In 2003, the Erbil airstrip abutted pastureland. The only flight in was on a Beechcraft operated by Airserv, which spiralled down to a bumpy landing and rolled up to a temporary trailer that served as customs, immigration, and flight operations rolled together. Your security team would hang out at a little tea cafe just outside the perimeter, awaiting the buzz of the inbound engine before roaring up in a boil of dust to meet you. Erbil now sports a brand-new, shiny, international airport
, "the world's gateway to Kurdistan," with all mod cons, professional staff, and regular flights from Munich, Istanbul, Amman, and Dubai. And, thankfully, frigid air conditioning. Royal Jordanian
still arrives from Amman at the ungodly hour of 3:00 a.m.; the crisp arrival is a wakeful blessing. The second blessing is the automatic 10-day visa granted all Americans on landing. The third is the low traffic volume at that hour: dashing to passport control, we realize that we needn't have bothered. We were it, and it took, well, as long as it took for two passport agents to scan and stamp us on our merry way. Tea?