The State of Iraq is synonymous with war. But apparently, a photographer there showed real life and was fascinated by nature and culture.

As reported by CNN, the Middle East country has long been synonymous with conflict or chaos of war. But Norwegian photographer Christian Lindgren did that, flew to Iraq for an unusual vacation, toured the country’s historic sites, met locals and tried delicious food.

Lindgren photographed his experience and shared photos on social media as well as his website. He hopes people will see him and think again about Iraq. “People can see that this country is moving forward. The situation is much better lately because what you see in the media is just the bad side of the country,” he told CNN.

Visa management

A plane trip to Baghdad runs smoothly and fast? Tourists of various countries need to submit a visa application and the process is complicated. Lindgren really likes to go to an unusual country. He was fed up with the complexity of the booming tourists and left trash when visiting.

He had spent time in Syria and travelled around North Korea. The website, Unusual Traveler, provides tips and tricks on how to visit the country as above. “I have been to all the surrounding countries. So I know the history well and I always want to go there, but the situation is not good enough to visit it yesterday,” Lindgren said.

“This country has the most difficult visa affairs in the world today,” he added.

Iraqi Museum

Lindgren explained that good communication was needed with local residents who could submit visa applications to the foreign ministry in Baghdad. “Then your background will be examined and if the reason for your visit is good it will take three or four months to be approved,” Lindgren explained.

Lindgren befriended a number of Iraqi refugees in Norway who directed him when arranging visas. He also made contact with local residents via the internet.

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When in Iraq

“When you go to Iraq, you are required to have a government licensed guide near you at all times,” he said. “You can walk around the city alone, but you must have a guide to travel between cities and you also have to stay in an official hotel. Very tight,” he added. Lindgren said he did not lack photo stock there. There are no military restrictions to shoot at historic sites.

Iraqi Museum

Local residents, he said, were very friendly and happy to send photos to him. Even the army. “I have a picture of a soldier in Samarra and he really posed. It’s one of the safest places in this country,” he explained. The airport immigration people whom Lindgren met also welcomed him. Moreover, they were also very surprised to have seen a tourist visa for the sixth time.

Lindgren said his hopes for daily life in Iraq were far from the reality of the news. Namely a liberal, relaxed Iraqi country that needs military security to be maintained at every corner of the road until life continues to run for all restaurants to their coffee shops.

“Even late at night on the streets of Baghdad, people were very friendly, asking me to drink tea and coffee. They invited me to have dinner together,” he said. “I just don’t expect too much, which is to go to the store and buy alcohol,” he added.

Photographs of Lindgren describe Baghdad as a vibrant, historic and cultured city. He took a picture of a Ferris wheel in Baghdad’s Al Zawra’a Recreational Park, inside a rebuilt zoo. He took photos in a traditional tea house, where locals gathered to chat and relax. No escape from the bustling atmosphere of Baghdad Market.

Indeed there are armoured cars everywhere. But Lindgren admitted that he was accustomed to this because he was experienced in visiting places with high security.

“I have gone to places where the locals will tell you, ‘Don’t go to this area is not safe, stay away’ and that happens in Iraq too. But in general, on the way to Iraq, I have no security problems. I have never felt insecure at all, “he stressed.

Iraqi Museum

The photographer also headed to the ancient capital city of Ctesiphon, the last Persian capital in Iraq. He also took the train from Basra, in southern Iraq to Baghdad with the opening of the track in 2014. Lindgren acknowledges that it is easier to travel as a man. But on his trip to Iraq, he was accompanied by two female friends who also had no problems at all.

Not only wars

Many countries prevent citizens from visiting Iraq. Since the 2003 US invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the country has fought the violence which in 2014-17 has escalated into a civil war against ISIS terrorist groups. The US State Department warns of the risk of terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict. Lindgren’s number one advice is to conduct thorough research.

“You have to read a lot about the security situation and talk to quite a lot of locals before you travel. Because, even if the media say it’s too dangerous, only the locals really know the situation,” he stressed. Lindgren is pleased that his photos have attracted the appeal of internet users, including in Iraq. “Much Iraqi media have used it and are really trying to show that tourists are really coming to the country now,” he said.

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