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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

Tang Chinese Offering Offering Authenticity Authenticity and and Hospitality Hospitality

Shakespeare Lives The Brains Behind the Most Unique Parties in Erbil

Ghassan & Rodrigue

Celebrating Celebrating Arts, Arts, Theatre, Theatre, and and Culture Culture in in Kurdistan Kurdistan


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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


Letter From

The Editor

H Jimmie Collins Editor-in-Chief

An American living in the Kurdistan Region for four years, Jimmie Collins leads a vibrant social life among expats and locals in Erbil. She now calls Erbil home, settling into the city with her husband (Sabah), two massive dogs, a feisty cat, and a daughter on the way. She complains of never having near enough free time to do all the things she loves, however, she always makes time for food and friends. Circuit Magazine is a hobby turned obsession meant to help others get to know Kurdistan's social scene and enjoy themselves as much as she does.

ello Circuit Readers! We’ve have entered my favorite season againAutumn! Erbil lacks the falling leaves that are the hallmark of Autumn, but if you head to the mountains you can get a little bit of that Fall feeling. I highly suggest taking trips and having as many barbecues as you can while the weather still allows for it You’ll notice a few changes around Circuit Magazine, most obviously its size. After feedback from our readers and sponsors, it seems many are partial to an A4 format and we’re here to please, so we hope you like it. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’re always here to take them under consideration. This issue we’ve got five sections: Travel & Leisure, Culture, Food & Drink, Community, and Nightlife. As we go on in our third year of publication, we will likely continue adding more sections according to your requests and suggestions. We want to make sure there is something for everyone in this publication. Hopefully you like what we’ve come up with for now, but let us know what other sections you would like to see us explore in Kurdistan for you. In addition to changes in the magazine, we have some changes around our office. With the roll out of our Circuit Membership Rewards Program, we’re seeing a lot more traffic in our office and our staff has grown a bit. We’re still a very small family business (even my mom has moved to Kurdistan and is helping Jeremy out every day!), but we’ve taken on some friends to help us out as well. We’re currently hanging out at an office in Italian City 1 (Big thanks to Hozan at Shmisani Real Estate for helping us out there) and we hope that all of you will get to know exactly where we are and come by to see us now and then even just to say, “Hi.” Using the EPIC FB Group, our oldest and most well-known component, we’re giving away daily prizes. We’ve got loads of free swag from our sponsors as well as Membership Rewards Cards to hand out for free. If you don’t win a card, get in touch with us about how to purchase one. The card acts as a discount card at many of our sponsors’ locations (some offering up to 25% off) as well as puts you onto a list that will get you invitations to future Circuit VIP-only events. We certainly think it’s worth the investment and so far our growing membership seems to agree. We hope you enjoy the changes we’ve made so far and we’re excited to continue changing and growing with all of you. Enjoy the Circuit!


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In This Issue Travel & Leisure Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

Page 12 - Sulaimania : Kurdistan’s Cultural Capital Page 14 - Canyon Hotel : International, Friendly, and Comfortable Accommodation Tang Chinese

Culture Page 19 - Shakespeare Lives : British Council Initiave Explores Theatre, Arts and Literature

Food & Drink

Shakespeare Lives The Brains Behind the Most Unique Parties in Erbil

Celebrating Celebrating Arts, Arts, Theatre, Theatre, and and Culture Culture in in Kurdistan Kurdistan

Ghassan & Rodrigue Issue 9: Autumn 2016 Editor-in-Chief Jimmie Collins Publisher Lana Yaqo Oliver

Page 24 - Recipe: Bamya Stew Page 26 - Recipe: Fried Okra

Writers Liane Butcher Jimmie Collins Patricia Collins Saz Jawdat Elias Philip Mies Jeremy Oliver

Page 29 - Tang Chinese Restaurant : Offering Chinese Authenticity and Hospitality

Community Page 36 - Kurdistan Irregulars : Region’s First International Rugby Team Training and Getting Involved Page 42 - TentEd : Providing Quick Resources to Refugees

Nightlife Page 47 - Uptown Jazz : Leading the Way In Suli with Music and Ambience Page 51 - Ghassan & Rodrigue : The Brains Behind the Most Unique Parties in Erbil

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

Offering Offering Authenticity Authenticity and and Hospitality Hospitality

Photographers Ranj Sarraj Designers Jimmie Collins Marketing Department Jeremy Oliver Omid Ghammari Tabassi Muhanad Ali Contact: 0750 633 7700 Circuit Magazine is a subsidiary of BWFW Services Company


September Sunday Karaoke Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Steak Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Grill Night - Bella Ranicia Wine & Cheese Night - Primo Wine Bar - Ainkawa Royal Hotel

Monday Ladies Night - Bella Ranicia BBQ Night - Viewz - Cristal Hotel Quiz Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Country Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge

Tuesday Mexican Night - Ankawa Royal Hotel Cocktails Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Karaoke Night - Bella Ranicia

Wednesday Mexican Night - Viewz - Cristal Hotel Ladies Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Up in the Sky - Qi21 - Divan Hotel UV Night - Bella Ranicia Cigar Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge

Thursday Mad Thursday - Bella Ranicia Live International Music - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Salsa Arabiata – Viewz – Cristal Hotel Thursday Night Party – T-Bar Grand Erbil Hotel $5 Beer Night – Ainkawa Royal Hotel Thursday Night Special – Tang Chinese Seafood Night – Flavours – Rotana Hotel

Friday Family Lunch – Flavours – Rotana Hotel Pool Party – Ainkawa Royal Hotel Lagoon DJ Party – Divan Hotel Double Mad Friday – Bella Ranicia

Saturday Cinema Night – Bella Ranicia Movie Night – Tangram Hotel – 360 Lounge


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We can also provide home visits and Specialist medical consultation Our services include Pre-employment checkups for companies potential employees Emergency response using our fleet of ambulances and fully qualified staff 24/7 Both inpatients and outpatients are catered for Complete primary care covering a wide range of illnesses Standard clinic services include (dentistry, paediatric, physiotherapy, lab services, X-ray, pharmacy, etc )

Bupa International, HTH International, Allianz International, MSH International, Cigna International, Daman International.

