On the 14th of November of each year the people of Slemani and Kurdistan region celebrate the establishment of their beloved city. This year was not different as various music bands held concerts singing the classic songs dedicated to the city alongside various other cultural activities like dancing and theatre. The second largest city of Iraqi Kurdistan it was officially named the cultural capital of the region by the Kurdish parliament in 2012.
In 1784 a powerful Kurdish prince named Ibrahim Pashai-Baban started building houses, mosques, teahouses, and bazaars around a village named Malkandi. The prince had the vision of a modern Kurdish city in mind, a focal point for all of the small rival Emirates. He started inviting the most renowned Kurdish poets, theologians, and philosophers to move to the city. The city grew in size and population. Soon it became a powerful cultural center not only for the Kurds but for other nations and religious groups as well, the city became one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the whole region. In 1922 Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji declared the Kingdom of Kurdistan with Slemani as its capital. The newly created kingdom lasted for only two years.
In the following years of the establishment of the Iraqi state the city saw the start of many revolts against the consequent Iraqi governments. In 1991 the city was liberated in an uprising along with the other two cities of Irbil and Dahuk.
Now with a population of more than one million and half, from the first glance the city could be considered as a typical modern city of the world, with big hotels, shopping malls, internet cafes, modern restaurants opening up in a rapid and continuous manner. This is due to exploration of oil and wide range investment by foreign companies. The cities skyline is changing fast but the essence and the sense of its originality can still be captured with a visit to the old quarters Malkandi and Sabunkaran.
For anyone who is interested in visiting Kurdistan, to get to know more about the culture, traditions and customs of the Kurds, there is no better place to visit than Slemani and more definitely now at 229 years of age, Slemani is livelier than ever.
By: Rawa Ahmad Raza