The taxi I had taken from Duhok had dropped me off on the northern side of the city of Erbil, and since the weather was nice, and I thought I still had time on my sleeve before my flight back home later in the afternoon, I decided to walk through the heart of the city. I skirted the Citadel, which I would have loved to visit, but unfortunately, it was off limites for visitors, so I had to pass by and look up the ancient walls that were looming high above me. A little further south, it was easy enough to spot the minaret after which Minaret Park is named. Alas: to my dismay, I found the gate closed. I walked around the outer walls, hoping to at least have a glimpse of the minaret. Standing on my toes, I managed to take some shots, but was disappointed, as I did not see anyone inside. I continued walking around the walls, secretly looking for a way to climb over the fence. Once again, I was happy to be travelling light.
There would be one more surprise, however: a little further down the road, I found a small gate that was open. When I walked inside, I finally saw families and groups of friends inside, enjoying the warm January sun. Of course, the flowers of the park were not blooming, but I had come only for the minaret. I walked towards the tilting structure again. A lane with white busts of (I assumed) important Islamic scholars, including some women, on both sides, made approaching the 13th century minaret a formal affair. At the end of the lane, I found a small square: to my left, the brick minaret, with decorations all around it; while on my right, I stood eye to eye with a larger than life white statue of an old, wise, bearded man with a big book in his hands.
Less than ten minutes ago, I had been on the other side of the fence, desperately trying to get a glimpse of the minaret and the big statue; now, they were all mine, as there was no one else around. The gate to the minaret was closed, but I could anyway get a good view of the tower that had seen so much history at its feet over the centuries since Muzzaffar al-Din Kokbari had it constructed. It is, in fact, the only medieval structure outside the Citadel that still exists. Where I had been disappointed before, I was now truly happy, and walked back to the main street. I tried to imagine what the park must look like in spring or summer; now, the fountains were dry, the bushes and trees barren, and most of the benches empty. The only other parts worth mentioning were an eagle-shaped shrubbery, and a model of the Citadel of Erbil. Shortly after I walked out of the monumental gate, I chartered a taxi, and before I knew it, my visit to Kurdistan and northern Iraq had come to an abrupt end.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Minaret Park (Iraq). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Minaret Park.
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