Erbil Head Office: Italian Village, Bld. 809 +964 750 361 2040

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


October Sunday Karaoke Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Steak Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Grill Night - Bella Ranicia Wine & Cheese Night - Primo Wine Bar - Ainkawa Royal Hotel

Monday Ladies Night - Bella Ranicia BBQ Night - Viewz - Cristal Hotel Quiz Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Country Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge

Tuesday Mexican Night - Ankawa Royal Hotel Cocktails Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Karaoke Night - Bella Ranicia

Wednesday Mexican Night - Viewz - Cristal Hotel Ladies Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Up in the Sky - Qi21 - Divan Hotel UV Night - Bella Ranicia Cigar Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge

Thursday Mad Thursday - Bella Ranicia Live International Music - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Salsa Arabiata – Viewz – Cristal Hotel Thursday Night Party – T-Bar Grand Erbil Hotel $5 Beer Night – Ainkawa Royal Hotel Thursday Night Special – Tang Chinese Seafood Night – Flavours – Rotana Hotel

Friday Family Lunch – Flavours – Rotana Hotel Pool Party – Ainkawa Royal Hotel Lagoon DJ Party – Divan Hotel Double Mad Friday – Bella Ranicia

Saturday Cinema Night – Bella Ranicia Movie Night – Tangram Hotel – 360 Lounge


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CHEK - Circuit Magazine - FA.pdf





Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


November Sunday Karaoke Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Steak Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Grill Night - Bella Ranicia Wine & Cheese Night - Primo Wine Bar - Ainkawa Royal Hotel

Monday Ladies Night - Bella Ranicia BBQ Night - Viewz - Cristal Hotel Quiz Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Country Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge

Tuesday Mexican Night - Ankawa Royal Hotel Cocktails Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Karaoke Night - Bella Ranicia

Wednesday Mexican Night - Viewz - Cristal Hotel Ladies Night - T-Bar - Grand Erbil Hotel Up in the Sky - Qi21 - Divan Hotel UV Night - Bella Ranicia Cigar Night - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge

Thursday Mad Thursday - Bella Ranicia Live International Music - Tangram Hotel - 360 Lounge Salsa Arabiata – Viewz – Cristal Hotel Thursday Night Party – T-Bar Grand Erbil Hotel $5 Beer Night – Ainkawa Royal Hotel Thursday Night Special – Tang Chinese Seafood Night – Flavours – Rotana Hotel

Friday Family Lunch – Flavours – Rotana Hotel Pool Party – Ainkawa Royal Hotel Lagoon DJ Party – Divan Hotel Double Mad Friday – Bella Ranicia

Saturday Cinema Night – Bella Ranicia Movie Night – Tangram Hotel – 360 Lounge


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Exquisite standards

of hospitality in Pirmam Standing as the most prominent structure in Pirman just a quick ride out of the busy city of Erbil; greets a 5 star luxurious hotel. With rich fabric and superior design the hotel can be classified as one of the top business hotels in Erbil.


Offering large spacious rooms and ornate furniture. One can sip on a cool beverage and read a book whilst enjoying a spectacular view of the Mountains of Kurdistan.


Internationally trained and qualified chefs, overtake ourkitchen. We prepare succulent and mouth watering cuisines from around the world.

Swiss Health Club Recreation Centre

Enjoy a game of bowling or Billiards at the Swiss Recreation Centre. Or if your focus is your health then spend your time working out at the gym which includes modern and high tech equipment.

Our Swiss Spa offers a wide variety of relaxation options in addition to its therapeutic massages. With additional facilities such as sauna, steam rooms and a large indoor pool are part of the Grand Swiss experience.

Swiss Mall

Swiss Mall is highly attractive for leisure. It offers products directly

imported from the US and Europe which cannot be purchased elsewhere

in Erbil. Salons, Electronic stores and fast food are all part of the shopping experience.

Address: Shaqlawa Road, Pirmam (Selhaddin). Erbil, Iraq Phone: +964 750 440 00 44 /+ 964 0750 440 00 45 Issue 9 - Autumn 2016 E-mail: | FB:


Sulaimania Kurdistan’s Cultural Capital

If you travel a little less than three hours southeast of Erbil, you’ll arrive in Sulaimania, Kurdistan’s second-largest city which many find to be unexpectedly different after visiting the regions governmental capital, Erbil. Sulaimania, where the residents speak the Sorani Kurdish dialect, different from those in Erbil, has


long been considered Kurdistan’s Cultural Capital. Host to many museums, arts, theatre, and literature, the city has made an impression that sets it apart from other parts of the region. Surrounded by hills and mountains on all sides, Sulaimania feels different than Erbil. The temperature is a little bit cooler, the traffic doesn’t seem

