Here is what the itinerary turned out to be:
Day 1 (Friday): Suli, Chamchamal, Kirkuk, Arbil
Day 2 (Saturday): Arbil, almost Mosul, Dar Mar Matta (St. Matthew’s Monastery)
Day 3 (Sunday): Mar Matta
Day 4 (Monday): Mar Matta, Shekhan, Lalish, Al Qosh
Day 5 (Tuesday): Al Qosh, Dohok
Day 6 (Wednesday): Dohok, Amediya
Day 7 (Thursday): Amediya, Arbil
Day 8 (Friday again): Arbil, Suli
I honestly, honestly can’t remember ever having a better 8 days.
I found a couple soul-mates.
I slept in monasteries, new friends’ houses, and above a tahini plant at the foot of a mountain.
I ate kuzi and massi and dolma and baqlawa and pikasso and labaneh and hummus.
I drank so much tea I was on a perpetual sugar high, went out pubbing with Lubnanis, and sipped Arabic coffee while being watched by 15 giggling girls as well as their mothers, fathers, and the 78-year-old matriarch of the family.
I met a woman named Kurdistan.
I learned some Arabic.
I made faces at dozens and dozens of little kids and made them laugh (I’ve got an in with the under-10 crowd).
I discovered sumac and pomegranate jelly and lots of garlic and lemon.
I had my camera stolen, I had creepy men hit on me, I screamed upon finding my first cockroach, I peed in some of the most disgusting toilets, got bitten by mosquitos, and I wore the same dusty outfit over and over and over.
I saw mountains. Green mountains.
I saw rivers.
I saw sunrises, sunsets, and a full moon.
I saw Kurdistan.