Join us on this unique and exciting opportunity to experience a side to Iraqi Kurdistan rarely shown in the news. We will spend a week travelling through the region with Nabil Musa, a Kurdish-Iraqi environmental activist and artist, also knows as Iraq's "Water Keeper," and award-winning reportage illustrator George Butler. We will be visiting some unusual places, meeting inspiring people and learning from George how to record what we see on paper.
Drawing & Painting workshops
Learn the art of reportage drawing from George Butler who will teach us to capture scenes with immediacy and authenticity.
Sulaymaniyah Art Scene
Explore the emerging contemporary and street art scene in Sulaymaniyah.
Climb to the top of the highest mountains of Kurdistan, camp in nature and swim in the picturesque pools of Gali Shirana.
Lalish Izidi Temple
Discover the strange and unique village of Lalish, home to the holiest temple of the Yazidi faith.
Learning the art of observational drawing
George Butler is an award-winning reportage artist who has covered scenes all around the world, from Yemeni tribes, to refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley. In 2017 George joined the Iraqi special forces’ “golden division” as they fought ISIS in west Mosul.
We seem to have lost the art of the observational reporter with a sketchbook to photography, Butler's memorable images show that a closely observed drawing is not just worth a thousand words but hundreds of photographs.A. A. Gill
Travelling with George, we will learn the art of ‘observational travelling’. Every day we will be focusing on different painting and drawing techniques, using watercolour, gouache and ink. By capturing what we see on paper, we will learn to look closer, look further and take home a unique collection of drawings that will remind us of our journey. If you are less interested in drawing, do not worry! There will be many opportunities to photograph, film and explore the landscape.
Kurdistan is a semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq. It is a place of great beauty, mountains, rich history and fascinating politics.
Located on a tangle of ethnic, religious, and geopolitical fault lines, the Kurdish homeland has been affected by conflict for centuries. However, it is now a stable place to visit and is a welcoming destination for adventurous tourists. We will be discovering the legacy of the Assyrian empire, ancient fortresses, bustling bazaars, spectacular mountain scenery, 5000-year-old cities, and the notorious hospitality of the Kurdish people.
The total price for this once in a lifetime trip is £2970 per person, the trip lasts seven days and the price includes all food, transport, workshops with George Butler and accommodation whilst in the country.
This trip is expected to fill up fast. If you have any questions please get in touch:
Email to apply now: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call us on +447946268180
Is Kurdistan safe?
Iraqi Kurdistan is a separate entity to the rest of Iraq and is perfectly safe for tourists. Kurdish Iraq was unaffected by the 2003 war, the region has a great deal of autonomy with its own government, army, police force and secure border. Foreigners are made to feel very welcome. Although there were issues with ISIS in the region during mid-late 2014, they were quickly pushed back from the Kurdish border, and the Peshmerga held the lines strong. Bombs are extremely rare in Kurdistan, but on the occasion that they have happened, they have been targeted at government offices and police stations. We will be monitoring the situation closely and would re-evaluate the tours if the security in the region declines.
Why travel with us?
In an age where people are increasingly well travelled we are offering an entirely new travel experience. This is less about ticking the box list of ‘must-see’ sights and more about getting under the skin of a rarely visited and often misunderstood place. This trip will be about meeting inspiring people, visiting extraordinary places and learning how to capture what you see with pencil and paper.
What will the accommodation be like?
Most nights we will be staying at comfortable, centrally located hotels. As we want to provide unique experiences we may also stay at some local guesthouses. One night will be spent camping in the mountains.
What is included in the price?
All accommodation, transport/transfers in Kurdistan, entrance fees, local tours, art lessons, breakfast, lunch and dinners are included in the price. International flights into and out of Kurdistan, any necessary visa fees, insurance, excess luggage charges, cameras, additional food and drinks, alcohol, medical expenses, art materials and tipping are not included.
Will we have a tour guide?
Throughout the trip, we will be led by Nabil Musa, an experienced guide and fixer. Nabil, an Iraqi Kurdish environmentalist, hiker and artist, will also be aided by George and the ISHKAR team.
Do I need a visa?
Travellers from Australia, New Zealand, UK, EU, Canada and USA will be issued a free 14-day tourist visa upon arrival in Kurdistan. For other nationalities, we can advise as best as possible but we urge you to look into this yourselves too.
Do I need any vaccinations?
You should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended by your doctor. These vaccinations include confirming all boosters of Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Typhoid and MMR. But ISHKAR does not take responsibility for vaccinations. Please check with your doctor if you are unsure what you need.
What do I need to wear?
Light and comfortable clothing & suitable shoes for hiking. It is advised to dress reasonably conservatively. Women do not need to wear a headscarf but they should bring one for entering mosques. We will send more detailed guidance in our pre-trip information pack.
What is the currency?
Iraqi Dinar. US dollars (USD) are preferable which can be changed for Iraqi Dinar in Erbil. ATM (cash) machines in Iraqi Kurdistan are rare so it is advised to withdraw money before you arrive. We can advise on amounts.
What do I need to bring?
We will send you a more detailed handbook before leaving, including recommended reading, clothing and preferred art materials (watercolour, pencils, ink etc.)
Do I need to be fit?
Relatively fit, but this is not an expedition. The terrain which we cover can at times be a little rough and we may be doing a couple of long (4-6 hour) hikes.
What is the food like?
It can be outstanding, but can also be very average. We will try regional specialities and dine with locals. There are vegetarian options in most places but please consult us if you have very specific dietary requirements.
Will I be able to travel on my own?
We want the trip to be as flexible and dynamic as possible, but we also need to take your security seriously and therefore stay together as a group throughout the trip.
Do I need special travel insurance?
You will be expected to have full travel insurance that covers the region. If you are unsure if the policy covers you we can suggest specialised insurers.
When do I need to book?
As early as possible. The trip is for a maximum of 8 people and we expect it will fill up quickly. A deposit of £500 will secure your place and the final balance needs to be paid 60 days before departure. This is to allow us time to ensure that all arrangements are confirmed in country.
Can I book even if I don’t live in the UK?
Yes of course. If you are travelling to and from the UK, someone from ISHKAR may also fly with you.
Is this trip suitable for solo travellers/couples?
Individuals and small groups are equally welcome. We also think this could be the perfect trip to experience with a parent, son/daughter, or partner!
How many people will be in the group?
We are aiming for 8 people to join us on this trip. If the group doesn't reach 6 people, the trip will not go ahead and you will be fully reimbursed for all trip expenses.