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Travel & Leisure quite as crowded, the people not in as much of a hurry. Suli – to which it’s often referred in short – is a city where you can feel a little more relaxed while still taking in the benefits of an urban area without having to go far to get outside of it all. Residents of the city have many suggestions for visitors, chief among them shopping at Qaisari Naqeb – Suli’s downtown bazaar – and a trip to Goizha Mountain to take in the beautiful views overlooking the city from above. Visit the Sulaimani Museum, the second-largest museum in Iraq, which houses artifacts dating back to the pre-historic period. Or spend some time walking about Azadi Park or the recently opened Hawari Shar Park, one of the largest parks in the region, practically the size of a city itself. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Sulaimania

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has plenty to offer in a range of budgets from street carts serving up hot and fresh kebab and tikka (watch out for the liver and kidneys if that’s not your sort of thing), to five-star restaurants in massive hotels jutting into the skyline. However, some of the favorites are cafes that evoke the vibrant nature that is Sulaimania and its people. Chalak’s Place and Café 11 are some of the top suggestions for a mix of international and local fare, each giving off its own excellent vibe, embracing funky décor, high-quality menus, and a great crowd to be around. If you have enough time, use Sulaimania as a jumping off point to see other tourist destinations in the Sulaimania province, including Lake Dokan, Halabja, or Ahmadawa (a beautiful waterfall near the Iranian border). Photo by Ranj Sarraj


Travel & Leisure

Canyon Hotel International, Friendly and Comfortable Accommodation By Philip Mies

I recently found everything I could have asked for in a hotel at Canyon Hotel Erbil, a place friendly to all guests of all backgrounds and cultures. Located on Gulan Road, you will find professionalism among staff who are prompt in addressing any guest’s needs, cleanliness through and through from the beautiful marble lobby to the luxurious bedrooms with comfortable mattresses and spacious bathrooms, and a professional elegance perfect for business or romantic dinners. The bedrooms have modern, plump mattresses with top-ofthe-line TVs and beautiful marble bathrooms. The rooms are spa-


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cious as well as their closet space. Once again, cleanliness must be stressed. The rooms are as well preserved as any five-star hotel. With conference rooms nicely organized, any business event can be accommodated and done with the utmost professionalism. They are nicely lit, decorated with sophistication, and laid out comfortably with access to current audio-visual technology in order to give modern presentations. Their conference hall will not disappoint either. Beautifully laid out with a classy podium as well with sophisticated lighting, it is perfect for any formal professional event. Downstairs there is a gym and spa. Once again class and cleanliness must be stressed. The gym itself is spacious with modern equipment (both cardio machines and free weights) and wall-to-wall mirrors. It is the perfect place to work up a sweat after a day of sightseeing or business meetings. As part of the spa, there is a modern steam room and sauna. Both are clean and provide what is absolutely necessary for extreme relaxation.

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In the restaurant, which serves Middle Eastern, Italian and International Cuisines. you will find a lovely, dimly-lit setting perfect for calm and relaxing group dinners or romantic one-on-one’s. At the end of the restaurant, there is quaint-yet-classy bar with a nicely displayed wide arrangement of drink options. Also in the restaurant, they have live music, alternating between Jazz Music and a live Oud player, providing the ambience for a more intimate setting. If you’re looking for a hotel providing professionalism, comfort, and understated luxury, Canyon Hotel is a great value for the amenities and services provided.


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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



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Shakespeare Lives British Council Initiative Explores Theatre, Arts, and Literature By Dylan Dana

To be or not to be? That is the question that has passed over the lips of countless actors playing Hamlet in the last four centuries on stage and screen. It’s also a question that people in almost every country and in any language know quite well. We can thank William Shakespeare for this, who has reached millions around the world. People around the world are spending the year celebrating Shakespeare’s timeless work on the 400th anniversary of his death, and Iraq is no exception. Shakespeare Lives has illuminated Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

2016. There have been performances of his plays, readings of his poetry all across the Kurdistan Region and shifting towards Central and southern Iraq in the remaining months of the year. As a British Council initiative, Shakespeare Lives is an unprecedented global program of events and activities celebrating William Shakespeare and is taking place in almost every country around the world. The British Council is proud to present this unique cultural program in Iraq. It is an invitation to the world to join in the festivities by participating in a unique online collabo-

ration and experiencing the work of Shakespeare directly on stage, through film, exhibitions and in schools. The question some people may be wondering is why it is important to learn about Shakespeare, especially in Iraq, and what relevance it has to this modern era. Well William Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer in the history of the English literature and language. His contribution to the theatre world, playwright and poems is so prominent and even used till today. The English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare. He invented more than


1700 common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original. Some words and phrases that wouldn’t exist without him are “cold-blooded, advertising, champion, fashionable, manager, eyeball, lonely excitement” to name a few. Over the course of 2016 Kurdistan has been the host of Shakespeare Lives Iraq. Actors from The Globe Theatre in London came out to Kurdistan in the Spring to perform a mesmerizing performance of Hamlet which attracted more than 1,300 attendees from different social backgrounds. The students of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimania (AUIS) have also taken center stage in these celebrations here in Kurdistan, by performing one of


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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


