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Iraq: Dalal Bridge

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Dalal Bridge | Iraq | Asia

[Visited: January 2014]

After having been based in Duhok for a couple of days, I was near the end of my stay in Northern Iraq. I had a flight to catch in the afternoon, but also wanted to see the ancient stone bridge of Zakho, so I was at the garaj at 7am, and to my surprise, we were off within half an hour. The ride to Zakho took a little under an hour; when I mentioned Pira Delal to a young cab driver, a big smile appeared on his face. When we arrived, he proudly pointed out the bridge to me. The morning sun had started to shine on the old stones of the bridge, like it has done since the construction in the Abbasyd era. The sign states it was built "in the first 1 thousand BC", other sources say the Romans constructed it. In any case, it is assumed to be the oldest open arch bridge of the Middle East.

Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Dalal Bridge basking in the morning sun

Then, there are the different stories regarding the reason the bridge was built. The most romantic I read was about a young man who lived on one side of the Khabur river, and the girl he loved on the other, so he decided to build a bridge, so the river could not separate them anymore. There is another story about a Turkish architect who had one of his hands amputated, and who nevertheless constructed a bridge in Zakho. He built the bridge from two sides, but he did not know how to close the gap between the two sides. Someone advised him to kill the first person he would meet, and to use the body to connect the bridge. To his shock, that turned out to be Dalal, his daughter in law, and the one after whom the bridge is named.

Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Arch of Dalal Bridge reflected in the Khabur river

The more down-to-earth explanation, however, was given on the signboard near the bridge: to connect the region east of the river Tigris with what is now Turkey, part of the Silk Road and therefore important for trade. Even though the latter explanation probably makes more sense, I cannot help but to stick to the romantic love story. The limestones with which the bridge was built, were emanating a warm light, reflected in the narrow but deep river below. I walked back to the other side, found the gates to a small riverside park closed, until I noticed the last door had a chain which was not locked. I could not believe my luck, sneaked inside, and had the best views of the bridge, from below and a little further away. I noticed a small modern bridge a little upstream, walked to the entrance, and managed to convince the security guys to allow me inside, escorted by one of them. Indeed, the view from the bridge was worth the trouble, and I was totally satisfied, and ready for a long journey home.

Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Distant view of Dalal Bridge
Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Dalal Bridge in the early morning
Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Looking at Dalal Bridge from a big rock formation in the river
Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Looking up sturdy Dalal Bridge from below
Picture of Dalal Bridge (Iraq): Looking at Dalal Bridge from the other side of the river

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