Backpacking in Ainkawa: A Christian Suburb of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq

church in iraq

A Church in Iraq? The spire in Ainkawa in Iraqi Kurdistan.

When you travel in the Middle East you get used to Mosques. Islam is the main religion and there are Mosques everywhere. However, Christians, Jews and Buddhists also reside in these parts of course. But a Christian Quarter in Iraq? Yes – in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, often referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan. While backpacking in Erbil, I headed out to the suburb of Ainkawa. This beautiful district outside the city of Erbil is often known as the Christian Quarter or even the German Quarter. Christians live here in harmony and have done for years. There is no way I was skipping it, even less so when I heard there was a bar with German beer.

kurdistan iraq ainkawa

On the road to Ainkawa, Kurdistan, Iraq.

It’s an easy place to reach from Erbil – just hop in a taxi to Ainkawa – less than 4kilometres from the city centre, you could also walk or if you have a bike even better! We took taxis out there and back which is safe and cheap enough (4 or 5 Iraqi Dinars is standard rate). Here are some of the things I noticed and enjoyed in Ainkawa, Kurdistan, Iraq.

iraq christian quarter

The Christian Quarter of AInkawa in Iraqi Kurdistan.

1. Swanky Hotels

Erbil has been labelled “The New Dubai” a few times. While this might seem a bit crazy to some, it makes perfect sense. The city has a lot of new skyscrapers being built and Ainkawa has a range of swanky, upmarket hotels!

ainkawa erbil kurdistan

Swanky Hotels in Ainkawa, Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

We didn’t stay out in Ainkawa in these hotels though – we based ourselves in central Erbil in and around the Bazaar. But certainly a lot of tourists do base themselves here. I have to admit though that these swanky hotels and the foreigners that stay in them, are not really my “type of people” though I obviously won’t judge all the people who stay here as that. But read: US and UK businessmen that want 4 or 5 star service, a change of clothes every day and they don’t wear shorts or go backpacking to the main sights.

2. Churches

Ainkawa is the Christian neighbourhood and features a few churches. They are really nice buildings and worth checking out. By far my favourite was St. Joseph’s Church which is actually just in the centre of town and on quite an obvious road.

christian church iraq

At St. Joseph’s Church in the Christian District of Ainkawa, Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq.

There are a lot of non-Iraqis/non-Kurds here too and Christians so there are regular church services so if you’re backpacking in the region and want to go in and pray, you can.

iraq churches ainkawa

St. Joseph’s Church in Ainkawa, Iraqi Kurdistan.

3. Off Licences/Bottle Shops/Liquor Stores

You might have followed my thirsty Thursdays feature and be aware that I like to have a beer when I travel. Ainkawa is littered with a string of off licences along the main street, meaning you can pick up all kinds of alcoholic products here.

ainkawa off licence

An off licence in Iraq? Yes, Ainkawa has quite a few of them!

I found cans of Irish Murphys, bottles of Scotch and all sorts of foreign beers. In fact, it’s not much different from other countries. They have a full range.

4. Deutscher Hof German Beer Bar

OK so this was my highlight from my visit to Ainkawa! The Deutscher Hof German Bar. It takes a while to find the place and it’s not on the main strip, so take a walk around at your leisure and ask some people. The location is listed on their website:

Karez Strasse 1, House 240/6/70 Phone +964 (0) 750 5883981

You will find the „Deutscher Hof Erbil“ in Ainkawa. If you are coming from Erbil Entering Ainkawa turn the 1st road right and then turn the 4rd road left you will find us after around 200m on the left hand side.

german beer ainkawa iraq

Totally loving the Bratwurst and German Beer in Ainkawa!It serves really good food and beer but does come at a price, I admit it’s not cheap but worth it for a once in a while treat. They accept Iraqi Dinars and US Dollars.

iraq german bar kurdistan

A German Bar in Iraq – yes please!! This is in Ainkawa in Kurdistan.

You can relax here knowing you are safe yet officially in Iraq. Fickle bunch those who listen to the media. This place was opened by a German Soldier. Prost!

