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Sunday, May 19, 2024
HomeWorld MapIraqNavigating Iraqi Checkpoints: The Road to Samarra

Navigating Iraqi Checkpoints: The Road to Samarra

Iraqi Checkpoints is part of the Iraq Homecoming Trip Report.

Catch up on all the posts here:

Do you want to test your patience? Do you want to try your luck at being cheeky with armed men? Then hop in your car and take a ride up from Baghdad to Mosul. I would not recommend the self-drive tour, though having a guide may be more invasive than insightful (see Driver Vs. Guide). Following the defeat of ISIS, Iraq has become increasingly safe. To keep peace in Baghdad, there are armed Humvees everywhere. To keep order in the country, there are checkpoints throughout Iraq. These checkpoints are administered by the Iraqi army, Iraqi police, local militias, and all groups in between.

a police car parked on the street
a police car on the street
two men standing next to a truck
I bought an Iraqi police uniform. But that’s for another post.
a car on the road
There are billboards of Qasem Soleimani all over Baghdad especially in the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq. He was killed appropriately by the Trump administration while visiting Iraq in 2020. This billboard is a literal sign of Iran’s influence and infiltration of Iraq, a sovereign nation.

On the way to Samarra, we experienced checkpoint after checkpoint. Some went smoothly, some had friction. All this took place over a distance of 80 miles.

Checkpoint 1

  • Guard (in Arabic): Do you speak Arabic? Any issues with the driver?

I found this one interesting as he was concerned about my well-being.

a road with a building under construction
Many were locked and loaded.
a man sitting in a chair next to a stop sign
Others were not.

a military vehicle on the road

Checkpoint 2

  • Guard (in Arabic): Passports.

It became apparent that I should always have my passport ready and proactively volunteer information. Like the TSA, it’s better to expect the questioning than be surprised when it happens (see Traveling While Arab? Pack Your Sense of Humor).

a military vehicle on the road
Can you imagine going down I-75 and seeing this Humvee? Safe or scary?

Checkpoint 3

My driver thought he could coast through this checkpoint. We were quickly stopped.

  • Guard (in Arabic): Why didn’t you say you are a tour guide? Where are you from?
  • Smart-Ass Tour Guide: Baghdad
  • Me (thinking): He obviously wants to know where Ms. TPOL and I are from.

As an expert at border crossings, I was not shocked when were pulled aside and questioned further. I lectured the cocky tour guide and said next time stick to the strategy from Checkpoint 2.

a tank on a bridge

a view from a car window of a building
Not sure what’s over there and I didn’t want to find out.

Checkpoint 4: Passports must be surrendered before seeing the Great Mosque of Samarra (see Samarra). It’s always a comforting feeling to know that I can’t go anywhere.a military vehicle with a gun in front of a window

a truck parked in front of a wall

Checkpoint 5: We got this far. They have our passports. We are waived through.

a gate with a sign and a sign on it

TPOL’s Tip: Use the toilet before checkpoints.


The guards, whoever they were and whoever they represented, were much nicer than US Customs and Immigration.




    • Go read the proceeding posts that are linked for your convenience. Where is your comment for those ones? ‘As usual’ useless comment

  1. You do have a sparse writing style. But you include significantly more photos and video which more than balances the word count. Thoroughly enjoyed you posts.

    • It’s a ‘perfect phone call’ writing style. I use the exact amount of words to convey the point succinctly. Thank you for reading.

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