Shakespeare’s most popular plays - A Midsummer Night’s Dream - a comedy that they believe resonates with the local audience. Simon Reade, a professional director and producer from Britain, was invited to direct the play by the British Council. He wanted to do the play in the same context as Shakespeare did 400 years ago but in today’s setting. They travelled across all three provinces of Kurdistan to perform the play to vast audiences. “The more art and theatre and literature there is, the more scope for collective imagination and appreciation for creativity there is in a society,” Reade says of the performances. A Shakespeare Symposium also took place to discuss various aspects of Shakespeare’s work in the arts, which hosted speakers from all over Iraq. There have


also been performances of Othello and poetry readings in Basrah. The unity the program has created in Kurdistan and Iraq has been unprecedented, and just goes to show that even in hard times there are reasons for people to come together to enjoy the arts, in this case Shakespeare. “Shakespeare Lives is a global program of events, led by the British Council celebrating the 400th anniversary of the greatest playwright in the world. No other writer or dramatist has reached so many people in the world. People study his plays in school, watch his plays in the theatre and see his works on film in the cinema. Not only that but many words and phrases in use in the English language today were invented or popularized by William Shakespeare,” says David Pardoe, the director of the Brit-

ish Council in Erbil. “It is for all these reasons we are celebrating his life and works. In Kurdistan Region specifically Shakespeare is hugely popular, and this interest has been evident in the events we have organized so far.” Shakespeare Lives was made possible in Kurdistan with British Council grant money and sponsorship from private companies, including platinum sponsors Kelkan and Qaiwan Group, and hope to have many more initiatives similar to this in the coming years. Shakespeare Lives will come to an end in December, however there is hope that the success of this program will lead to more cultural, literary and artistic pursuits and collaborations in the region. Shakespeare Lives is evidence that there is room for the arts and theatre in the region.

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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



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Food & Drink

Bamya Stew By Saz Jawdat Elias

The Autumn is mild in Kurdistan, but it’s still a great time for stews. There are plenty of fresh vegetables available to choose from, but a staple on the tables of Kurds is bamya, or okra. Typically combined with lamb and a tomato broth, this stew comes together quickly. It is filling and satisfying without making you so full you feel like you need a nap after. Ingredients 1 kg lamb meat (chunks of lamb on the bone, such as trimmed lamb shanks) 750 g Bamya/Okra 100 g fresh garlic 250 g fresh tomato Tomato paste, as desired 1 tsp salt 2 Tbsp Lemon juice or Citric Acid (or to taste) ¼ cup oil Directions Put the meat in a medium-heavy pot with oil and brown slightly, add enough water to cover the meat. Cook until meat is browned, but there is still water left. Wash okra and cut tops off. Peel garlic, leave whole. Add to meat and let it cook for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally, but not too much or the okra will break up. Peel and mash tomatoes. Add to meat and okra. Leave for 15 minutes. Then add tomato paste as desired with salt and lemon juice or Citric Acid Let simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with rice and na’an bread.

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Food & Drink

Fried Okra By Patricia Collins

Since we featured a Kurdish recipe for Okra this issue, we decided we would also share a great American recipe for okra. I’m from Texas where pretty much any and everything can be fried, okra included. Fried okra is one of my favorites and it’s one of the only ways I could ever get my kids to eat okra when they were younger. The principal is pretty much the same as anything else you batter and fry, but for Okra we typically use cornmeal. If it’s not crunchy enough for you, you can also dredge through some bread crumbs to get that little extra crispiness. Ingredients 20 Okra (cut into bite size pieces. Salt /pepper to taste 1 cup Cornmeal 1/4 Flour 2 Eggs 2-3 cups Vegetable Oil Directions Crack and stir the eggs in medium size bowl. Add salt, pepper Mix cornmeal and flour together. Add salt and pepper to cornmeal mix. Place chopped okra into egg batter then dreg in cornmeal mix. Place on wax paper on tray and freeze for at least 15 minutes to set the batter. Cooking Heat oil to fry stage. Place okra in hot oil and fry till golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towel to absorb excess oil. Try to serve this still hot. It makes a great side dish. Some people also like to dip it into Ranch Dressing dip.


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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



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Food & Drink

Tang Chinese Offering Chinese Authenticity and Hospitality

By Jimmie Collins

Unless you’re looking for Kurdish or Arabic food, it can often be a challenge in Kurdistan to find food with authentic flavors and presentation of the type of cuisine it boasts. You order a pizza or a lasagna and there’s always just something not quite right. But when it comes to Chinese food, there is somewhere that offers absolute authenticity. Tang Chinese Restaurant opened in the Sipan Hotel across from Dream City near the airport boasts not one but two chefs coming straight from China.

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


They’ve put together an interesting menu offering staple items they know will tantalize unaccustomed palates, such as dumplings or the sizzling beef platter, as well as a long list of more authentic items catering to those who really know what Chinese food is all about. “I have been living and working in Kurdistan for eight years in the construction industry and there has never been a place that offered true Chinese food,” said James Wang, part owner of Tang Chinese Restaurant. “There are a lot of Chinese people coming to Kurdistan, as well as people who like real Chinese food, so we wanted to start a place where they could all gather comfortably and enjoy real, authentic Chinese food.” With a growing demand and a lack of anything that passed muster with the Chinese population in Kurdistan, Wang and his partners decided to start Tang, named for the infamously prosperous and artistic Tang Dynasty, as a side project. Now you can


