It’s my second day here in Sulaymaniyah, and quite a nice laid back sort of day it’s been. I had cold kebab meat pizza for breakfast and spent most of the day smoking, visiting a horrible prison and helping a nervous colleague buy local trousers. I learned that Kurdish for bad is ‘krap’, which is at least easy to remember, and that Italians get very irate if you steal their milk. The amount of meat available has exceeded expectations.
Yesterday we negotiated the renting of two village houses near the site. They have no interior furnishings and smell strongly of poultry, but there’s a nice view of the mountains. Today I was fortunately given immunity from shopping for household goods and instead went to an exciting museum (which are two words I don’t often use together) converted from the evil ba’athist prison where they used to torture people. We had a nice guide who only seemed slightly disappointed that we weren’t very interested in the delightful Kurdish handicrafts but spent an inordinate amount of time taking photos of broken tanks. The highlight was the prison building itself which had been left almost entirely as it was when liberated by peshmerga fighters in 1991, save the removal of considerable human filth and the addition of some lurid manikin dioramas. The experience was fairly harrowing and surreal in places, particularly when our guide asked us if we would like to pose with the dummies reconstructing a man having the soles of his feet beaten. He looked a bit confused when we declined as if this was the highlight of the tour for most visitors (we in fact later saw some young Kurdish women posing with a man being hung by his arms and electrocuted).
Me and two colleagues then retired to a dark, windowless shisha cafe where we smoked for two hours while watching Blade Trinity on the television and being relentlessly stared at by young men. I no longer consider myself to be a competent producer of smoke rings having been in the presence of masters. I am only at the start of a long and smoky path.