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!

Shannon Stowell  President- Adventure Travel Trade Association

August, 2015

Shattered Stereotypes

Iraq doesn’t exactly top most travelers’ wish lists. But Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, says it should.
Stowell was to spend a week in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and didn’t know what to expect. “There’s so much tension in the region and Americans aren’t always the world’s favorite guest,” he says. His friends and family had concerns, and voiced them. Despite his apprehension, kind and hospitable Kurds welcomed him. “The people were so gracious and warm that I felt nothing but care and trust,” he said. “I played pool with strangers, walked through the markets, shared tea and meals, crashed a wedding, rode a cliff-edge roller coaster, and even got a shave from a street barber with a straight razor,” he says. “That’s trust.” When Shannon visited Kurdistan with his son, he chose Explore Mesopotamia to handle the tour.

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!

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

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


Vladimir Blaha

June, 2012

This past May (2012) I have spent a great week in Kurdistan, Iraq, traveling with "The Other Iraq Tours" (now Explore Mesopotamia). Though I was told this region of Iraq is quite safe, I found it even better. I have found it prosperous and stable. My two guides, Pedro and Balin, were very knowledgeable and answered all my questions to my full satisfaction. Both went past their duties to make me understand their country.

Marcia Henderson

May, 2012

The Other Iraq Tours (now Explore Mesopotamia) is just that.... Who would think Kurdistan (northern Iraq) has such dramatic and stunning scenery ! Balin, our guide, was proud to share his culture and historical sites. Soo much to experience and enjoy. Kurds are quite hospitable and delightful. Always, I felt safe and did not even consider being in Iraq as dangerous. A road less traveled, although worth the effort.

Cathrin Schaer

January, 2012

It's not every day you get to visit a country that's been in the headlines this much. Although I knew I wasn't going to be roaming the streets in a flak jacket…I wasn't quite sure what to expect and was a little nervous. I think traveling here (Kurdistan) did what traveling is well known to do: it broadened my mind. Meeting the people in any country… makes a place more real., I look back and think it was a damn fine thing that I got the chance to.

Jim O'Brien, Undiscovered Destinations

December, 2011

The Other Iraq Tours (now Explore Mesopotamia) is an extremely professional company with a high level of personal service and a great attention to detail, doing everything possible to ensure a successful visit to a fascinating part of the world, and making it accessible and enjoyable for visitors. Kurdistan has great potential as a destination, and The Other Iraq Tours is superbly placed to be able to show travelers the best it has to offer.

Mara Ussino - Asti Italy

October, 2011

Kurdistan! It’s a real miracle, if you think of the awful conditions of the rest of Iraq. In Iraq all you can find is war and destruction, one of the worst and most dangerous countries in the world, then you cross the border (to Kurdistan), you are always in Iraq but in a completely different place, safe, rich, peaceful, you can go everywhere without problems and dangers. Think of the differences between Erbil and Mosul… here peace and welfare, there death and despair… and they are in the same country and so close! Kurdistan should be a model for the rest of the world, and it’s really incredible that in western countries nobody speaks about it, it’s like Kurdistan doesn’t exist.