Iraqi Kurdistan travel guide
Though Erbil is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Sulaymaniyah (also spelled Sulaimani) has a more modern city feel. The city center has a selection of cafes and shopping malls for the liberal minded girls and boys which the city seems so full of. The souq area in Sulaymaniyah is also more impressive than the one in Erbil with a fine covered part (nuts, shoes, clothes, lingerie, etc.) and a chaotic outdoor part (fruits, vegetables and meat). In the cooler evenings, do like the locals and drive up the hill outside town and enjoy the view over the city while the sun sets.
One thing that may come as a surprise to travellers is Iraq is not the desert wasteland depicted on TV. Actually, the Iraqi Kurdistan region is full of water. And where there is water, there are often waterfalls. Although Gali Ali Beg in the far north reigns as the most famous (it's even on the 5,000 Iraqi Dinar note), there is another set of falls that have made international headlines. In southern Kurdistan, about 1.5 hours east of Sulaymaniyah, on the Iranian border, the remote falls of Ahmed Awa will forever live in infamy. In 2009, three American hikers lost their way when visiting the falls, and ended up illegally crossing the border with Iran. They spent two years in an Iranian prison. While toying with danger might be reason enough for future travellers not to visit the falls, the fact that they are actually the best falls in the region might be enough to push the unsure to walk the Iraq/Iran tightrope.