Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Taking it Easy in Iraqi Kurdistan

By Jamal Penjweny
  • Families set up picnics on Qandil mountain in Sulaimaniyah province during the Nawrooz holiday on March 22, when the picnicking season begins in Iraqi Kurdistan. A Kurdish flag blows in the background.
    Families set up picnics on Qandil mountain in Sulaimaniyah province during the Nawrooz holiday on March 22, when the picnicking season begins in Iraqi Kurdistan. A Kurdish flag blows in the background.
  • Kurdish women wearing traditional clothing dance during a picnic in Qandil. Picnics are festive occasions, with family and friends dressing up and dancing late into the night.
    Kurdish women wearing traditional clothing dance during a picnic in Qandil. Picnics are festive occasions, with family and friends dressing up and dancing late into the night.
  • An Iranian Kurdish family plays and picnics in Qandil. At least 30,000 people visited Sulaimaniyah province from Iran and other governorates in Iraq to celebrate Nawrooz.
    An Iranian Kurdish family plays and picnics in Qandil. At least 30,000 people visited Sulaimaniyah province from Iran and other governorates in Iraq to celebrate Nawrooz.
  • A man barbeques lamb kebab at Dukan, a popular resort in Sulaimaniyah province. Typical picnic dishes include kebab, chicken, bread and salad.
    A man barbeques lamb kebab at Dukan, a popular resort in Sulaimaniyah province. Typical picnic dishes include kebab, chicken, bread and salad.
  • Young men smoke fruit-flavoured tobacco during a picnic at Dukan lake.
    Young men smoke fruit-flavoured tobacco during a picnic at Dukan lake.
  • A man builds a fire on Qandil mountain during Nawrooz celebrations. Fire is an important cultural tradition for Kurds honouring Nawrooz.
    A man builds a fire on Qandil mountain during Nawrooz celebrations. Fire is an important cultural tradition for Kurds honouring Nawrooz.
  • Thousands of people descended on Qandil for Nawrooz picnic celebrations on March 22, including a man and his son from Turkey. Picnicking is regularly covered by local media outlets, which issue news bulletins on traffic jams and overcrowded areas.
    Thousands of people descended on Qandil for Nawrooz picnic celebrations on March 22, including a man and his son from Turkey. Picnicking is regularly covered by local media outlets, which issue news bulletins on traffic jams and overcrowded areas.
  • Trash left behind at a picnic site in Dukan. Anti-litter campaigns are rare in Iraqi Kurdistan and trash bins are rare at picnic sites.
    Trash left behind at a picnic site in Dukan. Anti-litter campaigns are rare in Iraqi Kurdistan and trash bins are rare at picnic sites.
  • A family enjoys a boat trip on Dukan lake.
    A family enjoys a boat trip on Dukan lake.

This is such a popular pastime that it has become part of Kurdish identity and culture. Spring is honoured with an Iraqi national holiday, Nawrooz, which also marks the unofficial start of the picnic season and is especially important to Kurds, who take to the outdoors and continue picnicking through to autumn.

On any given weekend, thousands of families throughout Kurdistan pack up grills and blankets, travelling anywhere from five minutes to five hours to eat, sing and dance.

Picnicking is a see-and-be-seen event in a region with few entertainment venues. Rather than seeking out a quiet, isolated space, many smartly-dressed families and young singles picnic by the side of the road, watching the traffic roll by.

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