Friday, February 28, 2003

Have you ever wondered where all the crap you throw away goes? Well I can tell you. It ends in the Arbil Bazaar. Went shopping this afternoon with Rusha, one of our Kurdish translators/fixers, to pick up a few bits and pieces for the office. It was quite an experience. All the rubbish in the world you never wanted -- all in one place. It's very well thought out, though, with the rubbish helpfully sold in different streets, so you get the rubbishy books in one street, the rubbishy clothes in another and so on. I shouldn't complain, though, because it gave me a wealth of top photographic opportunities...

Please Do Not Read the Newspapers Unless You Intend To Buy Them
Bazaar Trader
Shoe Shine

An e-mail arrives from Vicky, asking what Arbil's like. Well, it's like this....

Why do journalists always call Middle Eastern cities "sprawling" or "chaotic"? Because they are. Arbil is a largish, rather shabby and nondescript place. I'd call it the Doncaster of Kurdistan. It has everything we need, though -- plenty of fruit and veg, bottled water, shops selling electrical goods, stationary, that kind of thing. The communications are surprisingly good. The TV in my hotel room has BBC World, CNN and Fox News and yesterday I went out and bought a stack of local SIM cards for the mobile phones which allows people to dial a British number and get diverted to local phones. There's even a shop selling Thuraya satellite phones.

We're staying in the Arbil Tower Hotel, a shocking establishment if ever there was.

When the war starts it's set to become the Al Rashid Hotel of the northern front. The place is stuffed with journalists from broadcasters and papers around the world, all pretending not to care what the others are doing but in reality eavesdropping like crazy in case they miss something. In the evenings the thirsty hacks retire to the restaurant/bar (yes, alcohol is available, thank God) to trade war stories and bitch about their bosses. On Thursday night there's live traditional Kurdish music. It's best avoided.


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