Diana

I have a bad habit of speaking in absolutes. What can I say? I am a zealot in more ways than one, hence why I must confess in the only manner I know i.e. extra, that Diana is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Located in the North East of Iraq, this small traditional city boasts some of the most scenic areas, I dare say, in the Middle East. 

So scenic and mesmerising, Diana, that the task of taking out my camera, focusing and adjusting apertures just to prove my absolutism, proved too arduous and sacrificial a task. 

Capturing this region's beauty at every turn would have denied me the experience, which I know I will never have the privilege of again in my life. 

Forgive me; I could not oblige you. 

Moses Country

On my way to Diana from Erbil, I had glimpsed clues of its majesty. And before I went out to explore further, I explained to my sister in Barbados, how gorgeous Iraq was. 

Like me, I am sure that maybe she had had a preconceived notion of this place. 

Still, she acted unaffected by my descriptions, instead affirming the history and folklore of the region. 

"I forget that you in Moses country," she said in Bajan dialect while wolfing down her breakfast. 

And suddenly it clicked. 

On my way to Diana, much of the scenic range was dominated by mountainous ranges with distinct ridges of water marks from thousands of years ago. 

Unconsciously, I was referencing biblical stories of Noah and the Ark and the Great Flood that killed off humanity. 

These mountainous ranges were so massive that it was hard not to imagine them as once beds of a great ocean as the water marks certainly give more credence to the idea of a place that was once a rich water resource. 

Waterfalls

Diana greeted me with a maze of hairpin twists and turns down into a valley lined by beautiful streams and one amazing waterfall.

Spellbound is not the word. And again, I am sorry that I was so entranced that I could not take photos. As my body leaned left and right and then left again with every turn of the car, I was not prepared for the waterfall to appear quite unexpectedly after a colossal cliff face. 

"There are waterfalls in Iraq?" I thought to myself as I stared with an opened mouth. 

I remember an Iraqi friend in Turkey telling me about the beauty of the Northern Iraq region. He had mentioned that the idea of Iraq as a water scarce region was just as much a fallacy as any of the stereotypes associated with this Middle Eastern region. 

One such stereotype that I was forced to challenge in Diana was Iraq as an Islamic country.

diana

Before leaving for my trip, I had obviously done my research on Diana and had surprisingly found out that the very name of this city had its origins in Christianity. Diana is the Kurdish word for Christian and so, was often associated for thousands of years as a place with a strong Christian community.

This Christian community still exists today, as I later learned. 

Regardless of the religious affiliation or lack there of, the scenery of Diana challenges your  belief system in a Higher Being. 

The peace that you experience as you try to wrap your mind around the largesse of the place is soul deep.

after glow

I started my trek around Diana in the afternoon. The falling sunset gave a beautiful vintage brown glow to the majestic backdrop.

A solid 10 minute drive uphill from the city center to Korek mountain almost reminded me of the Grand Canyon, which I had flown over many times en route to Las Vegas. 

Even though there were similarities attributed to the rocky mountains, it was still different. Diana had mountain ridge after mountain ridge with cliff faces and deep ravines, traced by crystal clear streams. Despite the streams and rivers there was not much greenery and that was because the mountain ranges were skyscraper high. 

You certainly felt the size of insignificance as you looked at this scenery. 

Given the watermarked time stamps displayed on the mountain ridges, it was impossible for me not to think about life here hundreds if not thousands of years ago, where Assyrian, Islamic, Semitic and Babylonian cultures clashed. 

Ever so often, lodged in a cliff face of a mountain ridge you would spot the mouth of a cave. 

"Could there be treasure in there?" I pondered. 

"Or buried texts of antiquity unlocking many of life's mysteries?"

These were questions that I wish that I could answer myself. But the likelihood of me going hiking through this region was slim given my athletic inability to even get over highway bumper rail. 

Probably a blessing because imagination in the case is far better than finding truth.