I wrote about my vacation to Baghdad for Playboy (Don’t worry -the link is all safe for work)
So you wanna go on a bus tour of Iraq? Hinterland Travel can take you there. Be forewarned: it is rustic. And don’t expect Geoff the owner of Hinterland Travel to fill you in on much of anything, he’s most likely whispering sweet nothings in his girlfriend’s ear. But it is an amazing trip if you bring your own history book/bible. oh yeah - and bring cash. We bombed the country back to 1977 and outside of the airport, nobody takes credit cards and there are no ATMs. Anywhere. Check out my pics…
Abu Nawas Street, Baghdad
Located in between Firdos Square – home of the Sheraton and Palestine hotels – and the Tigris, this lovely lane winds through parks where locals play soccer and have cookouts. It is also the home to some of the best fish restaurants in Baghdad, where the local delicacy, mazgouf – slow roasted/barbecued fish – is served.
The Baghdad Souk
The market in Baghdad is like getting in a time machine. Anything from hookahs, portraits of Saddam Hussein mounted on leather plaques, ancient artifacts and doodads can be bought here. Just be careful – don’t buy anything too old or it will be confiscated at the airport and you may or may not be thrown in jail for participating in looting.
The “adventure travel company” owned and operated by Geoff Hann (on the right), which specializes in tours through Iraq, Afghanistan and other war torn yet archeologically interesting places. Bring your own Power Bars, neck pillow and sleeping pills as food and sleep are scarce. Hotels are “three or four stars” (according to local star givers), but as the tours are relatively cheap, you can surmise you won’t be staying at the four seasons. Also, read up on every location before you go and bring a guide book with you as Geoff often forgets to fill his guests in on exactly where they are or the historical significance of the mud pile they may be looking at. http://www.hinterlandtravel.com/
Rotana Hotel, Erbil
A true five star hotel in Iraq, albeit in the safer climes of Kurdistan. It boasts three restaurants serving Lebanese, French and local cuisines as well as a piano bar where a Bulgarian beauty tinkles the ivories to the delight of the foreign contractors, US military personnel and wealthy locals. http://www.rotana.com/rotanahotelandresorts/iraq/erbil/erbilrotana
Speed Center, Erbil
An awesome bar/sports palace where guests can get plastered before zooming around the winding racetrack at 40 mph. The bartenders are hot Bulgarians and also provide hookahs for cheap. http://www.empireiraq.com/erbil-speed-center/overview.html