Revelers from near and far enjoy unique Erbil spring festival
By A.C. Robinson
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The two-day spring colour festival in Erbil kicked off on Friday morning bringing in large crowds of locals and foreigners alike to join in on many activities, games, food, music and the colour festival.
“This festival is so good and very fun. We are happy to be here,” Lara, a 12-year-old student, told Rudaw English. “The colours were a lot of fun and we made a lot of new friends.”
“This festival is very nice and I hope more people come here to relax,” she added.
Many games and activities were available, including a playground especially for children. Shooting games, ball games, and darts attracted kids of all ages.
“We mostly came because it’s spring break and we thought it would nice to experience something new,” said Amina, a 15-year-old Christian from Erbil. “Not a lot of things like this happen in Iraq so it’s something unusual.”
“If people missed it today, they definitely need to come tomorrow or they will regret it the rest of their life!” she added.
Onel, aged 17 from Baghdad but currently living in Erbil, was enjoying the festival.
“I came to this festival and it’s an amazing thing. I’m so happy. I also met and visited many friends here,” he said.
Several food stalls were also available for people to enjoy lunch such as shawarma and hamburgers, waffles, snacks, sweets, coffee and other drinks.
“We are here providing people with healthy food that they can usually never get at events like this,” said Salar Faik, one of three co-owners of the new healthy food restaurant called Darek Meal Prep (DMP).
“Our food is all oil free and salt free so our food is very healthy. Our burgers are grilled and made with wheat bread and lots of vegetables,” he explained.
Faik said they were happy to be participating in the Spring Festival, “People are really happy with our service and amazed by the good quality, healthy and tasty food.”
“Our healthy smoothies have been the most popular item today,” he added.
There were also several venders selling handmade crafts such as candles, sheets, jewelry and even cosmetics and coffee mixes.
Vian Fadir is a Kurdish woman who lives in Erbil who has been making crafts since she was a child. Although she is a teacher full-time, she visits festivals and the bazaar in order to sell her products.
“This festival is very beautiful and a wonderful new tradition in Kurdistan,” she said.
With a DJ playing music and live singers entertaining as well, hundreds of people were enjoying not only listening, but dancing as well.
People came from across the Kurdistan Region and Iraq and several expats living or visiting the Kurdistan also came to enjoy the festivities.
Farajan Masrwoor, 20, a Turkmen from Kirkuk but living in Erbil, said that she had been planning to coming to the Spring Festival for the past month.
“We couldn’t wait,” she said. “It’s very nice and I’m having fun.”
Fadi, age 26 traveled all the way from Qaraqosh with his family and friends to join the fun.
“We hope that every year the same festival happens here and we’ll come again,” he said. “My favorite part of the festival was fighting with the colours.”
International visitors were also drawn to the festival.
Laura from Michigan in America said that this was her third year in a row to come to Kurdistan to visit friends. She and her husband love coming here.
“We came to just check out the festival and it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s great to see all the international people having fun and getting together.
Leoni Wartenberg from Bavaria in Germany and her friends are traveling in the Kurdistan Region and will be here for about five weeks. She told Rudaw English that they have many Kurdish friends in Germany and were interested in learning more about their traditions and culture.
“It’s definitely not what people would think about northern Iraq,” Wartenberg said of the Spring Festival. “It’s nice that the people come together, young and old. Also dancing and celebrating and it’s very nice to see.”
When asked what she thought about Kurdish culture, Wartenberg replied, “We are totally overwhelmed by the Kurds’ hospitality. Everyone is very warm hearted and we feel like we’re at home here. Everyone is inviting us and everyone is very nice.”
Maria, from the Philippines lives here with her husband and four children.
“This festival is very good,” she said. “Same like in our country. We have this festival, many nationalities and the colours.”
Roomana Farhan from Pakistan has been living in Kurdistan for nearly seven years working at Choueifat. She came to the festival with her husband and two children.
“It’s the first time that I visited this festival and I was very excited to come and see what is happening here,” she said. “My son and daughter are really having fun. It’s colourful and really nice.”
“We’ve been waiting since 20 days to come and we are having so much fun,” she added.
The Spring Festival is co-organized by Babylon FM with the help of Nishtiman Youth Network (NYN). It takes place on Friday and Saturday at Glkand Park across from the University of Kurdistan-Hewler (UKH) campus, running from 11 am to 7 pm. It includes primarily a colour festival, activities for kids and food stalls.
Organizers said they are expecting at least 20,000 people over the course of the two-day event.
Photos: Jamal Yad/Rudaw