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find the place filled with patrons from China, Kurdistan, as well as anywhere else. Founded purposely to provide authenticity, Wang says that sometimes ingredients can be the most difficult part of keeping the flavor balance at the restaurant. Many sauces and seasonings cannot be found in Kurdistan so they must import them, including extremely flavorful ingredients like certain types of mushrooms, fungus or tofu. Chef Nyu, who comes from Central China, finds a way to balance the Chinese ingredients with local ingredients to create flavors from all provinces of China in order to satisfy everyone’s palate. In addition to unique ingredients, Tang also imports authentic Chinese tea as well as Chinese tea sets. Each table of guests is offered tea prepared in the proper Chinese fashion and served in the traditional tea sets. Many people

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expressed interest in purchasing the tea and tea sets, so now the restaurant is offering some for sale. While the purpose of the restaurant may be to celebrate Chinese food, they also want to celebrate Chinese culture as well as those of its multi-cultural patrons. The restaurant has hosted events for Kurdish holidays, Filipino holidays (in honor of its Filipino staff members), as well as Chinese holidays like Mid-Autumn Festival. The restaurant also offers a VIP room for those who would like to host a small private party, as well as a karaoke room. The karaoke room is set aside and can be rented out privately for those wishing to dance and drink and sing the night away. They will continue planning multi-cultural events throughout the year, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.



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y a d y r e v




In the Erbil Grand Hotel Ainkawa Rd. and Gulan St. Intersection

07504071926 Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



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Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



Kurdistan Irregulars Region’s First International Rugby Team Training and Getting Involved

By Liane Butcher

There is nothing regular about the Kurdistan Irregulars. As Kurdistan’s first ever international rugby team, the aptly named Kurdistan Irregulars are in training for their second Dubai Rugby 7s tournament. Circuit Magazine took the opportunity to catch-up with the team Coach off the pitch and get the low-down on what it’s all about.


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Q: The Kurdistan Irregulars Rugby Club does indeed live up to its name. How did the team come to be? A: It started out as a purely recreational, very sociable touch rugby team. Turn-out was good with people enthusiastically coming along to play 2-3 times per week. What was great was that it really was inclusive, there were ex-patriate players coming along from New Zealand and South Africa, for example, who had been playing rugby ever since they could walk, playing alongside Kurdish people who had never even seen a rugby ball before the match. It was genuinely a great atmosphere and very sporting in the truest sense of the word. Based on the high level of enthusiasm, one of the regular players decided to take a punt and enter a team for the Dubai 7s annual tournament, not even really expecting to be accepted. However fate was at work and to everyone’s surprise, the Kurdistan Irregulars were invited for the 2015 competition and have been invited to return in December 2016. Q: Is the present team still as diverse as it was at the beginning? A: Originally we had thought that the team would need to be made up of a kind of “Old Boys” veteran rugby players team, used to playing full contact rugby, not just touch. However, a couple of the Kurdish players, Bjar Kareem, showed such enthusiasm and talent that we were able to take one of them forward into the Dubai 7s team. Bjar then actually went on to score our second try of the tournament, a first for him personally and a highlight of the event for the whole team. Some of the team is also made up of Canadian players (my team mates) who were so committed to the cause that they will be flying over for a second year running to join and strengthen the team.

Team Coach – key stats: Name: Neil Young Age: 36 Nationality: Scottish Years living in Kurdistan: 6 Rugby position: Scrum half, shirt No. 9 Rugby Clubs: London Scottish & Fawley RFC (England); Ottawa Beavers (Canada) & Kurdistan Irregulars.

Q: On the whole, what has been the reaction of your host country, Kurdish nationals? A: I can sum that up in one word; inquisitive.

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Q: I understand you have partnered with a local charity, Critical Needs Support Foundation (CNSF). What inspired you to create the charitable element of the rugby club and how does the partnership work? A: As we all started to bond as a team, we learned more about the charitable work several of the players were involved in off the pitch. Having visited a few of their projects, it became obvious that through the combined efforts of our team, we could probably help by both raising awareness and vital funds to keep these much needed projects going which support both the internally displaced and refugee communities. Once we have covered the basic costs for the team, such as rugby kit, we will donate all funds raised to CNSF’s projects. Our


initial fundraising objective is $15,500 USD to maintain and staff a children’s activity centre, a safe space for internally displaced kids to be kids again. Subject to funds raised we have ideas for other much needed projects where we believe we can add value. For example, through consultation with CNSF, we are aware that social tensions between disparate groups of peoples all now living in close proximity is an increasing problem. We are hoping to use the skills of the team in organising and coaching sports, to create mixed teams of children in camps to play sports together, hopefully helping to promote social cohesion. Q: What life lessons will you personally take away from this experience?

A: I am amazed at how a relatively small amount of time and money can make a relatively big difference to someone else’s life. I’ve learned that enthusiasm is infectious. Even something as simple as visiting a camp and throwing a rugby ball around with some of the children, makes the world’s war against IS very human again. These aren’t just statistics; these are families, parents and children. You can follow the team’s progress in all the usual ways: Twitter: @Rugby4Refugees Facebook: search “Kurdistan Irregulars Rugby Club” page Website: If you would like to donate to the Kurdistan Irregulars and Critical Needs Support Foundations projects, please contact;, or,

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M RADIO 105.5 FM


Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



TentEd Providing Quick Relief to Refugees

By Jimmie Collins

Donating to a good cause isn’t always as easy or carefree as it sounds. Some organizations are so large and bureaucratic it can take months for your donated dollars to be put to good use. Others have so much overhead that by the time the money reaches a project, it’s only a small fraction of what you gave. Donating to small organizations usually means low overhead and effective use of money, but it’s also not always the most efficient way to donate and it can be hard for distant donors to know whom to trust. That’s where TentEd comes in. An American registered 501c3, TentEd does not design or implement projects, they research and liaise with the organizations who do. They raise money Stateside through networking and social media to fund projects and initiatives that are showing promise throughout the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.


