Sulemania (Kurdish: سلێمانی) is a very young city. It was founded in 1784 by Ibrahim Pasha Baban, a Kurdish prince, to be the capital of his principality. Since then it has been Iraqi Kurdistan’s cultural capital and home to philosophers, poets and writers. Its importance is not limited to Iraq, but for the whole of the Kurdistan region, which also encompasses parts of Turkey, Syria and Iran.
Slemani, as it is also known, attracted many Sorani-speaking Kurdish linguists and writers, and here Sorani literature was developed. These writers and poets are today revered with statues and busts in many parks and squares around the city.
The local population are known for being more open-minded and tolerant than in the rest of Kurdistan, Something that will surprise you in Slemani is that women seem to be more independent. In the Arab world, women tend to seem quieter, overshadowed by their male relatives when in public, and never start a conversation with a stranger.
The city is often described as a “cosmopolitan gem” and “a place to be discovered”. It still has many places of interest, the heart of the city is the old town, which despite the name looks rather modern and it is as deliciously chaotic as any medina in Morocco. The old town is dominated by a large open bazaar, which occupies several blocks. It is a marketplace selling mainly food, vegetables and clothes and is buzzing from early morning to late afternoon. Right in the middle of all this is the Grand Mosque, which is open for visitors. In the area there are many small family run restaurants serving simple, tasty and inexpensive food.
- 1 Sulaymaniyah International Airport (ISU IATA). It was opened in 2006 in the western outskirts of the city. There are domestic flights from a large number of Iraqi cities via Iraqi Airways and other local airlines. Several other carriers offer international flights from Doha, Dubai, Istanbul and Tehran. Before the Iraqi central government banned international traffic for a few months from late 2017 there were some long distance routes from Europe, including London, Düsseldorf and Stockholm.
Security is tight at the airport. Only approved taxis can get near the terminal. A small bus takes other passengers to and from the roundabout at the airport entrance. Initial security screening takes place here.
It's easy to find a shared taxi between major cities. A shared taxi from Erbil costs ca. 15,000 ID.
Sulaimaniya has a great view from outside, above the mountains around it (Goizha, Azmar, Piramagrwn and Baranan). The city is in the phase of transition from a usual city to a tourism city in every sense of the word.
- 1 Sulaymaniyah Museum (Slemani Museum), Salim Street, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Second biggest museum after the national museum in Baghdad. It is home to many Kurdish and ancient Persian artifacts dating back to 1792–1750 BC. In 1961, the museum was opened in the Shorsh district, but moved to its current building in Salim Street in 1980. With an area of 6000 m², the museum has 3 halls, of which its main exhibition hall was renovated with financial assistance of UNESCO. From 1980-1988, the museum was closed to the public due to the ongoing hostilities between Iraq and Iran, but it reopened in 1990 until the invasion of Kuwait later that year when it was again closed for visitors. It was re-opened in 2000, and has served as the most important museum in Sulaymaniyah to date. Its collection comprises many artifacts that had been seen in the Baghdad museum, which were looted during the Iraq invasion of the United States of America and bought by the Sulaymaniyah Museum to help recover and return them.
- 2 Amna Suraka Museum. Kurdish for "Red Intelligence Museum", located in a former Ba'ath intelligence headquarters and prison, it draws particular attention to the Ba'ath regime's brutal treatment of local Kurds. Visitors are guided through the prisons and interrogation rooms. The museum features many Soviet-era armored fighting vehicles.
- Zamoa Gallery. Open year-round, it displays the works of the artists of the city. It is run by "Rostam Aghala",a well-known modern Kurdish artist.
- Aram Gallery. Another place for artistic activities. It started the night cinema project where people can go to watch Kurdish and foreign films.
- 3 Azadi Park, Khak St, Sulaymaniyah 46001. A few minutes walk from the bazaar. It is huge and has a giant mast with the Kurdish flag fluttering. Here you can enjoy amazing views of Azmar mountain and there are some small olive groves, playgrounds, artificial lakes and a lot of young couples doing things their parents would not be too happy about, like hugging in public.
There is a bowling centre, Azadi park and other places to visit.
- 1 Chavy Land, ✉ INFO@CHAVILAND.ORG. Despite the unfortunate name, this is an impressive theme park with various rides, a cable car to the mountain top and an aqua park. The top of the mountain has a restaurant. There are also many cafés in the park. Entry costs IQD3000 with rides costing extra. Entry and a ride on the cable car will cost IQD6000. Chavy Land is also often shown as Chavi Land. Entry IQD3000.
- The Zara supermarket (Go to the East end of Salm Street, where the gate to the bazaar area is, and then 300 meters North, uphill. Or go to Southeast corner of Azadi park. In either case, look for a large silver dome on top of its building.) has appointed itself as the source for Western products. They don't have much, but they are more likely to have something else than other stores.
- Amazon shop (amazon), bazzar (Mawlawy), ☏ . for cosmetics
- 1 Family Mall, Baban St, Sulaymaniyah, ☏ . 10AM – 11:55PM. Darin Group is in partnership with Halabja Group in Family Mall Sulaymaniyah project. Halabja Group has operations in general trading, international transportation, telecommunication and construction industries.A rectangularly shaped shopping gallery is connected to a central atrium with a glass dome roof. The atrium creates a visual connection between the shopping levels and brings natural light into the internal shopping corridors.
- 2 Majidi Mall, Sulaimani - Kirkuk Road. Large and modern shopping mall to the west of the city, not far from the airport. You can find international outlets such as Adidas and Pizza Hut.
Alcohol is not very hard to find, with many restaurants serving it and bars at the hotels. Spirits such as vodka are popular.
- 1 Irish Bar. It seems no where is safe from the eponymous Irish theme pub.
Coffee is not popular in Suli, and tea is generally a better bet. The local taste is for instant coffee, and the coffee section of a grocery store will be dominated by MacCoffee and Nescafe. Coffee beans generally come only as little bricks of Turkish coffee, 200 grams roasted dark and ground fine. If you don't want 1/4 cardamom, check the package to ensure it’s 100% coffee.
- Pasha's coffee (In the bazaar area, Walk through the gate opposite the Palace Hotel, and straight up the street to the first circle with the booksellers, go around them, and take the shallow right and look for Pasha's on the left). One of the only places in town with non-instant coffee. They have a sign in Latin characters, and there is usually a crowd of coffee drinkers in front. Serves good espresso and they have bulk coffee (28,000 for a kilo of Columbian beans) and coffee makers in styles unavailable elsewhere.
Sulaimaniya has some fine international standard hotels with all the expected facilities.
- 1 Ramada Hotel Sulaymaniyah Salim Street, ☏ .
- 2 Sulaymani Palace Hotel, ☏ . For now, this is the best hotel in town, although it is by no means up to international standards. Nevertheless, it's a decent enough experience 100 USD.
- 3 Titanic Hotel, Malik mahmood circle, next to Chavy Land, ☏ . Described as a 5* hotel on the eastern side of the city. It is however a very good 4* with nice indoor/outdoor pool and spa centre. The bars serve alcohol.
- 4 Grand Millenium Hotel Sulaimani, Bakhtiary.
Erbil is a 2-3 hour drive away on good roads.