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Archive for Monday, September 21, 2009

Fleeing heat, travelers go north for holiday

September 21, 2009

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— Iraqis celebrating the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan set off in droves Sunday on family trips to the country’s northern Kurdish region, a prized escape from the sporadic violence that still batters the capital and other cities.

Such journeys by road — perilous in years past — have greatly increased because of an overall improvement in security around the country, and this year Kurdish authorities in the self-governing region eased entry procedures and ran TV ads to attract visitors from the rest of Iraq.

For the war-weary traveler, the Kurdish region offers not just a refuge from violence but also reliable electricity, stunning natural beauty, cooler weather and fewer social restrictions.

In years past, many Iraqis spent the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday indoors out of fear. Some of those who did venture out were killed by car bombs that tore apart markets and parks. Mosques were emptied of worshippers. Instead of visiting one another, relatives would speak by telephone.

For most Muslims, this year’s holiday began Sunday; others will celebrate starting today.

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