After leaving Dbuna, our we rode towards Syria. The sun had set, but light remained in the sky when we reached the town of Zakho. We disembarked at a church on a bluff overlooking the Tigris river, one of the rivers that made the fertile crescent fertile and gave birth to human civilization.
Syria was on the other side of the river. Syria was and remains a nation in a state of civil war, but this particular corner looked peaceful.
A small Chaldean town sat on the opposite bank:
The scene was beautiful, but things were less than perfect on the border. One of the priests at the church told us that recently a man trying to swim across the river was shot dead by the Syrian army.
There are two churches on this site, an ancient one that dates to the 7th Century, and a modern building.
Inside the modern church, we listened to the choir practice. After they finished, we took the bus into downtown Zakho.
Some graffiti reminded us of home:
The Khabur river runs through Zahko before merging with the Tigris. The Delal bridge crosses the river here, and we went to stand on the ancient structure.
(Photo Credit: Matt Lenzen)
A bridge has stood on this spot since Roman times, though the current bridge could be from a later era. The history of the bridge is infused with legend. In one story, attempts at building the bridge kept failing. One of the frustrated builders promised the gods that he would sacrifice the next creature to wander by in exchange for help with the bridge. After he made this promise, his daughter appeared, so he sacrificed her. Another legend says that the builders'
hands were chopped off so the bridge would remain unique. Iraq does not suffer from a plague of personal injury lawyers, and there are no handrails on the bridge. Our guide told us that in recent memory, "someone fell off and died directly." None of us died directly or otherwise during our time in Zakho. We enjoyed a great dinner with the local clergy at a riverside outdoor restaurant, then checked into a hotel for the night.
The next morning, we traveled north towards the Turkish border. Near the border, we stopped in the town of Bersawa. We visited the church of St. George, where religious education classes were being taught. Students sang for us in each classroom we visited.
In the courtyard: (photo credit: Joe Walshe)
Next, Zuhair Daniel, a prominent citizen, showed us to the remains of his former home. The house was 400 years old and had been in his family for generations. During the Kurdish rebellion, the Iraqi air force bombed it four times because it was believed to be a hospital for wounded rebels. Mr. Daniel showed us around the ruin of his house, and pointed out the spot in the rubble where he had been born.
I don't think our invasion of Iraq was just or wise, but standing in the ruins of this man's house, I felt proud that my country had destroyed the tyrant who visited evil upon the innocent.
A view of the countryside from Bersawa:
I would like to finish my account of our Kurdish roadtrip, but it's the middle of the night. Tomorrow I'll tell you about eating lunch in a river and hearing the Turkish army shoot at communists.