Published September 20, 2012
In Iraqi Kurdistan the economy is booming and shopping is a popular weekend activity. Where the shoppers go, whether it's the high-end Family Mall or the more affordable covered bazaar, says something about what is happening to the region. For now, the accelerated economic growth risks leaving behind a lower class unable to adapt to the expensive city. The proliferation of malls like the Family Mall, which the bazaar's patrons avoid, threatens to create a lasting but hidden segregation between Erbil's rich and poor.
If the venue illustrates the changing Erbil, so do the products. Almost everything for sale in both places is imported, much of it from neighboring Turkey which last year exported $5.5 billion worth of goods to Iraqi Kurdistan. This commercial invasion has a cultural impact. Turkish goods are both a status symbol and a necessity, and the country's food, style, and language mingle with the local.
Kurdish products are sometimes referred to jokingly as "organic." They are uncommon but sought after; often, as with Shaqlawa's ice cream, they are eaten in celebration like rare treats.