Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan
I arrived in northern Iraq in the wettest cold season the region has seen in… maybe forever. It rained and rained and rained for weeks on end, with grey skies and clouds that hung heavy on the twin mountain ranges flanking the city.
I’ve enjoyed the rain and cold… but the continuing deluge has been deadly for thousands all over the Middle East, as infrastructure collapses and lives & livelihoods are washed away — usually that of already vulnerable folks. I wrote a piece for Preemptive Love’s blog. Read it here.
When I got here I was all agog at the green and rain and cold. It was a complete counterpoint to the dry brown heat I landed in, back in September. And also because it’s the sort of colour you associate with Ireland, not Iraq. But Iraq is a bigger place than us outsiders are led to believe, with more expansive horizons that we are shown. And seasons here change the land as much as they do anywhere else.
So if those green photos on the Preemptive Love post have left you wanting more, then, here’s a compare-and-contrast special for you. All of the pictures in this post were taken from a car, while Erin and I were on our way to various other cities in Kurdistan for work. Since I wasn’t driving back in Sept 2018, or March this year, I had plenty of times to make a hundred photos of the landscape along the way.
I was posting a whole bunch of green pictures on Instagram, a while back. Agog that what I thought of as desert country could burst into such vibrant life — although I’ve seen enough documentaries as a kid to know that deserts bloom spectacularly with enough rain.
But it’s always one thing to see it on a screen, and another to see it unfiltered, to absorb spring into the mind and body.
Remember that dust storm from October?
Well this spring, we got to do a water crossing:
I’ve enjoyed this rainy weather, though cogent of the fact that it’s been hard on so many people. The first day of school at the tech hub that my organization runs for refugees and internally displaced — to help them acquire skills relevant in the digital economy — had to be pushed back because rain was wreaking havoc in the camps that they live in.
We work in these camps regularly, starting businesses with Syrian and Iraqi folks who’ve fled war, and are trying to rebuild. When the rains got bad, I stayed dry in the office, and went home to a heated room. I have power around the clock in the plush expat compound where I live. So there is no question about lights, heating, cooling, water supply or charge for all my devices — because when grid power cuts (and it does frequently), I know the the generators are going to kick in. That’s not a granted that a lot of people can take.
It’s easier to see only the beauty of things when you’re comfortable, you know?