Come to Iraq with me in September (100% serious!)
IRAQ IN SEPTEMBER
So at the end of September, 3 nights/4 days, I’ve organised a quick ‘city break’ in Baghdad and Babylon. Crazy? Maybe. But Iraq is safer than it’s been for years, and it’s a ‘once in a lifetime’ kinda trip, so here we go.
It’s quite a last minute thing, I know. I’ve actually been working behind the scenes on this for 6 months already, it takes a lot of planning to organise a trip to Iraq, safely, with proper paperwork and schedules. And finally we’re good to go. The paperwork can be a headache, so the Letters of Invitation for all of us has to begin processing next week (starting Monday 30th July) so if you want to join, we need to know this weekend, sorry for the rush. That’s life with extreme travel!
WHY GO TO IRAQ?
On my trip to every country in the world, I visited ‘Iraq’ but I kind of cheated.There’s an area in Northern Iraq called Iraqi Kurdistan, the capital of that is Erbil, and I visited there. Technical it’s Iraq, but it’s really not. It has it’s own borders, currencies, laws etc, so it didn’t sit well with me, time to put it right.
Besides, Bahgdad is always in the news, and I want to see what it’s actually like, on the ground level. I’m curious, and i know a lot of you crazy travellers are too.
It’s pricey, not gonna lie. Initially, I planned to go just me and one of my best friends (Anthony from manvsclock.com), but we were quoted $7,000USD just for 2 of us. After some negotiation, and dialogue, it would work out a lot cheaper, and more fun, to bring more of us, so we opened it up!
Now we’ve managed it get the price down to $1950 for the 3 nights/4 days. Stil expensive I know, but it’s the cheapest trip I’ve seen without going in solo and winging it, something even I’m not too keen on to be honest.
Hotels, guides, breakfast. Dinner is on us but it’s pretty cheap. Most important is that the Letter of Invitation IS included. The Iraqi company will officially invite us, give us the paperwork and then we’ll go to the embassy of our choosing to apply for the visa. It has to be in your home country or where you legally work/live.
We won’t be traveling with a security detail, Baghdad and Babylon are in the ‘safe’ areas of Iraq under full control of the new Iraqi government. It’s much, much safer than my trip to Mogadishu, Somalia, or that stupid time I took my mum to Afghanistan! Our guides are local, trust worthy professionals who work with all the large multinationals when they send people to Baghdad.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:
International airfare, visa fees (40 GBP in the UK as far as I’m aware), dinners, lunches, tips, (beers?!).
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING?
This is actually amazing. Initially Anthony and myself, then a couple more, then a couple more and it turns out that I’m not the only travel lunatic in the world. There are 8 of us going now, 5 guys, 3 girls with 2 or 3 more quite keen to join. 5 of the group are American which is a nice change the standard narrative the world holds about the USA’s attitude to the Arabic world 🙂
In terms of arriving in Baghdad, the main flights fly from Istanbul and from Dubai, so I’d assume most of us will be connecting there. I have set up a group facebook chat where we are all talking about plans, so once we’re on board, I’ll add you to that and we can meet for a coffee or beer in the airport and fly in together. So yup, new friends, old history and an epic trip to tell the grandkids about, I honestly can’t wait!
WHAT ABOUT THE ITINERARY:
This is the schedule:
(NOTE. This is subject to change of course, Iraq is still Iraq!)
Depending on time of our arrival to Baghdad airport, we’ll check into the hotel, then head out sightseeing. First up is visiting the golden dome Mosque of Kadhimyah, then we’ll head over to the Iraqi Statue of Liberty (Al Tahrer square). After some food, we’ll see the real side of Iraqi life in Baghdad as we stroll along the Tigris river edge and finish up with the iconic Martyr Monument. Overnight in Baghdad
We jump in our private transport and leave the city, heading towards Hilla. From there we’ll visit the old historical city of Babylon, home to one of the original 7 Wonders of the World (although nothing there now!) but we’ll visit the base of the Hanging Gardens. Then the thing I’m most looking forward to – Saddam Hussein’s palace! Finally we’ll check out Borsippa, the footprint of prophet Ibrahim, and back to Baghdad to overnight.
After breakfast, it’s time for a little culture. I can pretend to be interested while we visit the Iraqi National museum and the Baghdadi folk museum. Moving on to Dar Al Hikmah (the government buildings during the Othman & British era) Abbasside palace, the Baghdad cultural centre, and then an afteroon mixing with the locals as we stroll around downtown Baghdad. Overnight in Baghdad
This is our departure day. Right now our Iraqi guys have nothing planned, but depending on the time of flights out, we’ll work something out as a group with the guides. The benefit of going on a private tour!
I cannot believe we’re actually going to explore Baghdad and Babylon. It’s difficult for me to find new and exciting places to visit after visiting every country in the world, so this is something truly special. I can’t wait to share the experience with you guys too, so the more the merrier. Remember though, the cut-off date for this is Monday morning UK time! If you want to come, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, and then your passport and the embassy you’ll be applying from.
Finally, this isn’t a standard G Adventure/tour company trip. I don’t know what to expect as much as you guys. This is as real as travel gets, so lets expect stuff to be a little rough around the edges, perhaps even a little disorganised, but it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime. See you in Baghdad!