Visiting Iraq for the first time was a daunting concept. I heard the safer area was Kurdistan, so I headed to its capital Erbil. After some further research I found not only did the city have plenty of hotels, but also ultra luxurious ones. Divan, a luxury Turkish chain, was quick to reply and organized to host me.
The property had an excellent location between the airport and the old town. This made my late night arrival a breeze. My chauffeur was waiting with a clear sign at the arrivals which was a relief. A sleek black BMW sped on the highway taking me toward a yellow and purple hue rising in the distance. On the way the driver passed me a folder with a pen and my keycard. I was checking into the hotel right then and there. What a personalized service!
Driving into the compound I had a sense of the importance they placed upon security. An automatic metal barrier rose from the floor to halt our vehicle as security checked the trunk and under the vehicle with mirrors. A trained bomb sniffing Belgian shepherd made his round before happily sitting on his platform by the gate. The process was thorough but quick.
As I already had my key, I went straight to my room. My One Bedroom Suite was sleek, spacious, and very comfortable. The lounge in my suite had a couch facing a TV and a separate working area with a desk. The bedroom had a unique design where the sink was behind the bed with a large stylish round mirror. The master bathroom featured a massive marble shower.
After a deep sleep in the heavenly bed, I was ready to start my tour of the city. Looking out my window, I was greeted with a view over Sami Abdul-Rahman Park, the largest in Iraq. The hotel compound is adjacent it, giving easy access for a morning jog.
The manager, Tarkan, met me in the lobby and joined me for breakfast. The buffet was impressive in terms of selection and service.
This GM really knew how to host a guest and helped organize my entire stay. He introduced me to James, who would be my guide throughout Erbil. James is a local Kurd who spoke flawless English and held a passion for his country and history.
Our tour over the next couple days took us to the Citadel of Erbil, museums, markets, parks, shrines, castles, and even tank memorials from the Saddam era. On our last day, we had a wonderful hike to a shrine high up in the mountain. I really had a chance to experience a multitude of Kurdistan’s facets.
The attention and care provided by James was really exceptional! I felt more like a visiting friend than a tourist and at no time was I uncomfortable even given the current conflict just a couple of hours away by car.
Security during my stay never even crossed my mind. Kurdistan was extremely safe and welcoming. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend all adventure travelers to visit!
During my stay at Divan, Tarkan helped me discover the dining options through our dinners together. As a fairly new arrival to Erbil, he had many interesting insights to share about living and working in the city. We chatted over sushi in the immaculate Asian restaurant Qi 21. I told him about my travels over kebabs, Turkish, and international cuisine at Seasons Restaurant. He also showed me Chopin Bar and Saray lounge.
After my touring, I had a massage arranged as well as a yoga class. You can imagine how incredible it felt to get a massage after my intense touring. The spa at the hotel was very professional and had a number of treatments available. The wellness center was connected to the gym featuring the latest in exercising equipment and the indoor pool. My morning yoga lesson set the tone for my entire day. I was relaxed and limber.
Connected to the lobby of the hotel was a shopping arcade with fancy stores, businesses, and even souvenir shops.
With such facilities, the hotel also hosts many events. They have meeting rooms and a conference hall that can cater to up to 400 people.
When it was time to leave, I really didn’t want to go. Not only did Kurdistan surprise me with its hospitality, calm, beauty, and ancient sites, but the team at Divan Erbil made me feel at home… a very fancy, luxurious, and modern home.
The hotel and facilities were excellent, but what really distinguished this stay was the extraordinary service and personal care. This is what sets an excellent hotel apart from a great hotel. I hope all travelers will have a chance to experience what I did at Divan Erbil and Kurdistan in general!
Address: Gulan Street, Erbil, IRAK
Phone: 00964 66 210 5000
Fax: 00964 66 210 5001