“We’re a platform operating as fundraising for projects that we find are worthy and can be done well,” says Zack Bazzi, one of the three co-founders of the organization, all of whom served in the US military in combat in Iraq. TentEd focuses on education and children, arguing that it is in the best interest of international security that generations of children don’t go without education. “It’s a moral imperative, but it’s also a practical one as well.” Zack says he became fascinated with the subject of education and emergencies while he was studying. “Education can be a sort of transactional endeavor, you go to school, you get education. But it’s more than that, such as child protection, for example water, food, housing clothing, checking for abuse, etc.” TentEd has helped organizations provide school supplies, uniforms, shoes, coats, and even social outings to the movies.

“If kids need food, they’re not going to learn. Going to the movies was educational in that it gets you outside of your existence. We try to look at it in a comprehensive way, but we try not to over-extend this logic,” he says. “If it’s related to things kids need in order to be comfortable or focus at school, then it’s important. “ Originally launched under the umbrella of another organization, the Education of Peace Initiative Council, after two years and 15 different projects, TentEd started getting a life of its own. “I try not to take myself too seriously, but people will be inspired by the work. We decided TentEd needed to be its own thing,” says Zack. But he says the organization will still remain small. “I mean, it is a fully-volunteer organization. With TentEd there is minimal overhead and the money goes directly to the intended recipients.”

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The organization networks with those on ground in Kurdistan, typically with small, underfunded organizations to find out where they can be most effective. TentEd usually take a project-based approach to fundraising. While they are continually looking for groups to work with, there are several organizations they’ve built close relationships with, one being World Orphans, a faith-based group operating in Soran, northeast of Erbil in the mountains. The most recent

Zack says. When identifying projects to fund, Zack says sometimes he finds them and sometimes they find him. But in any case, he’s constantly trying to weigh all the possibilities to make the best decisions about where to spend donor funds. “I have to make an ethical decision,” he says. “I can invest money in something everyone knows about, or I can invest money in a group of people that basically no one has heard of so

project, which came to a happy conclusion in September 2016, helped World Orphans resource materials for a new school it had built. World Orphans built a 10-classroom school for children who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to go to school this year. TentEd aimed to raise $1,250 per classroom, a total of $12,500, to buy furniture and supplies. “World Orphans is an effective on-the-ground partner and we just help fill in the funding gaps,”

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


that we’re getting to a group that hasn’t been paid attention to and is lacking any resources.” But most importantly to TentEd is providing funding to those who need it most in the most effective and quickest way possible with full accountability and responsibility. “We provide funding almost on demand with minimal administrative requirements and therefore no overhead. Accountability is not compromised,” he says. “We validate that funds are used in the way that we intended. We try to balance accountability and responsibility with speed and response.” But Zack says working on TentEd really is about doing something good and showing that there are people who care. “One thing I love about TentEd is that it was founded by three combat veterans all of whom served in Iraq and now here we are wanting to help,” he says. “It’s just trying to show that Americans do care and we do want to help and we know that education is important.”


Circuit Magazine


Issue 9 - Autumn 2016



Ankawa Royal Hotel combines modern comfort with personalized service. Ankawa Royal Hotel offering international standards of service with an individualized standard. Ankawa Royal Hotel is an ideal base:  

5 Minutes from airport 10 Minutes from Down Town.

Ankawa Main Road, Mar Yousif Str. Erbil Kurdistan Region, Iraq T: +964 66 625 1205 M: +964 924 2220


Circuit Magazine


Uptown Jazz

Leading the Way in Sulaimania with Music and Ambience By Jeremy Oliver

Nestled at the top of the Copthorne Baranan Hotel hides one of the best kept secrets in Sulaimania. Uptown Jazz is the premier jazz club in Kurdistan with a mix of live music and DJ’s throughout the week. I visited midweek with a friend and sat at the bar to talk with Chalak Salar, a partner, and manager of Uptown Jazz. He told us how he really enjoyed interacting

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

with the community and this is the best way that he can use his skills both in décor and customer service to make his places feel approachable to the local and expat communities. “Measured drinks and cocktails, good service and a nice mix is what separates us from the other bars and late night restaurants here,” says Chalak. I have to agree. There were tables of all fe-

male guests, tables of mixed local and expat guests, singles hanging out at the bar, and everyone was having a good time. A couple of VIP’s came in and were immediately given special attention, but since there were no open tables, they were seated at the bar while they waited. It’s nice to see there are places that don’t treat different classes of people with different levels of respect,



Circuit Magazine

but still manage to make their VIP clientele feel special. We stayed the night at 4-Star Copthorne Baranan Hotel, just so that we could be close to the action. I was able to make the booking on, and saved about 20% on the regular room fare. This gave me a little more spending money to use next door. The elevator opens into the clean, but dimly-lit dining room facing one side of the horse shoe bar. The soft jazz band playing to your right, and a hostess waiting to your left to place you at your table where the staff are ready to bring you all the professionally made drinks you can stand. It’s an awesome experience. When the night was finished, we worked our way to the elevator, shook hands with Chalak, and went to our room. However, we were still so energized from the amazing ambience that we couldn’t sleep. I encourage anyone who visits Suli to check this place out and take your friends.

