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.

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