The most popular urban destination for Erbil’s park-lovers, Shanidar Park is unlikely to offer any respite from the bustle of the city center but provides a great opportunity for a spot of people-watching.
Don’t be surprised to find queues after sunset in the summer months when locals turn out in hoards to take in the cool evening air and do a little people-watching of their own.
The park’s labyrinth of stone paths winding between the planted areas and around a small central lake offer a multitude of opportunities to bump into friends, neighbors and family members.
There is an ample selection of garden terrace cafes offering welcome refreshments and a moment of detente.
At the heart of the park is an unusual edifice, half-cave and half-fortress, complete with cascading waterfalls and stalactites. Welcome to the Shanidar Art Gallery, Erbil’s oldest permanent exhibition space.
Although much of the artwork on display in the gallery’s regularly rotating exhibition doesn’t stray too far from what you might expect of a provincial art space showcasing mainly student works, there are occasional treasures to be discovered. A visit to the gallery can also provide an opportunity to meet local artists who, language-permitting, will be delighted to talk about their work and experiences.
All in all, Shanidar Park may not offer the shy and retiring an oasis of calm in the city centre, but bristling with life and the possibility of making new acquaintances, an evening visit is well worth the effort.