Cut and run…

I have had an incredible time in Iraq, but it is time for me to start my slow, stop-over ridden trip home.  To sum up the “withdrawl of all Ryans from Iraq,” I’ll go through the last day.

Realizing that neither of the parks I went to the previous day were not the park I was trying to visit, I took a cab to Martyr Sami Abdulrahman Park.  The park is quite a ways from the city center, near the new airport, but totally worth the cab fare.  First off, this park is huge.  Like, Central Park huge.  At the center of the park is a memorial to the victims of twin suicide bombings that took place in 2004 in Erbil. All throughout the park you can find families picknicking and enjoying the outdoors. My favorite time of day is definitely dusk. The weather cools down and allows for a pleasant experience. I went to the Park Restaurant in the middle of the park.  To be clear, the park restaurant is not exactly a place you come to get food. They do not have a menu, and when asked about food, they said that they had some chicken somewhere in the back that they could make. I met a solo traveler from Finland named Matthew (or, at least that was the closest to his actual name in Finnish). We chatted for a bit, had some water at the park restaurant and parted ways.

I made my way back to check out of my hotel, and store my luggage in their luggage closet while I went out for food. While I was checking out, the entire Iraqi olympic soccer team walked in (in their uniforms!), so everyone at the hotel was going crazy taking pictures and looking starstruck. I just went along with the frenzy and snapped photos as well. Very nice people, and more than happy to let everyone harrass them for their time. After my brush with iraqi fame, I was hungry and made my way to the kebab stand outside the gate of the hotel hoping for some classical sauce. No such luck, there was a run on sauce apparently that resulted in me enjoying a normal meal of meat and onions. Tasty, but a let down. I also searched around at 4 or 5 grocery stores to see if they sold it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. There has to be some available on the internet somewhere. Maybe I’ll import it.

I grabbed my bags, and took a cab to the airport. I wasn’t aware of this, but the airport only opened on September 1st. So, for an airport that opened within the last 2 weeks, it looked great! I caught my Gulf Air flight to Bahrain and crashed at the hotel for a good 9 hours. Ignore anything you read on the internet about Gulf Air. These were two of the nicest planes I’ve ever been on, and great service. This is not a sketchy airline, despite what people write online…

Now, the photos:

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