Have you ever had that impression of not being conscious of any cultural and or social changes, while travelling in a train and looking outside from the window. And then whenever you get to your destination various facts slaps your visual sense and you start to understand that it is different and you need to explore and learn more. That’s exactly what happened to me the next day I woke up from a short nap before I start teaching in Erbil.
The first thing I saw in daylight was a big traditional ornamented minaret. I was convinced, at that real moment, that I need to go closer. While walking towards the Main City Square, and though nothing really sophisticated was round but houses and shops, I could feel the Orient.
My grandparents left so many stories from their trips to some countries in the Middle East and Asia that I could identify myself with. I have also read a lot of novels mainly from British explorers who wrote about their experiences in India, Iran, and Irak. It was fascinating. I did not need a GPS or any technology to know about people’s social codes and etiquettes. It was there!
The only thing that obsessed me was when outside. Everytimes I go wondering inside the Qaysari Bazaar, next to the Ibn Mustayfy Statue , Bakhi Sahr or inside the Citadel my shoulders feel heavy. As if I cannot hold the town’s history and the minarets were there to remind me that feeling.
It is not the first time I see minarets! I am from a Mulsum country, Algeria, and we have so many styles in building mosques. If you go to the East it looks like you are in Tunis or even Istanbul. If you go South it is between Mopti in Mali and Agadey in Nigeria. In the West you will feel as if you are in Merrakech while in the North most of the mosques were churches.
The 1001 nights is the first thought that comes to your mind when you see Masjid Jalil Khayat (the one above). I heard that it has been built by one of the richest Kurdish family. But the one I liked the most is in the picture on the left, I do remember the name, but it looks like it comes from one of the travelling documentaries I used to watch on Arte TV.
For me buildings are those standing blocks that tell you the story of a country without feeling the need to have a guide with you. Minarets play the same role. They tell you the age of a town, who contributed to the building , why they decorated it with Zellig instead of using traditional paintings and much more.
To be continued…