Kurdish Iraq: Universals or Cultural Diffusion

I can’t say that I ever told anyone that I wanted to visit the Kurdish region of Iraq.  But then, I never said that I didn’t want to visit the Kurdish region of Iraq.  And thus began an adventure to Sulaymaniyah, near the Iranian border.

The first step was to read the Department of State website on going to Iraq which I will paraphrase:  Don’t go.  If you insist on doing so, update your will and make sure your daughters know all your passwords.  This did not seem to deter me and I didn’t even need to get a visa beforehand to go to Sulaymaniyah.

The next step was to figure out the logistics of travel.  How do you get there?  My hosts arranged for a direct flight from Boston to Qatar and from Qatar it was just a flight of several hours up the Persian Gulf and then over the Mesopotamian region of Iraq into the mountains of Kurdistan.  What a great adventure indeed to be able to see this region en route from above!



As we approached the city we flew over snow-capped mountains and I saw greenhouses in the green valleys of the rural areas.

Kurdistan rural area


I had a wonderful and interesting time during my day and a half in Sulaymaniyah.  I was treated well.  I had wonderful Turkish coffee.  Security was present but no more onerous that going through metal detectors when you enter the Smithsonian Institute, or approaching an airport after 911.


I left with one impressions and one question.  First, my strong impression was that the fathers and grandfathers loved and cared for their children and grandchildren.  I saw this everywhere.  But the question that remains for me is about how the “Michigan Left” ended up being used in Sulaymaniyah or how a Sulaymaniyah left came to be used in Michigan.  If you are unfamiliar with this traffic pattern, Wikipedia describes it as:  A Michigan left is an at-grade intersection design that replaces each left turn at an intersection between a divided roadway and a secondary roadway with the combination of a right turn followed by a U-turn, or a U-turn followed by a right turn, depending on the situation.

I remain awake at night pondering this puzzle and the different possibilities.  Is this an instance off cultural diffusion and if so, in which direction?  Did a Kurdish traffic engineer come to Michigan and introduce this or did a Michigan traffic engineer contribute to planning in Sulaymaniyah?  Or did traffic engineers in both places come up with this solution to a problem independent of each other but with the same outcome?  Is it a universal truth that traffic engineers everywhere come up with crazy solutions to simple problems?

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