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Erbil: the city

Established during the early Mesopotamian civilizations 10,000 years ago, Erbil is the world's oldest continuously inhabited city. But in the past few decades, the city expanded and developed beyond anyone's expectation. From a small agricultural settlement less than a century ago - where much of the life was centered in the ancient citadel, the city's heart, and the direct vicinity of it - to a well-established Middle Eastern tourism and business destination of 2 million people now;

Its populace is overwhelmingly Kurdish, but there are also significant communities of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Turkmen, and increasingly also, a large Arab community hailing from central and southern Iraq. Furthermore, Erbil also has a vibrant, and fast-growing, expat community from more than 100 different nationalities - including Americans, Turks, European Union nationals, Lebanese, Iranians, Asians, Africans and Latin American citizens.

Erbil - since 2003 - is Iraq's fastest growing city. As the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, it's also Iraq's main gate for tourism, business, banking, investments and other sectors. In a few years only, Kurdistan Region has attracted $20 billion in direct investments through the Kurdistan Investment Board, and most of the money has been spent in Erbil.

At the moment, hundreds of large-scale projects are being built in the metropolitan area of Erbil. They include highways, urban rail networks, international and local universities and schools, luxurious five-star hotels managed by global hoteliers, Dubai-styled shopping malls, sports complexes, hospitals and dozens of large-scale residential projects.

The future prospects of the local industry - especially its vital Oil & Gas sector - and its economic situation as a whole may be increasingly governed by developments in the rest of the Middle East, but for now Erbil is a city on the rise and rise.