I visited Iraq in 2007 with my family. We went for a pilgrimage tour and visited Karbala and Najaf in Iraq. These both places are holy and probably the 2nd most important place to visit for Muslims after Makkah in Saudi Arabia because Karbala has the Shrine of Imam Hussain , Abbas Alamdar and all his Ahla baiyt ( the immediate family of prophet Mohammad) as they were martyred in Moharram and Najaf has the Shrine of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib.
Iraq was in a very delicate condition went we visited it. Iraq was invaded by USA in 2003 and Saddam Hussain was assassinated in December 2006. The US forces had taken over almost all of Iraq and specially Baghdad and we visited Iraq in May 2007 which was still a critical time.
Airports were closed and we were not allowed to go by Air and even Baghdad was not open to tourists and it was very risky so we opted to go by road from Iran.
You can read my another post on Iran Trip.
It was almost a 24 hour journey from Tehran, Iran to Karbala, Iraq. Including the 3 hours at the Border. We reached Mehrabad Border early in the morning and had been stopped by the guards at border and were told that we would not be allowed to cross till someone from Iraq comes to receive us. Travel agents had all their settings in place as after 2-3 hours of wait, The person came and named us and verified our group to cross the border. No paper stamp, nothing. We crossed the border from a side space and I could see other people putting stamp on their respective passports and standing in a queue but we literally just escaped from the side without any stamp. That came as a big surprise for me. After walking and crossing all borders, a bus was waiting for us and finally we boarded the bus and reached Karbala.
On the way, I could hear the sound of Gunshots and military vehicles, it was very scary and in between at the check post, the bus needed to be stopped and some guard from military would come check the bus, then the agent would speak something and show some paper and we were allowed to leave without any hassle.
So this way, We finally made it to the shrine and stayed for 7 long days. While shopping we interacted with locals about Saddam and they all were genuinely happy and thankful to US for assassinating Saddam. At Least People in Karbala and Najaf were.
so this was one of the incidents that I’ll never forget.
On seventh day we safely leaved from that country towards Iran from the same route and same procedure.
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