Say "Iraq" basically anywhere in the world and the first thing people think is bombs, ISIS and chaos. While it may be true that there are major security problems throughout the country, large parts of the Kurdish region are actually very safe and secure.
How do I know? Well, I just visited Erbil and I have to say, I felt more secure the whole time there than I normally do in Beirut's traffic. No offense, I promise #LiveLoveBeirut.
When I told my Lebanese friends that I was going to Erbil for the weekend, most of them thought I was crazy.
I think most of them assumed it was the last time they would see me when I boarded that plane.
I thought the reaction was kind of funny, since most of my friends outside of Lebanon already assume I'm chilling with ISIS here.
But of course Lebanon is far more like this . . .
Than like this . . .
Erbil's airport is small and it took maybe 15 minutes from landing to get through customs and security.
The first view of Iraq upon exiting the airport wasn't terribly exciting.
But it was definitely a bit of a rush to be in Iraq for the first time, after all, everyone I know thought I was risking my life.
When I got to my friend's place, where I was staying, I was actually quite impressed with his 18th floor view.
My friend and his flatmate took me to some shisha cafe/pub in Ankawa.
The place was chill and the food was decent. There was definitely nothing happening that made me feel unsafe or uncomfortable.