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China's new lunar rover leaves first "footprint" on moon's far side. Scenery of Shuhe River at sunset in east China's Shandong. In pics: monkeys in snow. China's landmark Yangtze river bridge reopens to traffic. At its peak in the 9th century, the monastery housed as many as 7, monks. Today it has five, a bishop, this boy and his family — all survivors of the Islamic State.
We were on the western fringes of Kurdistan, a Netherlands-size, semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq that is home to 5. The fact that the monastery still stood; that this Christian boy and his family were still alive; that a small group of North Americans now felt safe enough to travel here — all of it seemed like a miracle. Matthew the Hermit, who founded the monastery in A. He was certain the monastery would be lost. But then the airstrikes began and the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Army turned the tide on the ground. The caliphate began to crumble. It was now May and most of the artifacts had been returned to the monastery.
This was one of the first times that Mr.
Schute had brought travelers here since ISIS had come so close. Today Mr.
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To be sure, Kurdistan is nothing like the Iraq of Mosul but a Middle Eastern Montana with ruins: a cooler, welcoming tableau of crisp mountain streams and scrappy peaks. A traveler can ski at a new resort serviced by gondolas or wander through the sun-roasted walls of the deepest canyon in the Middle East.
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You can drink city water from the taps and stroll around Erbil, the regional capital, concerned with only how to decline, politely, invitations to drink tea. For now, the war with ISIS was still winding down. The concussion, heavy and round, would ring for miles.
Here at the monastery, though, on this pleasant spring day, birdsong ricocheted off the cliffs and the only thing to explode were the poppies. As a West Point history major with a soft spot for heavy metal, Mr. Schute had been a state trooper in New Jersey before being called to Iraq in April to command a United States Army Reserve civil affairs battalion. Soon he became something of a celebrity as the senior American officer in Kurdistan; to this day, the Kurds — who view Americans as their liberators for ousting Saddam Hussein — recognize him on the street and ask for photographs with him.
As his tour drew to a close, Mr. Schute began to feel anxious. I wanted to stay. The Kurdistan Regional Government eventually offered him a job in Erbil, about miles north of Baghdad.get link
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For a history buff, Kurdistan was a dream. He could hear swords ringing on grassy fields where ancient armies collided. He ran his hands along the ramparts of forgotten fortresses and felt the dampness in the crypt-like passages of mystical shrines. He learned Kurdish and married a Kurd. In at a Kurdish investment seminar in Erbil, Mr. Schute met Douglas Layton, an American who came to Kurdistan in Schute and Mr. The idea seemed absurd. Layton recalled. For their main local guide, they hired and trained Balin Zrar, a charismatic, chain-smoking Kurd.
Zrar had spent seven years running an Italian restaurant in London after he smuggled himself to Europe — an epic tale that involved time in an Iranian prison camp and riding for days curled atop a spare tire under a tractor-trailer. After the London bombings, Mr. Zrar returned to Kurdistan to dabble in real estate. For the guide-position interview, Mr. Layton asked him if he liked history.
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Zrar, now in his early 40s, and the candor landed him the job. In , though, things took off. The company landed a contract with California-based Distant Horizons to run its Kurdistan cultural trips and soon others followed. Momentum built. National Geographic Traveler did the same. In tourism arrivals surged 30 percent, year-over-year, to about 2. Copycat inbound companies sprang to life.
Starwood, Kempinski and Marriott lined up to manage new luxury hotels. By spring , Kurdistan Iraq Tours had person groups booking day itineraries and was actually making some money. The militants steamrolled down the Tigris and pushed into Kurdistan. Schute was worried. Tourism companies shut down.
Seventy hotels closed. Many flights ceased. Layton said. But all through those awful years the men worked behind the scenes, speaking to lawmakers and publishing a gorgeous, comprehensive guidebook to the region.
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This is a view of Iraq the world never sees, a world of huge reed beds and vast flocks of birds that fill the sky. But nothing ever quite goes to plan in Iraq. Written by BBC. Start your free trial. Use the HTML below. You must be a registered user to use the IMDb rating plugin. Photos Add Image Add an image Do you have any images for this title?
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