Jack Serle

Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

A clarification, an Iraqi putsch, marriage counselling

In Kurdistan on January 19, 2012 at 3:05 PM

A Clarification

It has come to attention that my previous post may have given the impression that walking the streets of Erbil means dodging fetid puddles of sewage. The sanitation infrastructure is lacking it is true but it is not the Somme.

The tidal wave that struck me on my walk home was not one of molten effluent. It was noisome to be sure and my coat has taken on an aromatic quality since. But I was not coated in a city’s worth of brown plopsies.

I did not wish to allow my invective to denigrate the work of Erbil’s sewage engineer. He does a sterling job, under the circumstances.

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Oh to Hell with it all, it’s a question of infrastructure you see

In Kurdistan on January 8, 2012 at 4:29 PM

In 1991 Saddam Hussein had his nose well and truly biffed and bloodied by Uncle Sam and friends. The Kurds had the temerity to choose that moment to declare themselves autonomous from Baghdad. Saddam, broke and running low on bullets, decided to cut them off from all government funding. Perhaps he hoped starvation would do what his army failed.

As a consequence of this issolation, crippling UN sanctions and an idiotic civil war Kurdistan spent the years leading up to the 2003 occupation very much on its uppers. What little income the nascent Kurdish government could get was gleaned from black market trade throughTurkey, Iran and Syria. The ramifications of this penury are writ large in the woeful state of Erbil’s infrastructure. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy birthday to me, Beirut I love you yet I have to leave you

In Kurdistan on January 6, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Leaving Beirut and H. behind I make my way to Rafic Hariri Airport for an 8.45am flight to Erbil via Jordan. Getting out of bed at 6am is never easy, not least when you have to leave someone else in it.

F. my taxi driver is surprisingly charming given the hour. And the fact that when I arrived in Beirut the previous week he waited for three hours at arrivals unaware that I had hopped in another cab and boosted into town.

Unfortunately his charm cannot contend with the fact that I am awake before dawn on my birthday. Read the rest of this entry »

It hits the fan, staying objective

In Kurdistan on December 22, 2011 at 3:16 PM

This post was written before the true extent of the day’s events in Baghdad became clear. I will return to these terrible events when the dust has cleared.

Hour by hour the situation changes, seemingly ever escalating. Everyone I spoke to assumed things were going to get interesting once the Americans left Iraq. I was working under the impression that the overt US military presence would have left by 22 December.

It came as a bit of a surprise that they disappeared in the night of 18 December. What was more surprising was the dust had barely had time to settle on the convoy tracks before the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia, started to bust his political opponents.

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Departing Americans, parlous future

In Kurdistan on December 17, 2011 at 9:18 AM

The final week of the United States’ near decade-long Mesopotamian misadventure is here. The last American soldiers will high-tail it across the Kuwaiti border by 22 December.

US armoured vehicles are lined up for inspection

Copyright US Army

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Talk of the town

In Kurdistan on November 18, 2011 at 3:23 PM

The news broke last weekend in the Financial Times: Exxon Mobil Corp., the Texan based oil company, is coming to Kurdistan. Exxon Mobil is the biggest of the so-called supermajors. It is the biggest oil company in the world by market share and one of the biggest companies in the US.

This monster of the corporate world is being lured north to the Kurdish region by the staggeringly vast quantities of oil and gas up here. The US Geological Society in September estimated there to be somewhere in the region of 45bn barrels of oil here. That is about the same as there is in Libya.

The oil companies based up in Kurdistan Region like Hunt and Marathon are minnows by comparison to Exxon Mobil. This an entity on a scale the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has dreamt of signing up to drill in its semi-autonomous region.

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Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice

In Kurdistan on November 12, 2011 at 7:22 AM

Be warned, this post contains graphic images which vegetarians may find disconcerting.

Piling into a Toyota Hilux at 7am, CU and I are off to bear witness to a religious ceremony well beyond the norms of his catholic and my protestant upbringing. With us is S. whose Uncle is accommodating us two European interlopers on this family occasion. Also present is M., the three year old son of Uncle. He is a little overawed by the two six footers who have appeared next to him on the back seat of his dad’s truck.

Stopping briefly to pick up the moustachioed butcher – a well set, stolid looking man – we make our way to the market. Out of town, among wrecked cars and breeze block shacks strewn across the scrub, sheep, goats and cows are milling or penned while whiskered Kurds haggle.

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Joining the millionaire’s club

In Kurdistan on November 7, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Last week I became a millionaire. Not undeserved I think you will agree, excellence deserves reward.

It was a happy moment when my wealth was passed to me by my employer’s finance director. It was a big wedge of Iraqi dinars and, having checked with the current exchange rates and prices, ID1m is enough to buy half a piece of tuna nigri in London.

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A tale of two cities, the best English service in Iraq

In Kurdistan on November 5, 2011 at 12:45 PM

After a three legged, 17 hour journey my arrival could not come soon enough. Lights spread out beneath me in pattern-less sprays of colour. The plane hit the tarmac and the night around our fetid little tube was suffused with sodium orange. My EgyptAir flight had touched down in Erbil. Capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, fourth largest city in Iraq and my home for the next three months.

The brand new international airport, all marble and glass, was not quite what I expected though a pleasant surprise it was. That I was met at the airport was something special. That I was taken to a half built house with no lavatory, shower or working lights was also special.

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Canadian thanksgiving, a feast of visitors

In Suisse on October 25, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Hospitality is prized by many tribes around the world. Apparently in the Southern United States it is a thing particular to and much celebrated by the persons of that region. Having never been there I cannot really say however I imagine it means while the banjo music twangs ominously in the valley a guest is given a head start. A local on the other hand is just set upon where they stand by hillbillies in various states of undress.

Canadians, those snowey yanks from north of the boarder, excel when it comes to the hospitality stakes. Be it the Bearded Publisher, The Renegade, Chat Poisson, my glamorous francophonic fellow hacks or The Genius*; my friends from great frozen wastes of Ontario are all jolly good eggs. As long as you can prize the poutine and maple syrup out of their mitts, that is, before a sugar and cheese-curd mania descends.

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