The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is a culturally rich caliphate with a long history. The area experienced its first heyday around AD 796 and its second heyday never.
Since the first millennium, things have become a little grittier in the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa. This is varsity level travel. But adventurous souls should have no problem enjoying ISIS’s distinct culture (and delicious kibbeh!), as long as they are mindful of pickpockets and observe no other gods before Allah.
Illegal, clandestine busses board at 3 a.m. in Damascus under the cover of darkness and the protection of Allah. Pro tip: Head to the station early and look for the falafel salesman with the green cart. His falafel is OK. More importantly, he’s the guy that sells the fake documents you’ll need to get into the Islamic State. They should run you about SYP 9500.00 (USD 50.00). The falafel goes for SYP 200.00 (USD 1.25).
While in transit, keep your passports handy. You’ll need to burn them when you cross the border.
Once you arrive in Raqqa, check the timetables in local papers for the Syrian Railway — as a joke! The Syrian Railway no longer serves the caliphate, because Allah has willed that infidels shall not have smooth passage into his chosen land.
You guessed it.
Theater & Entertainment
Is a blasphemous offense under Shariah law.
See: Interrogation and other sections in which our travel writers reference things they ate.
Super underground. Your best bet is to stand in the town square and just sort of put out the vibe. Not the easiest cultural area to traverse, but you can be sure you’ll get a truly authentic experience.
THE BAGHDAD GATE
The Bāb Baghdād (or Baghdad Gate, in the infidel tongue) was constructed in AH 155 (or AD 772, to use the crusader’s blasphemous calendar) by Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur as a fortification against the neighboring Ottomans. Originally the wall stretched around the entirety of the city. Now all that remains is a small section of the wall, facing Baghdad. Luckily, the glorious caliphate will once again vanquish all heretics and there will be no more need for walls in the world, God willing.
At this time, tours are sort of shitty. People are busy. There’s a jihad. Your best bet is to respectfully ask a local.
The big executions start daily at 5 p.m. (between fourth and fifth prayers). Smart travellers arrive immediately after lunch as the crowds start lining up as early as noon for the matinee executions.
Pro tip: Rent a scooter or motorcycle for the event. Not only will it allow you to get across town fast, you can push up close to the action without blocking anyone’s view with your head. The Islamic State is not the kind of place you want to draw attention to your head being attached to your neck.
Not into the beheading scene? There are all sorts of dismemberments to be witnessed throughout the city, 24 hours a day. The venues change constantly so get a guide to show you the hottest spots for about SYP 300.00 (USD 2.00).
For a front row seat simply shout, “Thief!” and choose someone who looks guilty. Etiquette prescribes no flash photography while a shoplifter loses his right hand.
Getting Out of the City
The best way to get outside of the Islamic State’s sand-brick jungles is to grab a packed lunch and a submachine gun and head for noble jihad with the Lord’s chosen army. Hold on tight! You’ll be veiled in black on the back of a white Toyota truck before you can say “Deserts have potholes!? Oh boy!”
Why We Love the Islamic State
Admittedly, there are some things – the hot weather, the political instability, the traffic!! – that make the Islamic State a less-than-ideal place. But there’s so much more that makes it amazing. The food. The people. The traditions (Shariah law as practiced a thousand years ago, or maybe never! What???).
Does any other place have such a full-flavoured, no-holds-barred, insatiable, fanatical approach to rape and execution?
Not to mention: The architecture. The history. The slim possibility that writing this travel guide gets my sentence commuted.
For these reasons and more, we love the Islamic State.
All praise be unto Him.
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