US firm launches first ever tourist guide to Kur­dis­tan

400-page guide book hopes to tempt ad­ven­tur­ous trav­ellers to Kur­dis­tan

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

It is likely to boast of the beau­ti­ful scenery, an­cient trea­sures and in­ter­est­ing ar­chae­ol­ogy to be found in the semi-au­ton­o­mous re­gion

How­ever, tourists may still be hes­i­tant due to the prox­im­ity of the IS mil­i­tants.

Those fan­cy­ing a hol­i­day with a dif­fer­ence will soon be able to thumb through the first ever guide to Kur­dis­tan - although whether any­one will be keen to take a break quite so close to ISIS's mur­der­ing hordes re­mains to be seen.

The 400-page guide which in­cludes more than 600 pic­tures is sure to boast of the amaz­ing ar­chae­ol­ogy, the an­cient bazaars and even the snow-cov­ered moun­tains to be found in the semi-au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

All the same, the Amer­i­can en­trepreneurs be­hind the new book have de­cided that now is a great time to launch Kur­dis­tan Tour Guide.

Dr Dou­glas Lay­ton, owner of Kur­dis­tan Iraq Tours, said: '“When I told my friends in Amer­ica we were go­ing to pub­lish the book, they thought I was a lit­tle bit strange.'

But, he added, "ISIS has done a lot of public re­la­tions for us al­ready: all we have to do is turn a neg­a­tive into a pos­i­tive."

Dr. Lay­ton and his col­league Harry Schute, a re­tired Amer­i­can army colonel, have more than 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the area.

And they are used to work­ing in con­di­tions which may seem to oth­ers to be busi­ness.

The duo's first travel busi­ness The Other Iraq Tours launched in 2008 - a pe­riod when the war was still on­go­ing.

In fact, the tour com­pany was go­ing from strength to strength un­til ISIS cap­tured Mo­sul, just an hour-and­half's drive from Er­bil, in June last year.

Ever since, West­ern me­dia has been filled with pic­tures and sto­ries of the hor­rific acts com­mit­ted by the Is­lamic ex­trem­ists - putting off even the bravest of trav­ellers.

What's more, the mil­i­tants have also gone out of their way to de­stroy some of the build­ings and arte­facts which draw peo­ple to the re­gion.

So Dr Lay­ton and Col Schute de­cided to give the tourist in­dus­try in the north of Iraq a bit of a push, hop­ing to en­tice peo­ple back to the area, part of the 'cra­dle of civil­i­sa­tion'.

They be­gan a new di­vi­sion of the com­pany, called Kur­dis­tan Iraq Tours.

The first seven-day trip, priced at £3,500 ($5,475) a per­son, takes place this June, stop­ping in cities like Er­bil and Duhok, as well vis­it­ing Ne­an­derthal caves, an­cient monas­ter­ies and the ru­ins of one of Sad­dam Hus- sein's palaces - among other things.

Dr Lay­ton said that he was cer­tain it was Kur­dis­tan's turn to be con­sid­ered the next 'hot' des­ti­na­tions for ad­ven­tur­ous tourists.

'They’re look­ing for some­thing fresh, and we have it to of­fer,' he said.

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