Our company is owned and operated by an American with 30 years’ experience in the region, who works hand in hand with a highly trained local staff. Explore Mesopotamia (formerly Kurdistan Iraq Tours USA) was the first inwardly focused Tour Company in the region and is the pioneer of all modern tourism in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. We hosted the first ever tour group after the last Gulf War (American) and have been in the forefront of hosting most other major nations such as Germany, Australia, Italy, Austria, Britain, and China as well as more obscure nations such as Mongolia.
We are famous for our attention to detail. Relax let us handle your journey to one of the most fascinating lands in the world.
Dr. Layton has lived and worked in Kurdistan over 25 years in various capacities including the US State Department Country Director of Health Care Partnerships in Iraq and as the National Director for Kurdistan Development Corporation. He has written extensively on Kurdistan and is the founder the first American English language school in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
He was the originator of the term “The Other Iraq” used by many media outlets and governments today and initiated the successful International PR campaign titled Kurdistan: The Other Iraq aired on major news outlets such as CNN, FOX, CBS and BBC and many others. In 1995 Layton testified as an expert before the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs regarding the genocide against the Kurds by Saddam Hussein.
He has traveled to more than 100 countries and is the founder of several International relief and development NGOs. He is also the founder of the first tour company in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He now resides in Big Bear, California and travels to Kurdistan on a regular basis.For complete profile see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Layton
Testimony: "Dr. Layton has unparalleled experience with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and its leaders and people accumulated over several decades of close contact. Despite his many other pressing demands on his time, Dr. Layton very generously contributed his insights and deep knowledge of the region, and of the Kurds in particular. I owe him a debt of gratitude; not only for his judgment and practical advice, but also for sparking my admiration for the Kurdistan and its wonderful people. Dr. Layton has been assiduous in untangling partisan biases; as well as sorting fact from fiction during his many years of research. I am merely one the grateful beneficiaries of his work." Robert Muirhead, Author of "Bearing Witness: A Journey Through Kurdistan," 2019
Haana is the first woman tour guide in Kurdistan and Iraq, our Project Manager, and Senior Guide. Former business development manager for one of the largest Travel Management companies in Kurdistan. She has worked in the radio and advertising world. She graduated dentistry, and is currently pursuing an Executive Master of Business Administration with University of Northampton, UK. She is also an artist and jewelry maker.
Haana has done a great deal of work in the humanitarian relief world and her passionate heart envelopes all she meets. She is the consummate problem solver and her vast network of connections in the region makes her a valued member of our team and invaluable to our guests.
Haana speaks Kurdish, English, Persian; Arabic, Albanian, Serbo-Crotian and Russian.
"For Haana, Our fearless guide and protector, Like so many others, I cannot thank you enough for the superb work you did for us every day. You and your effervescent personality made the trip wonderful. You are always well-informed, artistically articulate, and thoughtful. Throughout it all, you are tirelessly conscientious. That’s the trademark of a great person. In your presentations, you constantly spoke and acted with an artistic flair. You think this is normal because that is the way you are gifted by nature. But for the rest of us it is a rare treat in a tour company, and I want to let you know how much we all appreciate it. All too often many people will see artistic gems like you but won’t think to mention it. But even for all of these qualities, you always have something more. Despite all the tragedies, you, your family, and people have endured you smile through it all with a heart and vision of something much bigger. You constantly demonstrated a genuine depth of character of someone far beyond your age."
Ralph. USA, April 2022
Shayan is a senoir guide, has been with Explore Mesopotamia since 2019.
In 1975 his grandparents were one of the thousands who moved to Iran as refugees due to the conflict between the Kurds and the Iraqi/Baghdad government. Shayan was born in Iran in 1995.
After returning to Kurdistan, Shayan studied computer programming at Cihan University, graduating first in his class in computer science. He also operates a Real Estate Agency when he is not leading tours.
He is currently writing a Book about “Shanidar Cave”, the Neanderthal’s, and their amazing sojourn and history in Kurdistan.
He is passionate about revealing the secrets of his nation to the people of the world- a gracious host and knowledgeable Guide, Shayan speaks English, Kurdish, Arabic and Farsi (Persian).
"The itinerary was very well conceived and organized, with full days and perfect time management. Everything worked perfectly even considering the changes due to Covid. The choice of the hotels was excellent and our tour guide was absolutely fantastic!" Luisa Italy (May 2021)
"Two of the customers encountered your guide (Shayan) and told me they felt like he was a very calm and cool man. Looking forward to our next tour!" Pier Doyon, Young Pioneers Tours, 2019
Gursel Bulut is the Project Manager for Explore Mesopotamia (EM) in Turkey. He has worked with the owner of EM since 1992. He is a Kurd born in Arpacay (Kars), Turkey near the Armenian border. He studied communication at Istanbul University and speaks Kurdish, English, Spanish, and Italian fluently as well as a smattering of several other languages. He has lived in Morocco, India, Spain, and Dubai. He has worked as a VIP guide in Turkey, Spain, and Morocco specializing in tours for diplomats.
Gursel is one of the founders of the Caravansar and former member of the oversight Committee of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. He founded a charity called Dokuzonu in 2004 and is a passionate humanitarian. He is an expert in Central Asian and Mesopotamian textiles and has participated in nearly 50 International exhibitions around the world as both a buyer and seller. He has run his own import/export business for much of his adult life. He knows Turkey as few others in his business. When in the hands of Gursel, clients will experience a side of Turkey few have seen and be privy to insights of which few have such intimate knowledge.
Dylan is a English department graduate, former assistant lecturer at the University of Sulaymaniah, and part-time translator. He has a passion for Mesopotamian history and found his calling in sharing his passion with the guests of Explore Mesopotamia.
Born and raised in Erbil, Iraq, Araz is a videographer, painter, editor, graphic arts and “motion graphic” designer. He serves as a media coordinator for Explore Mesopotamia and will be developing “shorts” for our company’s YouTube Channel as well as “mini docs” of tours throughout Mesopotamia.