What Rudaw is Talking about VIKurdistan ZMT tours:


Foreign tourists have been encouraged to visit the area in large part due to the remarkable efforts of Omer Chomani, 32, the founder of VIKurdistan and one of the most successful tour operators in the area, I am told by many as we traipse up the final day’s steep incline, guided by Omer himself. Just a teenager at the time, he began promoting tourism in the Region in 2005, helping the first few international travellers to Choman in the post-Saddam era. When internet came to Iraq, Omer harnessed the influence of the online world to garner attraction to his homeland, supported by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s tourism office. Having walked parts of the Jordan Trail in 2019, he returned to the foot of Halgurd inspired to formally register his idea, Visit Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2020. Now, his team lead groups as far south as Baghdad and Basra, and his Choman guest house – the final stay of the thru-hike – commands stunning views, and regular guests.

The success of the trail would see this model spread. “I’ve seen elsewhere how it dramatically changes people’s lives… we’ve seen on the trail ourselves how even at this very beginning point, the money that has come in from the scouting early processes has made an impact on some of our stake-holders, and that will only increase,” Leon explains. Lawin, although he is too humble to admit it, is chiefly responsible for creating the vital trust between locals and hikers. His work to establish relationships with dozens of communities along the trail, connecting and collaborating with home-stay families, and initiating links with local walking clubs, is a major reason for the ease with which people have offered up their homes for the team, and for future hikers.

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