Hawler City Museum has a large collection of antiquities, many of them thousands of years old. Exhibits include a 6,000-year-old
Neanderthal man and a tall statue of an ancient god. While the museum has an impressive collection, few tourists visit the museum.
The museum is on Qalinj Agha Hill, and it has three main halls, one of which contains Stone Age exhibits from Shanadar Cave. The pieces from the Urartian, Assyrian, Hurri, Saluki, Persian and Haziri periods are in the second section of the museum. These items are 2,000 to 3,000 years old. The third hall is dedicated to items from the Islamic era.
A museum guide said only three to five tourists visit each day. The main visitors to the museum are school and university students during the winter. Few tourists visit to acquaint themselves with Kurdish culture and history.
Haidar Hassan, director of Hawler Museum, said the lack of awareness of archeology and antiquities is the reason for so few visitors. He believes few people know the value of the items at the museum.
The museum is open to tourists and visitors from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, except Fridays and Saturdays. Hassan believes the museum should have longer hours but it is not possible with the current budget. "The museum has received no budget for six years. The museum has only received funds from the province's development budget. For this reason, the museum cannot be open all the time."
Shwan Abdulkarim, member of the Relations, Culture, Media and Archeology Team in the Kurdistan Region Parliament says museums don't get much attention in the Region.
Abdulkarim, who has not yet visited the Hawler City Museum, said the government should pay more attention to museums to attract tourists. The number of tourists is increasing in Kurdistan Region.
"Museums in Kurdistan Region face many problems, like the special law for archeology. It is unclear under which government department museums fall. It is not clear whether they are independent entities or fall under the the Kurdistan Region Government's Ministry of Culture and Youth."
Tourist attractions in Erbil include the museum, the historical shops (Kaisari) at the central market, parks and the Erbil Citadel. The Erbil Citadel is being restored and has its own museum.
Recently, an antiquities store opened inside the Citadel. Khalid Younis Mustafa, the owner of the shop, loves the items he sells, and has been doing it for 40 years. "Foreigners are the top visitors to the shop, and Arabs from other parts Iraq also visit the shop," said Mustafa.
Paying attention to museums and historical treasures should be a priority for KRG so the Region has more to offer tourists. During the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of August, Kurdistan had 190,000 tourists.