So if you end up in Iraq, in Kurdistan, in Erbil, be sure to check out the suburb of Ainkawa. Well worth a trip out to this unique Christian Quarter. Check out my information on getting iraq visas and touring the Amna Suraka.

More backpacking in Iraq and a Kurdistan video here from my trip to Ainkawa:

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18 thoughts on “Backpacking in Ainkawa: A Christian Suburb of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq

  • Thanks for the comment Vanessa – yes it really is a cool country – just stick to the safer Iraqi Kurdistan region and you’ll love it. Ainkawa was a big surprise. Having toured the Middle East for about 5 months, you won’t believe how amazing some German sausage and lager went down! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny,
    I was wanting to travel to Kurdistan for a month or so and was wondering what the best way to get into Kurdistan would be? I want to visit Ainkawa but didn’t know if traveling through Turkey or which cities would be best to go through. Any advice? Thanks!

  • Hi Brennan thanks for the comment – yep a visit there is TOTALLY recommended however most passports only get a 14 day visa so it might cost you longer for a one month visa: as for the entry points, we flew into Erbil but overland from Turkey is the best option my guide tells you everything you need to know for the basics: Safe travels. Jonny

  • I am Aget . 22 yeara old. i came to chritianty in Germany/hamburg . I wolud like to back and see how the churches work in kurdistan and really like to meet with kurdish chritian and pastors . If any one interested to have contact.
    [email protected]

  • i came to chritianty in Germany/hamburg . I wolud like to back and see how the churches work in kurdistan and really like to meet with kurdish chritian and pastors . If any one interested to have contact.
    [email protected]

  • Hello welcome My name is Hadi Qais Hadi displaced Christian from Mosul to the Kurdistan region of Iraq have fled from Daash because of our fear of that kill usterrorists on the basis of Christatna We now live in the province of Dohuk in northern Iraq now, we are living the humanitarian situation is very difficult and my father and mother very satisfactory and my brother had been to the kidnapping by terrorists in 2007 but fortunately has escaped them on the track and has been subjected topsychological trauma have We were to death threats several times and now after his escape from Mosul from the grip of terrorists have left everything behind our house and everything and we are nowasking for your help to resort to outside Iraq, especially for asylum to the usa or aus or canda or england or ger pleaseHelp us so please, we are living very, very difficult situations
    Help reasons we asked you to turn to outside Iraq, particularly to the canada
    · The terrorists have repeatedly threatened America or Canada, Britain or Germany, Australia or with

    death because of our Christianity, then they actually have kidnapped my son Armeen for several hours and fortunately he could escape from their hostage-taking.

    · The terrorists have seized our home and our two car spare parts workshops, finally we left every behind us and escaped with only our clothes that we wore.

    · Terrorists have killed many of our relatives.

    · At present we live in a very desperate situation in all aspect. I have explained to you why you seek help for asylum outside Iraq, and especially for asylum to the America or Canada, Britain or Germany, Australia or please help me please. You can contact me at the number +9647701662652 or +9647511651975 thenumber on the e-mail address: [email protected]

    Can you help me or financial and material assistance or treatment or relief

  • Hi, great photos and thanks for sharing. If you look at history you will find that Christianity has always existed in iraq especially north where Assyrians orginiated from. Prior to the American invasion, estimates where of up to 1.5 millions Christians living in Iraq. Modern times and the rise of islamic fanatics forced the majority to abandon their homeland due to genocide, death threats and overall fear for safety….this is alarming because places like Iraq and Syria held some of the most ancient Christian communities and churches…we can all say that western politics has been a contributing factor to this destruction rise to fanaticism.

  • Just got back from Erbil via Istanbul. Beautiful city great people best food in the world. Stayed in Quartz hotel, very clean, pool jacuzzi workout room at the top level, and best of all very safe.

    It gives hope to the Erbilies that Americans love them and their city is very beautiful.

  • Hi Jon, thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay. I am getting round to reading and reply to about 1,500 comments now. I loved Erbil too. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Denis, Thanks for the comment and apologies for the delay. I have been experiencing severe depression caused by a liar, this has been going on for a few years and I wasn’t checking all comments and messages on here. I had a good time in Erbil. Stay safe. Jonny

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