[5] 1950’s Mosal – Kurdish delight but very dangerous

A dry, dusty road in Basra.
A dry, dusty road in Basra

Too hot! 130 deg Fahrenheit is too hot even for mosquitoes, so to escape the climate of Basra in Southern Iraq, I took a spell of local leave.

A flight to Baghdad, with an overnight stop in the Semiramis Hotel on Rashid Street, then another flight on to 1950’s Mosal – all bad news now, but peaceful, happy places in those days.

A short stay there, then on to the objective; the Kurdish country bordering Turkey.
How could I get there, no airfields, buses or trains?
I was introduced to a little driver, Kurdish, not Arab. He looked through, rather than over the wheel of his huge well worn Chevrolet.
The fare was agreed, half in advance, mainly for petrol (and probably bribes) and we set off.

The tarmac soon gave way to dust, but it was halfway through the day, about 70 miles on before foothills replaced the plains.
Further on and well into the mountains my driver seemed happier, now in his own country, so I raised the subject of the bullet hole that starred my half of the divided windscreen.
Bullet hole in windscreen.Apparently, recently in this valley, his passenger in my seat was an Arab police chief. Same destination, same route, same place, but not as welcome as myself!
No, he wasn’t scared, they were aiming for the policeman not him! These hill dwellers were born marksmen, accurate shots, some trained and retained by our own Royal Air Force as a ‘Home Guard’ called The Levies.
Magnificent scenery and a distant, stone bridge (built by Alexander the Great) restored my soul.

Onwards and the road was tarred again, built by British troops during the Mesopotamian War but with switchbacks and hairpin bends. Miss a turn and there was plenty of time for a prayer before hitting the bottom! Confidence? Luck? Judgement? Skill? Trust? Take your pick; and again on following days, mule trekking and climbing. Fifty years on, I now realise who really ‘fixed’ it all.

I have created you and cared for you since you were born. I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Saviour.”
Isaiah 46:3-4

Joe Lucas January 2006

Joe’s next article: [6] Sable Antelope

By Joe Lucas

2 comments

  1. Hi Ray
    I’m just answering for Joe who’s not internet connected: “I’ll speak to you soon on the phone”
    from Peter Reason

  2. Hi Joe,
    Nice to see reference to your “Journal” it was worth a read and Margaret always used to forward your Magazine to me and it reminded me of when we were in the Choir together. Never sang a note myself but it pleased Mum to have us in the choir and once they gave me 1/6 for attending a wedding. (Money under false pretences)
    All the Best

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