Photo by Selçuk Şamiloğlu
A total of 6,000 Iraqis, mostly the rich, are flocking to Turkey every day for a stay in Istanbul, botox, permanent make-up or hair therapy.
Most of the Iraqi Kurds coming to Turkey have at least $10,000 with them, according to İrem Bayram, said a board member of a leading bus company, while she was speaking to Hürriyet during a road trip from Arbil to Turkey last week.
“All of these people are rich Kurds,” she said. “They are mostly young people and the numbers of women and men are equal.”
The passengers are usually families in all tours when Batumi is excluded, she said, adding that those who go to the Georgian capital also prefer gambling, which is illegal in Turkey.
They rather prefer a $90 bus trip to a plane, as the price goes down to $80 from Dohuk, to avoid a long voyage to the airport. Besides, buses are more effective than planes as they carry more luggage.
The number of people carried to Turkey from the northern Iraq only by two leading companies stands at 900 daily.
Abdul Wahab Barzani, the public order official at the Habur border gate, confirmed the number of daily entries to Turkey at 6,000. The figure is higher between spring and fall, he said.
Bayram said Iraqi Kurds prefer Istanbul to European countries. Istanbul is the first pick but the southern province of Mersin is also very popular. The resort province of Antalya, a top destination for Russian
tourists also, also receives a higher number of Iraqi tourists in the summer.
A typical tour to Istanbul from Arbil takes 25 hours. According to the company executive, this is not a big deal for the customers, who are fond of long stopovers. Cizre, the first stop after the Habur border gate, is a great stop for kebab lovers. Gaziantep on the way offers the best addresses for baklava, the Turkish dessert. Turkish soap operas with Kurdish subtitles offered on seatback systems, also add to the joy of traveling.
Passengers bound for Istanbul stay at least 10 days in the largest city of the country.
Not historic or natural beauties but shopping is the top reason for a trip to Istanbul. Men also have hair implant treatment in the city, while many Iraqi women undergo other plastic surgeries. Laser eye surgery is also widespread.
Ahmet Şimşek, a passenger who works as a manager at a construction company, said he visits Turkey twice a year for 20 days.
“Turkey is like my home,” he said praising the country for having a comfortable lifestyle.