Pier-André Doyon, Regional Manager (Africa and the Middle East) at Young Pioneer Tours

February, 2020

We've been teaming up with Balin and his team at Explore Mesopotamia for many years now and every single tour has been a great success. The team is knowledgeable, caring and very professional. Tours go without a hitch while in a difficult region and guests are thoroughly entertained and educated throughout the tours. For all kinds of travel project and logistics in Kurdistan, there is no one better!

Marilyn Marx Adelman, January 2020 issue of International Travel News

January, 2020

The sheer beauty of Iraqi Kurdi­stan absolutely shocked me. Mountains unexpectedly surrounded us everywhere we went, and there was snow in those mountains! The snowcapped scenery certainly enhanced our photographic opportunities. Our guide, Balin Zrar, an affable, incredibly resourceful young man from Iraq, had a marvelous command of the English language, having lived in England for four years. He made life easy for the group at every turn, even sending us into a little shop along the way to pick out any treats that we might want for the trip. Then he paid the entire bill!

(See January 2020 issue of International Travel News)

Ruth-Louise Moran

February, 2019

I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with all your arrangements during my tour of Kurdistan, I cannot think of any way you could have given me a better insight into this fascinating region. Please convey my heartfelt thanks to my wonderful guide and driver. I hope that they enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs. I have appointed myself as your unofficial, unpaid promoter and hope that my friends take my advice and contact you.

Guest from Sobek Mountain Travel

February, 2019

The guides were fabulous. Balin is incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating.

Emma Watson, TravelAge West

April, 2018

When Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), took his 17-year-old son to Iraqi Kurdistan, for example, he found little information on the destination available online.... Because of this, he turned to Explore Mesopotamia, an on-the-ground operator and ATTA member.

“I strongly recommend building a relationship with a reliable tour operator — one with a well-known reputation and a history in the destination,” Stowell said. “The other option is to go yourself and become an expert in the region, but that will also likely end up with finding a good operator who has years in business, a solid risk-management plan and experience working with international travelers.”

Excerpt from A Travel Agent Guide to Selling High-Risk Travel


April, 2017

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for a wonderful experience when I visited Kurdistan last week. We were very fortunate to have Abdallah as our guide, and he was excellent. This was my second visit to Kurdistan, and am very fortunate to have had the services of Abdallah on both occasions. Not only is his knowledge of the area excellent, but his personality made our tour even more memorable. Spending time with him was an absolute pleasure.

Mike Decke

April, 2016

The Kurdistan visit exceeded all my expectations - a totally unique experience with many cultural surprises. Balin is a superb guide and a really tireless travel companion too. I would be happy to give you a more comprehensive review in a couple of days once I address the backlog here at work. Where else could on visit the holy city of the Yezidi people, an abandoned monastery and synagogue all in the same day? Also local people were very welcoming in an unscripted way. For instance, we had a nice conversation with a Christian refugee from Mosul who was painting St. George on the side of a residence in Al Qosh - amazing!

Ihab Zaki, Owner of Spiekermann Travel

June, 2015

Oh MY God… what a BEAUTIFUL book (Kurdistan Tour Guide) … amazingly arranged and fantastic photos… good quality printing… I want to really get back to Kurdistan very soon! Thanks a MILLION!

Paul Cooper

November, 2013

We just returned from the 10-2013 trip with Other Iraq Tours (now Explore Mesopotamia) led by Balin. It was a really wonderful experience.  Balin is a great person and a very knowledgeable guide.  He made the trip interesting with stories about the places we visited, the culture, and the history of Kurdistan.  The itinerary of the trip includes a variety of sites that are well worth seeing – there was a mixture of historical, religious and cultural sites, as well as sites from Saddam’s dictatorship.  The biggest surprise we had was the extensive economic and infrastructure development going on in the country.  Finally, the food and hotels were great.  All in all, an unforgettable trip.

Irma Schlumph – Zurich Switzerland

November, 2013

I had the great pleasure to visit Kurdistan/Iraq in September 2011. I booked the trip through a Swiss travel agency and I travelled with Halwest around the country. I loved it and I want to see more. It has been one of my most wonderful trips. And this was also because of my guide Halwest, who gave me the feeling to be in safe hands. He took any occasion to show me his beautiful country and he opened my eyes for the population, the food, customs and life in general. Unforgettable!

Liz and Ian

May, 2013

Ian and I just wanted you to know personally how much we enjoyed our trip to Iraqi Kurdistan with Steppes.

Apart from the country being so fabulously interesting, what made it for me was the wonderful contribution that both Rebecca and Balin made to the tour. As an Assyriologist myself I really valued Rebecca’s fantastic input and all the work she did on areas of interest some of which were not really within her specialist field. She went out of her way to reveal things in the country which most tourists wouldn’t see - including a visit to the Shanidar Cave with a talk from Tim Reynolds, the palaeo-archaeologist, who had just arrived that day to start work on the cave. She has that amazing quality, so often lacking in guest speakers, of knowing when to give more information and when to lower the tone! I hope you will engage her often as she is truly a worthwhile speaker and very hard-working. Indeed, a lovely person.

Balin too was just terrific; he was kind, helpful and extremelyunderstanding of everyone’s needs and wants. His knowledge of his country’s history and the areas we visited was amazing. He went out of his way to make us all feel at home and never stopped looking after our needs.

I celebrated a birthday while we were away and Rebecca and Balin were extremely thoughtful and kind, decorating the bus with balloons and banners and giving me a lovely party in the evening. They work so well as a team together and one can sense that real appreciation of each other’s contribution to the tour. Brilliant combo!!

The trip was so good, Justin, that I just felt I had to write to you personally and tell you so!

Hope you’re well and enjoying Steppes and the Traveller - a bit different from our time aboard Le Boreal together, but I’m sure immensely pleasurable!

Kindest regards from us both


David and Kathy from Switzerland

May, 2013

Thank you on behalf of David and me for taking such good care of us during our recent tour of some of the highlights of your homeland. We loved every moment and appreciated all the information you shared with us over those nine days. If only we could start all over again!

How patient you were, how efficient (all that checking in at hotels, for example, was made quite painless for us - and all the meals that just appeared without any effort on our part - and the delicious picnic.....). One thing we particularly enjoyed was having flexible time in places: stopping by the butcher's 'shop' by the side of the road last Friday, hopping off the bus to shop for baskets (now proving very useful in the home), an unscheduled lunch at the Zhe Cafe - all that and very much more made our holiday truly special.

We do hope that in the not too distant future, you and your family will be able to spend restful and relaxing time together. You are such a good ambassador for your country - we will not forget you, or Kurdistan!

Very best wishes from Switzerland.

David and Kathy