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


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Circuit Magazine


Ghassan & Rodrigue The Brains Behind the Most Unique Parties in Erbil

By Jimmie Collins

When the Erbil Rotana Hotel announced the first of a series of special monthly events, the White Party held in July, there were a lot of skeptics. Most people seemed to believe it would be just like most parties in Erbil: Same people, Same music, Same place. But Ghassan Dalal, Erbil Rotana’s General Manager, and Rodrigue Ibrahim, Country Manager at Intersea Exports Ltd., said they wanted it to be different. They wanted to bring life to the party scene in Erbil, a challenge that many have attempted in the past with varying degrees of success still incomparable to that which they almost instantly achieved.

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

Ghassan came to Erbil in July 2014. Despite the then-recent incursion of Da’esh near Kurdistan, he chose to keep his offer to run the Erbil Rotana Hotel seeing it as a challenge unlike any other he had experienced before. Born in Lebanon, the 43-year-old hotelier has been working in the hotel industry since he was 14-yearsold, starting out at the bottom of the ladder as a dishwasher. Over the years he took on jobs with more responsibilities and studied Hospitality. During the 29 years working in hotels, Ghassan has worked in every possible department and knows what it takes from all angles to run a successful


hotel. It is all of this experience that helped him through the more than two years he’s worked in Kurdistan, a much different experience from his previous position in Sharm al-Sheikh, a tourist destination in Egypt. He admits that Kurdistan is an incredibly different destination, one mostly for government and business clients rather than tourism, but says that’s no excuse to not strive to be better. “Everything is ripe and new here, but it’s a wellknown demographic that we’re working with, so we try to cater the actual needs of the clients,” Ghassan says. “We study and see local Kurdish and Iraqi clients trying to meet and exceed expectations. We know major companies require spacious meeting rooms, so we make sure they are big have top of line technologies. We do our best to provide an easier work atmosphere. We cater to their needs and requirements.” One of Ghassan’s favorite things about working in Kurdistan is seeing how everyone strives for a bet-


ter life despite the hardships faced every day due in part to location near to raging wars and a slowing economy. “Regardless of what they’re going through, they still wake up everyday and work hard,” Ghassan says. “It makes me want to work harder to surpass the challenges we’re having.” It’s this attitude that lead to Ghassan’s idea of providing a unique event each month at Rotana. “The people are working so hard, but they are getting bored. They need some reward, something to look forward to in their free time,” he says. His past experience working in popular tourist destinations was a huge help in putting together what he refers to as a “proper party from A to Z.” “We wanted to rock Erbil. We wanted to make it like a little Ibiza and to show everyone that when we decide to do something, we do it right.” Ghassan sought partnership with Rodrigue Ibrahim from Intersea Exports Ltd. (and the assistance of Gravitiy Communications Agency) to brainstorm

Circuit Magazine

Rotana’s Aquarius Pool Bar, in partnership with Intersea, has recently opened it’s lounge area. The bar features a unique menu and is idyllic for cocktails and shisha at sunset. It is open from 6 p.m. to midnight every day. Make reservations at 066-210-5555.

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


and put together the best parties possible. Partnership with Rodrigue was perhaps an obvious choice for Ghassan. The Country Manager at Intersea Exports Ltd., Rodrigue represents one of the largest beverage trading and distribution companies operating in Iraq. As an alcohol distributor, Rodrigue’s business thrives on people having a good time. He came to Kurdistan in 2013 when the Kurdish economy was up and spirits were also high. “I really like the Kurdistan Region,” he says. “It’s open to do whatever you want but you have to do it in a way that works for them.” Even with that, he noted that Kurdistan was a challenge for him after working with a large company in Lebanon for 10 years. Party life in Kurdistan isn’t as obvious and took some understanding. He spent several months living in Sulaimania to get a feel for the atmosphere there in addition to living most of the time in Erbil. One of the challenges he accepted when taking on work with Intersea, a Lebanese family-owned business, was that they wanted to not just be a passive distributor, but an active part of the market. So he decided to organize a few events and see how it went. He brought in cigars, live performers, and experienced bartenders for tailor-made drinks. “The event was very successful. I was shocked,” he says. And then he came to a realization. “There are people who want to go out but they don’t because they are having trouble finding places to satisfy their expectations.”


He continued working with his clients to host events and grow the more active role he wanted to be playing for his company, but then Da’esh arrived in 2014. Rather than leaving the market, Intersea decided they would take a different approach. “We decided it was the time to lay a foundation for coming back because we knew this country would come back,” Rodrigue says. “We suffered just like anyone with low sales and new rules, etc., but we have moved to a new level. “ Intersea decided to work more closely with its retailers focusing on branding, creating sections, and trying to educate people to know how to choose their beverages. It was during this time that Rodrigue and Ghassan began working together to create the perfect backdrop and atmosphere at Rotana’s recently re-opened Aquarius Pool Bar. “We had a vision to take Rotana and do something to bring Rotana back to life,” Rodrigue says. “I told him, come on you have a beautiful pool, create a cocktail bar and a nice attraction for sunset time and during the weekend at the pool.” They worked together to build a new outdoor pool bar with a complete bar, new furnishings, and a menu tailored specifically for Rotana, including some products that will only be available there. “The idea is to have things you cannot find everywhere and make those things more accessible such as small bottles of wine or Prosecco,” Rodrigue says. “We want for people to feel good about coming and to enjoy themselves.” After working together building the Aquarius Pool Bar and creating the perfect atmosphere for sunset

