When I woke up this morning and wondered what to do in Erbil today, I didn’t think that, at one point, I would be getting my picture taken with an Iraqi arms dealer posing with a knife above me!

I will now recap my day in this funny little post about Erbil (also known as Arbil or Howler).

Sometimes when in an unusual place the best idea is to just hit the streets and meet unusual people. This will eventually lead to unusual happenings of the most interesting variety. If you find yourself trying to figure out things to do in Erbil, Iraq, this whimsical, little guide will surely be of use.

Things to do in Erbil – 1st unusual idea – Walk aimlessly through the crowded market with no purpose

When I woke up this morning I did one of my favourite things to do in a strange city; hit the streets.

My Iraq backpacking buddy ( Paul Amsterdam from the article about us helping the refugees) and I were wondering what to do in Erbil today and decided it would be a good idea to just go for a little wander in the crowded market in the city centre.

We had a look at some fake Rolex, and some really tacky Kurdish shoes and shirts. We had a good laugh at some of the items they were selling, and all in all, had a wonderful little time. I made a purchase of some new fake Adidas sweat pants. These turned out to be made backwards, so to feel comfortable in them I must have the pockets facing the other way.

No big deal they were like $6. We cruised around for a good while before stumbling onto a hidden gem.. aka Things to do in Erbil unusual idea number 2.

things to do in erbil - market things to do in erbil - market

Things to do in Erbil – 2nd unusual idea – Stumble into an Iraqi arms dealer’s underground shop and get some awesome pictures with him

This came as an unexpected surprise.

Trying to figure out things to do in Erbil? Easy, get yourself to this dude’s shop, check out his guns, and get some creepy pictures.

The weird thing is, I am not really a fan of guns, and this has somehow become the second post in the last couple of weeks about looking at guns.

The first one was when I was gun shopping in Gaziantep, Turkey and now here in Iraq. But seriously, what trip to Iraq wouldn’t be complete with out a little arms dealing 😉

I guess coming from Canada the openness that guns are sold round’ here is a novelty for me. We saw a cool looking sign with guns and wandered in. There was a crazy man and a small boy in the shop.

things to do in erbil

The crazy man was very happy to see us. He was brandishing a large dagger and held it high in the air and motioned me to come over.

I was hesitant at first but I could see in his gentle eyes he really meant no harm.

Turns out he just wanted a picture with me pretending to stab me. I don’t know why that wasn’t my first assumption.

We hung out for a bit, took some pictures, got a quote of $1000 for the camo gun, then said our goodbyes and left empty handed. As we were leaving he kissed the tips of his fingers, touched one eye, then either, then blew me the kiss.

At that point I made my departure. After about a minute I realized I left my new sweat pants behind and reluctantly had to go back in and get them. I made that as quick as possible. This is an excellent choice and highly recommended with contemplating things to do in Erbil.

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Things to do in Erbil – 3rd unusual idea – Have an executive lunch with a local business man

This one will take a bit of luck. It’s a right place at the right time kinda situation.

As you wonder what to do in Erbil, try to remember that the Kurdish are extremely friendly. If you approach them and they speak English, just strike up a conversation and you will find yourself in for a dose of hospitality you may have never experienced before.

Yesterday Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting a local business man. He was well dressed in a grey suit and tie, had a huge smile, and a gentle soul.

Much like the man I met when I hung out with the Turkish family in a cave. We agreed that the following day (today) we would meet for lunch at noon.

We met him back in his shop and away we went. We went to one of his best friend’s restaurants and had a FEAST! There was more food then we could eat.

We talked and laughed, stuffed ourselves, then finished it off with tea. When it was time to pay we weren’t even given the option to pay; lunch was on him.

He then brought us down the road to a local, small appliance store. We sat inside and had some more tea. I didn’t fully understand what we were doing in the small appliance shop but I had a good time regardless.

We then headed back to his shop for some more tea and an exchange of Facebook info. Another amazing new Facebook friend is added to the list! As far as things to do in Erbil goes, this tops the list.

things to do in erbil

Things to do in Erbil – 4th unusual idea – Visit the historical sights of the city

This wouldn’t be unusual to most. But for yours truly, it would be. This is probably why I didn’t bother visiting the Erbil Citadel.

I saw so much history in Turkey, between Harran, Hasankeyf, and Gobeklli Tepe,  I am kind of old buildinged out. I can see the Citadel from my hotel window, and for now that’s good enough.

Perhaps I will give it a look tomorrow if I am feeling ambitious, or perhaps not. The joys of travelling with no schedule. For some more history on Erbil check out Wikipedia.

things to do in erbil - Citadel

Have you been to Erbil? Anything I should add to the list of what to do in Erbil? Anything I should see before I leave? Comment below and let me know! (Yes, I am aware that rhymes).

If you enjoyed this post on things to do in Erbil Iraq please subscribe to get travel tips and secrets how to make money while travelling right to your inbox! 

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9 Responses

  1. frank

    very helpful, Im planning on going to Erbil in 3 weeks, from Cairo. can you advice how find the arms dealer, not to buy of course, just to enjoy as you did. Also, are there other Refugee camps closer to Erbil? I would love to visit, and maybe also load up on toys ( or food) for them. Im from the USA.
    thanks Frank

    • Alex

      Hey Frank, I stayed at the Lord City hotel near the Citadel. If I walked straight out the front door and across the street towards the fountain, on the right hand side there was a yellow sign with a picture of a big gun, you go down some stairs and un through a dark hallway and he has a little shop down there. There a are refugee camps literally everywhere. If you want to buy toys there is a toy warehouse right beside the hotel down the alley. Just ask around.

  2. frank

    thanks alex, you mean that refugee camps are near Erbil, and not just along the boarders? I will try to rent a car, maybe with driver. did you hear today that a bomb went off in erbil yesterday , killing and wounding quite a few folks?

    • Alex

      Wow I didn’t hear that! I guess it happens from time to time there. The refugee camps are everywhere. Right in the inner city they have taken over buildings, just look for the clothes hanging in the windows. Renting a car might be a challenge. Taxis are very cheap, you could get a taxi to double as a guide!

    • Alex

      It is right near the citidal beside a fountain in the main square just look for the big sign

  3. frank

    I went there last month, thanks to alex. next to the fountain is a one story mall, enter the mall by way of a small stairway going down. then, after 22 steps or so you will find it. If you look closely you will see a sign advertising guns.
    there are several entries into the mall, so you may have to try several times. good luck. The story is mostly for police, and military, they fix weapons. nice folks, no problem to visit

    • Alex

      Hey Frank! Glad you found it! It’s a weird little place eh but super friendly dudes inside!

  4. Dawn

    This is fascinating. I spent three days in Irbil in 2011, it was a trip to a friend’s wedding in the midst of a three week trip to Baghdad. I had lunch with the judge who sentenced Saddam to death. I long for that city and nation to break free from the systematic weariness and increasingly shine!

    Thanks for sharing a tidbit of its greatness here. I appreciate it. Also, check out Facebook.com/hopeiraq 🙂