Some Observations On My Most Recent Iraq Trip

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I have been to Iraq every year for the past 20 years, and generally spend most of my working year there. On my last trip back from the States to Baghdad, where I live with my family, I was surprised to see a new corner shop next to my street. There was a small beauty store that had niche products for sale, and it was weird seeing teen acne treatment products being sold in an area where shops historically sold only the essentials for living.

This seems to be a new era that we are entering, and some see it as more Western influence taking over traditional Iraqi values. I won’t provide my opinion on that, but I do think it will be interesting to see if the beauty industry is able to gain traction in Iraq. These are a population of individuals who haven’t been exposed to much more than homemaking, and now that they are given more freedom and take on jobs and gain their own independence, the beauty industry’s growth could be tied to the empowerment of women.

That’s all for now, I just wanted to write an entry about this interesting observation I had on this trip back. Until next time.

Hiking in Iraq: My Story, & Why I’m Never Doing It Again

While I was not born in Iraq, it was hard to tell by looking at me. Both my parents were born and raised in Iraq and had me only shortly after moving to the United States, and their “FOBness” rubbed off on me. I have an accent when I speak English, and follow Iraqi traditions more religiously than I do my coursework or seasons of my favorite shows on Netflix. My first time hiking in Iraqi was also my last. When I got my hiking gear ready (this trip was during a summer trip to Iran, as I would visit my family overseas once every other summer, and I had already brought my trekking poles in my suitcase with me from home) and started climbing, it wasn’t long until I lost the path of my uncle and got lost. While wandering in a relaxed fashion, not thinking much and hopeful that my uncle and other family members would be able to find me, I had unknowingly entered the Iraqi Kurdistan side and had triggered the watch of Iranian soldiers from a watchtower.

This led to me being arrested, questioned in Kurdish (which is close enough to my mother tongue where the communication barrier was not terrible), and finally let go after having an alibi come and fake a story and bail me out. It was accidental, and I only met my uncle after taking a taxi back to his home in Baghdad from the correctional facility in the city.

I feared my life and my future, and was scared that the worst would happen. While it was my mindlessness and loss of focus that got me into the situation in the first place, I don’t think hiking is for me. If I ever have the courage to consider it again, I know for certain that I won’t be leaving the side of my guide.