Two weeks ago I took one weekend day off and we went up north into the countryside. We went to a 20-foot waterfall that may once have been natural but men came and poured down concrete and constructed metal stairs and railings and some of the railings rusted. It is a very popular spot covered by swarming Baghdad tourists. Purple plastic cowboy hats made in China were being sold by vendors along the steps. “They may have made a misstep with all the concrete, but they make up for it with the dangerous lack of rules,” said one of our friends as we scrambled up the algae-covered rocks beneath the hot sun, our feet submerged in the freezing water. At the bottom of the waterfall, beneath a metal framework that held picnic tables, men in white suits with rakes and shovels shoveled and raked silt or something from the stream. Don’t know why.
As we were leaving the buses pulled in. The sun was lower in the sky and the tourists from Baghdad had left the waterfall and were ready for a night of adrenalin in little steel cars.
On the way back to Erbil we stopped at a second waterfall. This one is commemorated on the back of the 5,000 dinar bill. On the back of the bill it rushes powerful flooding water in the middle of wilderness. In real life there is concrete concrete and more concrete. In the pool beneath the waterfall plastic blow-up rowboats are rented (5,000 dinars a pop) and you slip out of your shoes and climb into one of the boats – oh a far cry from my Ndege-Samaki – in your long pants, long-sleeved shirt, the ends of your head wrap (if you wear one) dipping into the pool as your companion in the boat tries his best to row you beneath the freezing rush of water.