಕ್, 이라크, عێراق, Mesopotamia, Yiraaka, ອີລັກ, Irakas, Irāka, ഇറാക്ക്, इराक, အီရတ်, ଇରାକ୍, Iraque, Irâki, ඉරාකය, Ciraaq, இராக், ఇరాక్, Ироқ, ประเทศอิรัก, ʻIulaaki, Ğíraq, ئىراق, Iroq, Lirakän, איראק, Orílẹ́ède Iraki, 伊拉克, i-Iraq

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