Akre, a Kurdish city coming from fire
The city of Akre's connection with fire dates back to the Zoroastrian faith. Local historians believe that Akre emerged as long ago as 700 BC as a settlement created by Prince Zeid.
"Akre is considered one of the oldest cities in history," said Jalil Bilal, a local historian. "Some historians say it dates back to 580 BC, during the time of the Kurdish Prince Zand, but it is older than that according to the ancient settlements in the area."
Though Akre is an ancient city, the modern city was established in 1877 during the time of the Ottoman Empire. It soon became the center of the district.
The town is located 123 kilometers (75 miles) from the Kurdistan Region capital Erbil and is presently home to 70,000 people. Several famous people come from Akre, including Hiner Saleem, the Kurdish film director, Yitzhak Mordechai, Israel's former defense minister, and Hoshyar Zabari, Iraq's former finance minister.
Akre lies on the foot of Speelik and Kaynagal mountains. It has several historical sites such as temples, statues, ancient buildings, and many springs. These attract thousands of tourists to the area each year.
"It is not only the architecture of the houses in the town that blows your mind; it is all the mineral springs, the hiking areas, river rafting, caves, and palaces," Adil Kareem, a tourist, told Kurdistan24.
"This small town has a lot to offer."
Akre has a wonderful old city, and the topography creates a beautiful townscape of terraced houses with narrow streets, mosques, a bazaar, and traditional shops.
To the north of the city, mountains block the Zebari and Barzan areas. The Zab River winds past the mountains of Barzan. The Khazarand River lies to the west of the town.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) plans to build a cable car to bring tourists to Akre's famous peaks, such as Qeli Akre. The municipality is planting 5,000 trees a year to restore the area's greenery, which was lost due to a combination of deforestation and war.
Akre town is rich with several historical sites.
"The most famous site in Akre is Akre Hill Castle," Bilal said. "Especially during Newroz when thousands of people celebrate here. During Newroz, young people hold torches and climb the mountain."
The castle lies in the northern part of Akre town, built by Prince Zand in 580 BC on top of the mountain. It has four pillars, a water cistern, and a room called 'the jail.' It consists of several floors.
Bilal and other locals refer to the castle as the most valuable site that remains in their memory.
"Muslims, Jews, and Muslims used to live here peacefully," Bilal noted. "They used to gather on top of the mountain in the castle for holidays and celebrations."
Sile and Sipa waterfalls are other wonders in the city. Other attractions include a shrine of Abdul Aziz Al-Jilani, Mary Church, Zarka Spring, Gundik Cave, Girbish springs, Zanta Valley, and the temple of Zoroaster.
"The story behind the town coming from fire is related to its name," Bilal explained. "Akre comes from Agr, which means fire. It is not related to the Zoroaster Temple."
The temple is located about 220m (720ft.) at the bottom of Qeli Akre. It is inside a cave called Agri Temple and consists of three big rooms connected by doors. The area of each room is 12 meters long and three meters wide.
"Akre's sites tell me a lot about its ancient history," Kareem said. "This town is an example of coexistence of various religious and ethnic groups."