Erbil’s Big Challenge: Tourists vs. Locals in Fight for Facilities
This year the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil must live up to its hard won title, Capital of Arab Tourism 2014. But power cuts, an ailing sewage system and a lack of public restrooms has locals complaining that before authorities look after the visitors they hope to attract, they should take care of local business.
Two weeks ago, on January 1, the northern city of Erbil took up its mantle as the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2014.
The authorities in the city were already being criticised for what appeared to be an inability to capitalize on the award – and now that 2014 has started, many locals are joining in the chorus of disapproval.
In the evenings the central square and market in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, are often crowded with visitors. Hirsh Hamza, 18, is one of these. He says he is proud of the fact that Erbil has won this award but he says that even he has concerns that his hometown won’t live up to the tourism title.
“Power cuts, garbage and dirt. And look,” he says gesturing at the crowded square filled with families, “there isn’t even a public bathroom here. That doesn’t seem appropriate for a city that has such a title,” he argues.
Even if there was a public restroom here, it’s possible that the city’s ailing sewage system couldn’t cope with it anyway – especially in heavy rains when the sewage system is prone to flooding. So like other locals, Hamza says that Erbil authorities should first make sure that their own people are living a good life and have their needs catered to, before paying attention to potential visitors.