Secrets from Slemani

Pssst. Hello. Care to know a few secrets from the Cultural Capital?

I am sat at a local cafe. If I did not search for it, I would have never known it was located on this inner neighbourhood road. I need to pinch myself to believe what I am seeing is real. In fact, I change seats three different times to observe the surrounding and the people here from different angles.

Bahar Lounge, Slemani (Sulaimaniya)

The two young girls on my right are architecture students. I can tell. The papers of designs, sketches, and their laptop screen says it all. The boys sitting behind us have their laptops open, a few books are on the table and they are talking over coffee. I can’t hear them to report on their conversation. Sorry! I am assuming it is a study break. Two ladies by the window are replying emails, so many emails. I feel so nosy, but the sight is too good to be true. A young man sat on a stool to my left greets who might be a lover or a fiancé (maybe even a wife) with a tight hug and a kiss on her forehead as she arrives. His hand remains on her waist as they speak. Their gaze is too affectionate to be that of siblings. My heart jumps with theirs.

Waiters and waitresses move from table to table with smiles. Bahar Lounge, where I am, is like a cosy tiny home that I would design for myself. Lamps and dim lights, shelves, old radio here, and an even older mirror there. Plates and cups that don’t match. There are handmade cushions and seating arrangements designed to suit every need. I promise to revisit this little cafe on a winter’s night. “I can probably write a book here”, I sigh to my partner, “you mean books”, he replies.

An evening date with your Love, a solo outing to read a book or somewhere for work motivation, Bahar Cafe is your little secret place after working hours. Want to know a bonus? There is no smoking inside.

This is the first secret.

Secret number two is for more energetic and vibrant mornings. It is ideal for a morning chit-chat with a friend, a work meeting and perfect for when you experience one of those moments of opening the fridge, and you find nothing to eat for breakfast. Jan Coffee/Breakfast (the place is called Jan Breakfast) has a lovely breakfast and brunch menu. Request your chai in a pyala and you have your first meal for the day served for a King. The music in the background is exceptional.

I thoroughly enjoyed the vibrant colours, and calmness felt in the place. The staff are charming—all local. I ordered in Kurdish, something I had not done in so long. Sorani Kurdish. The coffee was served with a million basaqas and baqurbans on the side. The waitress smiles—a smiling, happy, local Kurdish waitress. I realised there was smoking indoors, on any normal occasion I would immediately leave, but the service, the atmosphere, the breakfast was so good that I stayed for another three hours. Only three hours. I must add I was in the company of very lovely people.

Bahar is founded by a lovely young woman I had the honour of meeting, Jan is founded by a local young man whose passion is coffee. I learn from locals that they both have incredible stories and are amazing individuals. I have no doubt, as the little cafes, hidden in inner neighbourhood roads tell so many stories about the owners.

Next time you’re in town, hold your morning meeting in Jan, and take your evening date to Bahar. Upon your return, let me know about your experience.

For now, lots of love from

My Nest in Kurdistan



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