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So you might be in your twenties or thirties, but suddenly it’s like university all over again.’ The ensuing parties are legendary, she adds.
Once, employees used their savings to hire Iraq’s famous cellist to sit on the rooftop and play for their barbecue while the guests drank vodka Martinis and beer, singing and swaying so hard they fell over.’ The best gatherings are held by French NGO employees,’ she recalls, although she is quick to note that party nights are funded by their own salaries, not the NGOs themselves.
Emergency preparedness officer Lottie*, 35, from the UK, says a lack of security is something you learn to live with in a war zone.
‘Every so often, you hear about a guy getting wasted and firing a round of bullets at the ceiling of a club somewhere.
Here, sustaining peace is the order of the day – and alcohol-fuelled escapism provides the scene of the night.
Aid workers import suitcases full of Mexican tequila, ‘lagoon bars’ are positioned on top of swimming pools and guns can make it past security – albeit luminescent yellow plastic ones filled with vodka and fired into the mouths of thirsty expats.
Or at least, I was supposed to be, but there’s a Kurdish soldier in the way.
‘Your name’s not on the list,’ he says, frowning at my provisional driving licence. He’d put my name down three days ago, he says – well ahead of the 48-hour guest list cut-off. Twenty minutes of animated phone calls later, and we’re through to the next round of a rigorous four-step security check that will eventually see us arrive, retying our shoelaces and slightly dishevelled, at Erbil’s United Nations bar.
They’re dealing with the worst atrocities of the war on a daily basis, so I think they party hard to cope with it.All day they are seeing babies who have had limbs blown off in air strikes; teenage girls who have bled out from sniper bullets…everyone has lost friends on the front line, but those guys see the absolute worst of everything.’ Jess nods at the mention of the French, but believes UK staffers could show them a thing or two.For many young charity workers and journalists posted to cover the war in Mosul there’s only one way to switch off from the horrors of their day jobs.Corinne Redfern spends a night on the town in Iraq It’s a Thursday night in Erbil, and I’m being taken on a bar crawl.