Top things to do in Erbil. Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, is not the first city that comes to mind when discussing potential vacation hot spots. In fact, if you utilize Trip Advisor, you will note in “Things To Do” tops out at 21. Paris has over 3000! Quite a difference. So I think this should qualify Erbil as off the beaten path. So, I want to share with you some of the highlights of the city.
The Citadel represents the truest tourist site in Erbil, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Citadel is categorized as one of the oldest continually inhabited places in the world. It is estimated that the Citadel has been inhabited from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. This monument has been the home of many people over the centuries: Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Sassanids, Medes, Romans, Abbasids, Ottomans; and of course, now the Kurds.
The Citadel is a walled, fortified area on a raised mound as high as 100 feet (32 meters). And it encompasses a large area, 1,410 by 1,120 feet. Today, the Citadel is under renovation and sparsely visited. During my visit, I did spot one western tourist. The Citadel contains a mosque as well as two museums. Admission to the Gem Museum and the Textile Museum is only about a $1, so worth a couple of minutes to stop in for a visit. A large Kurdish flag flutters in the center of the Citadel. This monument falls in the center of Erbil, and is a good landmark to find your bearings. Stare upwards and you might glimpse the tan walls of the Citadel. There is no admission fee to enter the grounds, simply walk up the hill.
The Qaysari Bazaar date back to the 12th century, and sits on the south side of the Citadel. If you like people watching head here immediate and grab a seat. Of course, you can buy anything in this covered souk full of mazes.
Jalil Khayat Mosque
Jalil Khayat Mosque was inaugurated in 2007 and holds up to 2000 people for prayers. This massive mosque is a beauty and well worth a visit. It is located on 60 Meter Road. I was provided a private tour by a very hospitable and generous caretaker. Try showing up and smiling.
One delight was dining at Kebab of Yasin. It is located in the innards of the bazaar. It is a favorite of the locals. Tables are jammed packed. Take a seat and wait for a silver tray to be produced with a tasty meal of kebabs.
These shops are located everywhere. Look for shops with a crowd as your indicator for great, fresh food. You get lunch for a $1 or $2.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will be happy to be in Erbil. I ate way too much baklava during my trip. Also, there are many donut-like stands for your pleasure.
You can also get a dose of Vitamin C quite easily. There are many fruit stalls and fruit juice stands.
There is also a wide selection of stores selling nuts. So if you like fresh and tasty pistachios from Iran, this is a good place to get your fixing. About $6-$9 for a pound.
In the old part of the city neat the Citadel, alcohol is not too common, but shisha is very prevalent. Puff a double apple with the locals and relax. Under $5.
Instead of grabbing a beer, sip on a hot, sweet tea. Every corner you turn will be a tea house or stall. Sit down and make some new friends. About 50 cents a glass. Many come pre-made with tons of sugar.
Most likely, you will not be overwhelmed with the sites of Erbil. But, the most memorable aspect of Erbil were the people I met. Be open to meeting new friends; drinking chai, smoking shisha, and maybe even an impromptu meal.
Top things to do in Erbil.