Tag Archives: Sulaymaniyah

Friday: day of dreams, day of washing

Oooh, and that's a bad miss. Ronnie O'Sullivan is my role model (except in the manic depression department)

Oooh, and that’s a bad miss. Ronnie O’Sullivan is my role model (except in the manic depression department)

After only two days on site we’ve hit the weekend. We went to Sulaymaniyah on Thursday night and stayed over at the museum guest house, which on the upside meant I could get a kebab and smoke shisha, but on the downside meant I had to sleep on a mattress in a corridor getting bitten by fleas and having a door slammed next to my head all night. I’m still working out the cost/benefit analysis.

We spent the morning discussing (arguing about) the site recording system, or in my case, wondering if anyone would notice if I crawled under the table and went back to sleep. We generally decided that what we need is more money, more equipment and more people (in a parallel universe). We then turned our faces towards City Star; a shining beacon of civilisation, opposite the museum and all its barbarism, where one can drink a cappuccino, go ten pin bowling and buy Diet Coke in packs of twenty-four. Unusually, it is also possible to play snooker on two unbeerstained full-sized snooker tables, complete with an inspiring poster of John Parrot on the wall. Me and the dig director had an unusual game, which he won 65-23, helped by a spectacularly unlucky run of in-offs on my part. I would also mention that I have a large raw blister on my hand just where the cue has to slide through, produced by my heroic efforts with the big pick and shovel yesterday on site, so I was playing through the pain.

Home is where I hang my movie posters. Half way through the season I'll turn it over and have Wolverine

Home is where I hang my movie posters. Half way through the season I’ll turn it over and have Wolverine

I then paid a shameful visit to the supermarket where I bought English tea, packet noodles and a tube of salt and vinegar Pringles. I blame low blood sugar, having survived the day to that point on two boiled eggs and a large bowl of chocolate ice cream.

We escaped all these unwholesome stimulants back to the safety of our village, where I’ve never been gladder to see Johnny Depp and two pieces of foam on a concrete floor. We then performed the experiment ‘how many doctorates does it take to work a washing machine?’

Pizza and prison

Iraqi park life: no camping gas, no alcohol, no ball games, no hand guns

Iraqi park life: no camping gas, no alcohol, no ball games, no hand guns

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).

"would you like to stand next to this man? I can take nice photo."

“would you like to stand next to this man? I can take a photo.”

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.

Death's disco: There are 4,500 little lights, each representing a village destroyed in the Anfal campaign, and 180,000 mirror shards, each representing a person killed

Death’s disco: There are 4,500 little lights, each representing a village destroyed in the Anfal campaign, and 180,000 mirror shards, each representing a person killed