The Erbil & Duhok Region
The area around Erbil and Duhok contains some of the most spectacular scenery and historical cities in the region: mosques, churches, synagogues, Yezidi shrines, ancient castles, running waterfalls, and the majestic Zagros mountains. Historically a buffer zone between the Greek and Persian Empires, the region has a fascinating history of religious diversity. For centuries, it was an important center of Jewish learning where Jews spoke Aramaic and settled in cities such as Zakho, which they called the “Jerusalem of Kurdistan.” Later the region became a center for some of the most ancient Christians communities in the world, many of which spoke Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, and maintained unique liturgical rites as well as ancient monasteries. The Yezidis, who believe themselves to be the oldest religion in the world, revere Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel who watches over the world, and have their distinctive white conical shrines in the mountains of the region. Today, Sunni Muslims make up the majority in the region; and Sufi shrines can also be found in many areas, a testament to the region’s rich history of Islamic mysticism.
In addition to its fascinating history, the region is famed for its warm hospitality, its famed artisanal products such as hand-woven carpets, and its spectacular natural landscapes, which allow for both hiking in the snow-capped Zagros mountains and walking along the fabled Tigris River.