Facing initial uncertainty and unknowns about the country, it was when a YouTuber friend invited him along that 26 year old Doug Barnard of Simsbury, Connecticut, embarked on his first trip to Iraq in August 2021, following his travels in Saudi Arabia and Egypt during the coronavirus pandemic. A spontaneous invitation and trip, it was after only 15 minutes of deliberation that Doug decided to embark into Iraq.
With a tour company handling logistics, airport transfers, he was able to travel a great length of the country from Baghdad to Babylon, prior to a self-guided tour with locals in Mosul and Erbil. His first impressions, arriving at night into Baghdad, were of the militarisation of the city, embodied in the concrete bollards and guard posts manned by military personnel. Despite this, he said he did not feel unsafe, feeling soon at home, the hustle and bustle reminiscent of Cairo. He was taken aback by the kindness and friendlyness of the locals, regarding them as “the friendliest people in the world”. During his visit, Doug produced countless videos from the time in the country, the sights, the cuisine, street scenes and daily life of Iraqis, immersing himself into the country. He witnessed the Arb’aeen pilgrimage, the largest gathering of people in the world. His two videos from the festival reached almost half a million views on YouTube, his video of the Mosque of Karbala reaching 1.2 million views.
Doug’s videos from Iraq, a highly-connected country, of which over 93% of the population is online, have lead to an increase in his social media following, with around 85% of his TikTok followers now being Iraqi. He was even recognised by a viewer whilst filming in the country.
When asked about his presence in the country as an American, Doug said he had experienced not one instance of hostility. In Mosul, upon learning of his American nationality, a man gifted Doug a prayer beads. Doug maintains his hope for the country’s future development and prosperity.
Following his most recent visit in October, during which he led a group tour including people from the US, Canada and France he plans to return in February where he will again lead a group.