What To Bring: Iraqi Kurdistan

General Items

Contact Solution and Prescription Medication. Personal supplies like this are extremely hard to find.

Condoms. Both hard to find, and occasionally difficult to purchase once you find them due to the “shame” element in using birth control.

Coffee & coffee prep supplies. There’s generally only instant coffee served and sold in stores. Bring a french press or espresso pot if you like.

Women’s Clothes

Bring loose, long clothes: they’re cooler in Iraqi heat while also conservative. Kurds dress up when going out, so don’t plan on wearing casual or practical clothes like raincoats, running shoes, or sweatshirts. Also, don’t plan on finding too much good-quality clothing in Kurdistan – things like shoes will fall apart after a week of wear. The water in Kurdistan is also very hard, which means that when you use a washer your clothes will wear out quicker than usual. The best option is to plan on buying clothes during vacations to Turkey, Israel, or surrounding countries.

Makeup. Kurds dress up, and you’ll want to look made-up when you leave the house.

Scarves that can double as headscarves. If you’re Western, you won’t be expected to wear a headscarf, but especially if you’re blonde covering your hair can detract lots of uncomfortable stares and questions. My friend, who is very blonde, was always pulled out of vehicles at checkpoints and questioned until one day she decided to cover her hair, and the police didn’t bother her even once.

Long skirts. It’s hot most of the year in Iraq, but it’s also a very conservative culture. Long skirts are both cool and modest.

3-quarter length shirts. If you wear t-shirts outside you’ll be stared at more than usual. Longer sleeves are more modest

Dark sunglasses: It can be comfortable to wear sunglasses outside because you don’t have to try so hard to avoid eye contact with men.

Hair dryer. It’s shameful to exit the house with wet hair.

Hair ties. Only scrunchies are sold in stores.

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