Landing in Iraq triggered in me an unattractive self-centredness. Instead of wanting
to immediately strike out by foot and car to learn everything possible about the
country, the very prospect of walking the streets – even in the Kurdish north –
induced shyness, and an acute concern with what passers-by were thinking about
me. In some parts of the country, of course, such anxieties would hardly be a sign
of neuroticism. But, I soon learned, things are different in Iraqi Kurdistan, and by
the first evening I was walking the streets with hardly a concern about violence of
the political sort. I did remain worried that I was a juicy target for petty criminality.
Credit cards are effectively useless in much of Iraq because of anaemic banking
connections to the rest of the world, so foreign visitors can be expected to carry
around the hundreds or even thousands of dollars in cash needed to pay for their
hotels and other expenses. But within hours even my self-consciousness about my
bulging wallet had faded.
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