**Set birds free for a sin – like stealing my bicycle**
So I arrived in the afternoon in Erbil and my host Dilzar took me on a little tour around the city. We went to Iskan street where night becomes day in all the restaurants, tee houses and street food stands that can be found next to the street. The variety of dishes is huge and all are delicious. Dilzar knew all the right places where the food was best.
Friday morning, 10th February, began with a shock: When Dilzar came back from buying bread he told me my bicycle wouldn’t be in the lobby anymore. I thought he was kidding and strangely I didn’t panic – on the other hand it wouldn’t have helped. So we ate breakfast first. Dilzar remainded calm and assured me that just a naughty neighbour’s boy would’ve borrowed the bicycle since it was unlocked. Before going out to meet friends of him who were paragliding I was confronted with the truth: No bicycle was in the entrance. But Dilzar couldn’t be put off. We drove around his neighbourhood and really! There was a boy sitting on my Brooks saddle and cruising around. A friend had given it to him and it was his now. Well, Dilzar said something to the little pilferer while I took my bicycle back. Nothing was damaged all parts were like they’ve been before and I put it just in front of Dilzar’s apartment. Subsequently we drove to the hills in the Northeast where his friends already hover from a hill.
When the sun was going down we met with other friends at Shanidar park to watch the sunset like many others.
Dilzar needed to work on Saturday but a friend of him showed me Erbil including of course the world famous citadel that the oldest continually-inhabited sites of the world. But we also went to the busy, picturesque and colourful forecourt Qaisary at the main entrance of the citadel. At the bazaar we also stopped by in a tea house.
In the evening we met with other friends in a hotel bar above the city where also many foreigners were going. Traditional music has been played and people danced so the atmosphere wasn’t that bourgeois.
On Sunday all the offices were opened again. I got confused with the weekend in Iraq respectively Kurdistan. I was able to repair my bicycle and buy postcards that I brought to the only post office in that 1.6mio inhabitant town. I wanted to write the postcards in one of the numerous parks but I got quite angry about how I got denied entry in most of them – the guards didn’t even granted me a tourist bonus.
However while I repaired my bicycle it suddenly knocked on the door (I was alone since Dilzar was working). Two men were standing there and asked to see my passport. But first I demanded them to show me some paper that would give them the authority to ask for my passport. Turned out they were working for Kurdish Intelligence and they wanted to take my passport (and return it the next day). But since I wanted to go into town, they made some calls and in the end photos were enough.
In the evening Dilzar, his friend Mohammad and me were dining in a very delicious restaurant – Dilzar really knew to places with best food in Erbil.
In the south it is like in Iran on Thursday and Friday but in the north it seemed to be on Friday and Saturday like in Israel, but sometimes also on Thursday and Friday.
Another interesting fact for me was that the autonomous region of Kurdistan has very good relations with Israel. The tribe of the president Barzani was close to influential Jews. After World War 2 and the following decades many Kurdish Jews flew migrated to Israel. Nowadays 150 000 Kurdish Jews are living there. In addition the Kurdish Democratic Party as well as Pershmerga were supported by Israeli Intelligence with weapons and training. Even Benjamin Netanyahu supported an independent Kurdish state.
The little encounter with the intelligence let for Dilzar to register me officially as a guest in his apartment. So Monday morning, 13th February, we needed to show up at the police station. After this my surveillance by secret police until the Iranian border started. I said good-bye to Dilzar who succeeded to give me a good picture of Erbil and I continued towards Sulaymaniyah.