Circuit Magazine

cocktail hours, their continued partnership was only natural. They put together their expertise to come up with some of the most unique event ideas that Erbil has ever seen. The White Party, with white-washed decorations all around the outdoor pool and garden near the newly opened Aquarius Pool Bar, white balls floating in the pool, and go-go dancers decked out in white outfits, surprised everyone. Someone had thrown a truly fantastic theme party in Erbil and now everyone wanted more. The success of the White Party even surprised the hosts, bringing in 300 more guests than expected and requiring them to sell more standing-room only tickets at the door than they had planned for. What the patrons didn’t know was that these innovative party hosts had only just begun and have so many more ideas up their sleeves. “There’s a lot of brainstorming together so we can come up with the best that we can give in all means,” Rodrigue says. “What we’ve done so far is only a start. What will come in the future will be much more attractive than this.” After their easily-measured success, they decided the parties would be monthly. “If you want to do it

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

correctly, you need to dedicate full energy to it and that’s why it’s on a monthly basis,” Rodrigue says. “Something this big and grand and extravagant doesn’t need to be every week.” The following event in August, a 1001 Nights theme, was a VIP event playing to everyone’s inner desire to be treated like a sultan or a prince. The white tablecloth event offered swarms of food and sported decorations evoking a Sultan’s palace for the DJ booth above the Aquarius Pool Bar, strips of colorful cloth all across the garden, professional belly dancers, and even professionals dancing with and breathing fire. These men had definitely surprised the crowd of more than 400 people again. Ghassan and Rodrigue are still planning more monthly events and said that even once the weather has turned cold and soggy they plan to continue hosting an amazing event each month. “Every time will be something new and different,” Ghassan says. “We will never imitate, we will continue to create. We will always have new things and we will meet and exceed all expectations.” For details on future event themes and admission, keep an eye on the Erbil Rotana and Circuit Facebook pages.


Tangram Hotel Erbil. Stylish, sophisticated and contemporary, luxury boutique hotel set right minutes away from heart of Erbil city. Dedicated to delivering an exceptional level of guest service, the Tangram Hotel Erbil combines high style with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Featuring 118 spacious deluxe rooms & suites, the hotel exudes total comfort and opulence with a unique design edge. Exquisitely decorated with the finest in contemporary furnishings and handpicked local art.

Find the essence of social life in 360 Lounge , the place to be and be seen in Erbil. This high-end Restaurant & Bar transforms from a relaxing evening to a fashionable late-night destination. The place to be known serving the best US steaks in town, serving selected European wines, creative international cocktails and a refined cigar collection. The Lounge is the perfect spot to relax after a busy day, simmer down with friends or shake hands with the elite while savoring flavors that will definitely suit your palate.

Kirkuk road, opposite Police Academy, Erbil, Kurdistan Iraq


For Booking & Information E-mail: +964 ( 0 ) 750 889 5554 +964 ( 0 ) 662 296 900

Circuit Magazine

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016


Emergency Numbers Fire …........................................ 066-115/124 Police …..................... 066-104/124/134/144 Asayish …...................... 066-222 (5283/0230) Traffic Police …................................. 066-104 Ambulance ….......................... 066-122/4635 Private - 0750-361-2040 Security ….............................. 0750-455-8527 Private - 0750 133 2192 Legal Assistance ….................. 066-224-5506 Private - 0750 326-5989 Translation Services … Private - 0750 326-5989 Medical Insurance … Private - 0750 633-7700

Onomatopoeias Find words whose sound mimics an action

More Useful Numbers Veterinarian …..........................066-229-4876 Private - 0750-447-8549 Event Management ..................066-222-0422 Private - 0750 633-7700 Waste Management …............0750-455-3161 Private - 0750-727-2289 O&G Services ….......................066-223-2475 Private - 0750-209-0010 Real Estate Services …..............066-226-7500 Private - 0750-812-6130 Certification Courses… Private - 0750-327-6984 Marketing Services... Private - 0750-633-7700 Hotels …....................................066-222-0422 Private - 0750-633-7700 Korek Mountain .......................066-222-0422 Private - 0750-902-6161 Shisha Deliver ... Private - 0750 777 8000 Ci Circuit Membership Rewards ... Private - 0750-633-7700

Know of a number that’s missing? Email us at to submit other useful information or corrections 58



Circuit Magazine

Having A Drink Across 1. Vomit. 3. A place where people can order beer on tap. 4. A place where people go to drink and dance. 6. When you drink you better not do this. 7. Fall asleep because of too much alcohol. 10. Can’t remember because of too much alcohol. 12. The kind of beer that comes out of a tap. 14. Buy a _____________ of drinks for everybody. 16. This comes in bottles or on tap. 17. A small alcoholic drink that you drink quickly. 18. What you make of yourself when you drink sometimes. Down 1. How you feel after you’ve had a few drinks. 2. Alcohol made from grapes. 5. A place where people can drink cocktails. 6. How you feel after you’ve had many drinks. 8. To walk unsteadily. 9. What you do to your words when you drink sometimes.

Issue 9 - Autumn 2016

10. Someone who makes alcoholic drinks. 11. On the _____________. A drink given for free by a bar, pub, or restaurant owner. 13. What gets you drunk? 15. An ounce of alcohol.


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Circuit Issue 9 - Autumn 2016  

New Look! Circuit Issue 9 - Autumn 2016 (September, October, November) Travel & Leisure - Sulaimania, Canyon Hotel Culture - Shakespeare Liv...

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