White water rafting in Kurdistan: a future tourist destination?

Iraqi Kurdistan sounds remote and troubled; an unlikely place to spend your holidays. Yet there are those who are hoping to introduce tourism to the area, reports the BBC. In desperate need of the income foreigners could bring, Iraq is attempting to lure back tourists, using stunning vistas from Kurdistan in the north of the country in its brochures.

Admittedly mountainous and fertile rather than arid and flat, it is a far cry from the desolation we see on our TV screens. Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region separate from Bagdad, and seems isolated from the conflict and suicide bombings.

American tourist consultant Mike Crane describes it as welcoming and ready for family tourism. Together with Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American environmentalist, they want to turn it into a haven for eco-tourism and plan to use the turquoise-green Zab river, flowing between yellow mountains covered in green scrub, for the energizing sport of white water rafting.

The optimistic Azzam hopes to start by attracting foreign oil workers to the area to enjoy the thrill kayaking offers. Realistically, it will certainly be a while before tourists from Europe and America choose northern Iraq as their water sports destination but perhaps Mike Crane has a point and it is, a ‘potential waiting to boom’.

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