Retaining our heritage
We need to do more to make this city tourist friendly
Erbil is undergoing major renovations to retain its heritage, enabling tourists to understand the history of this ancient city.
A country is best known for its history, and through that we can find out about its lifestyle, culture and local customs. Societies that preserve their culture, and heritage tend to have a greater sense of identity than those that are modernized to an extent where they imitate other societies. What makes Kurdistan different is that we are Kurdish, and we have something to offer that other societies do not have. The reason tourists are excited to visit this city is because we are ‘different’ from where they come from culturally, and if we destroy all that is cultural about this city, we are in effect destroying the huge economic boost from tourism that this region could attract.
I often walk by the Citadel in Erbil city. There are construction workers all over the place. Changes are being made to the markets, and a great level of attention is given to this historical site, which is one of the world’s oldest. Looking at the Citadel, an overwhelming sense of pride overcomes me. This is our city, and one day we will rightfully call ourselves a country, in our own right. We have the responsibility to make sure, when the day of independence comes, we are fully prepared. This includes treating the tourism sector properly, and ensuring that we locals don’t forget our customs.
While in London, I loved the ‘Brit- ishness’ of everything. Despite the major changes, there were obvious aspects of it that screamed ‘British’. Similarly in Istanbul, there were ‘Turkish’ practices that were obvious to tourists, and in Kurdistan we need ‘Kurdish’ things to be identified immediately by tourists. This is how we can reclaim our heritage, and ensure that our society prospers for generations to come, despite the obstacles that might come our way.
The oldest inhibited place known by mankind is the Citadel, which we have in Erbil city. It is a national treasure, a beacon of pride and joy. It highlights what is different about us, and in those little houses within the Citadel, there are many stories to tell, but few have been told. Unfortunately, some aspects of this marvelous citadel was ‘modernized’ and ‘modified’ while people were still living there. Consequently, the additions that were made destroyed its ‘ancient’ look. However, renovations are now being made to restore its old image, and to give tourists a sense of what this city has to offer.
No one can doubt that we are different as Kurds, but we must not become blind by modern buildings, fancy cars and luxurious shopping malls. When people come to visit Kurdistan, they should go back with a story to tell, souvenirs to take, and a positive image of us. If they go back with pictures of tall buildings, and shopping malls, the disappointment for me is beyond expression. We have a rich heritage that needs to be explored, highlighted, and made presentable to the world.