Akrê (Officially: Aqrah) is an ancient Kurdish/Assyrian city and district in Iraq which is located in the Dohuk Governorate since 1991, in Southern Kurdistan. The formal district of Akrê was formed in 1877 by the Ottoman Empire and the city of Akrê became the center of the district. Akrê is located 665 m above sea level surrounded by high mountains and steep slopes. Distance to nearby cities is about 110 km southwest of the city Hewler (Erbil), the capital of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRH), and 100 km east of the city Dohuk.
In 1991, Akrê was only 12 km2; now it sprawls over 113 km2. As the city retuned to life after war, the cost of growth became apparent: Improvised concrete eyesores interrupt the dramatic hillside cityscape of the old town. Sprawling and charmless, “New Akrê” in the abutting valley replaced orchards, farmland, and forests.
Most scientists confirm that the entire Middle East was submerged in water of a huge sea called the Tehys, and after millions of years this sea water receded slowly. Akrê belongs to some of the first zones to come to existence. According to the views of most historians, the name Akrê is derived from the Kurdish word “agir” meaning fire. Fire is an essential element in the structure of Zorostrian religion that prevailed in the region till modern times. We see connotations to same association in other places in Kurdistan, e.g. Mount Agrî (Armenian: Ararat) which is a dormant volcanic cone (peak elevation: 5137) in near the province Agrî in Nothern Kurdistan.
In the north of Akrê there is Zab Plain and the Mount Shirin and in the south there is the mount Maqloob (means inverted) and in the east there is the Great Zab River, and the Khazir River to the west. The estimated surface area for Akrê Plain is 1134 km2, and the area is the center of three sub-districts: Dinarta, Kirdasin, and Bejil. In addition, Akre governs more than 250 villages, while the population of Akrê district is estimated to be more than 150.000 people. As with many other Kurdish cities, the average age in Akrê is low and more than 50% of the people are between 18-40 years old.
[i] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
[ii] Akre Tourist guide
There are many restaurants, cafes, and tea houses in Akrê, but not a great variety in food. Visitors will mainly be able to find traditional Kurdish food. Each area has its own baker who provides people with fresh and warm homemade bread. The city is famous for its ice cream, which is milked and processed locally.
Seemingly carved out of three rugged hillsides, its old city boasts an ancient citadel, waterfalls, a church, Zoroastrian temples, and an eleventh century Sufi shrine where locals claim dervishes still perform miracles. The shrine is already a destination for pilgrims from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey. Officials brag that archeologists have only begun to scratch the surface of Akrê’s treasures, promising more cultural tourism in the future.
Jewish Quarter - The city’s Jewish quarter is largely in ruins, but offers fertile ground for excavation and rebuilding in one of the most beautiful parts of the city. According to the census of 1930, over five percent of Akrê’s population was Jewish. In 1952, the population fled, following a series of anti-Semitic pogroms across Iraq. Despite this, city residents are proud of its long history of religious tolerance and multi-ethnic identity, pointing to the church of St. Mary perched above the old town.
Akrê Citadel (Kale) - The Akrê Citadel lies on top of the mountain the town is built on, about 450 m above the valley. Akrê used to have a sizeable Christian population, and evidence of this is the stone and wood monastery at the very top, just before the path to the mountain summit.It was built by Prince Zand 580 B.C. It consists of several generous built levels; the upper level is known as the Prince’s Residence, the middle was used as food storage, and the basement has a round meeting hall and a flat rock in the middle. The citadel has four pillars, a water cistern and an eagle-like room which is called the Jail. On the way down from Kale one could take the “backside” and walk down through Reze Mir – Kings rows.
Akre Mineral Springs - The mineral springs are considered as touristic sites. Thousands of people visit them to treat different illnesses, especially skin diseases. Each mineral spring gives remedy for a specific disease: Mimi Spring - skin diseases (Southwest of Akrê), Ashkawti Sheikhman Spring – Rheumatism, Zartak Spring (Northeast of Akrê), Kani Zerk – fawn disease. Each has been proven successful in curing a specific disorder.
Sipa Waterfall - This waterfall is located only 1 km East of Akrê. It’s 18 meters high with trees and water pools, which creates a cool and refreshing environment especially in the summertime. The highest summer temperature recorded was 32C.
Sipa Bjil Waterfall - This resort lies 13 km East of Akre. The waterfall is located in the center of Bjil village, 500 meter away from the road to Qandil. This resort is located in a valley with different fruit trees. The waterfall is fed of several springs which flow from the high surrounding mountains. Facilities are built for tourists; an artificial cave behind the waterfall and different restaurants.
Zinta Valley (Gali Zinta) - You can find this valley 13 km east of Akrê, starting with the Bjail village. Through the deep and long valley flows the Brisho River, with the mountain Sari Sada on the East and mountain Sari Sidanok on the West. Through the valley there are many wells and springs with fresh and cold water.
Girbish Village - Girbish is a village on the foot of Pires Mountain, located 23 km north of Akrê, and 2 km West of Dinarta village. The tourist site is on top of the village with many trees and water places. Six wells are flowing under walnut trees, which create beautiful shaded areas.
Sile Waterfall - This beautiful site is on the foot of Peris Mountain, 8 km East of Dinarta and 32 km from Akrê. From a mountain gorge water flows over a 50 m high waterfall and into willow trees. There is another water resource that flows from the same mountain.
The old bazaar - One thing you notice one you enter the city is that the houses are built “ on top” of each other. And at the top of old Akrê, the houses start to look older this was the original village before it exploded downwards. At the foot of the mountain the old bazaar appears, it is a bit hidden. Inside the bazaar one will notice the amount of steps, as it is built on the hill of the mountain.
In 2010, the city had 49,000 tourists; just three years later, it had 178,000 visitors. Thousands of Arab tourists shuttle into town in spring and summer months to cool themselves in the city’s waterfalls, announcing their arrival with trumpets and drums. Yet, with only 600 beds in three hotels in town, many tourists camp out in water parks, or are forced to bus back to motels in Erbil.
The main means of transportation is by taxi. You can easily and at a very low cost catch a taxi, which will get you through town. The tariffs varieties from city to city, but Akrê being a very local city the tariffs are lower than average.