Can you visit Raqqa Guide 2024

Raqqa Guide

Can you visit Raqqa in 2024? Quite simply you can, but it is far from an easy task. Should you manage though, but a mere 7 years after the defat of Islamic State, then you truly have a treat on your hands.

This is because Raqqa was the capital city of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria before being freed in the most part by the brave Kurds, as well as the troops of the Damascus based government. Nowadays therefore you get not only what is still an interesting city, but also one very much in flux as a post-conflict zone. This is the Raqqa Guide.

What the Raqqa

A city with a hugely rich history it was arguably largely forgotten during the time of Baathism, the Baathist Party and the rule of the Assad family. This meant it was one off the first places to break away during the Arab Spring, eventually falling into the hands of ISIS.

By 2014 this had it as the capital of the short lived, but extremely violent state. It was here that things such as slave auctions, public executions and the most extreme vision of Sunni Islamic rule was experimented with.

This came to one end slowly in 2014 thanks in the most part for then blood of the Kurds among other Syrians. Towards the end this led to greta damage to the city both to infrastructure and life with 80 percent of the city destroyed.

Contemporary Raqqa Guide

Modern Raqqa is now slowly coming into its own, yes there are still bullet holes and distorted buildings, but it is in a much better state than say Aleppo. Things have been rebuild the city has been repopulated to almost 1.5 million people and technically at least things are looking up.

This is fully exemplified by the bustling market that is central not just to commerce, but also acts as a bellwether to how the people of Raqqa, still mostly Sunni Muslim feel about things.

And overall it is a very tense feeling with many people in the markets seemingly not overly fond of the fact we decided to visit Raqqa. Others though were clearly pleased to have us there and were no doubt in a better place since the demise of ISIS. Make no mistake though when you visit Raqqa you will see that conservatism does not die at the barrel of a gun.

How do you visit Raqqa in 2024?

Currently visiting Raqqa is one and the same with visiting Rojava. Permits are needed to enter as well as leave Iraq and you meed a purpose higher than just tourism to come here. We personally came in as journalist group with Eastern Angle.

Once into Qamishi Raqqa is another 4-5 hours from the city, or 8 from the border with Iraq. It is still not advisable to come in and out of Raqqa during night hours.

For some Syrians it might be possible to travel overland from Damascus to Raqqa, but this is not the case for foreigners at all and should not be attempted.

Raqqa Guide to what to see

The main reason one comes to Raqqa is to see modern life and how things are “going” this is principally done, as is sampling the Raqqa Street Food via the main market in the city. You can expect lots of chances for interaction here, but do not expect it to go as you might think. The market is open all day and ended night, which is where the great Raqqa food largely comes out.

If you are chasing remnants of Islamic State then there are many government sites as well as slightly more macabre dark tourism ones. These include Raqqa football stadium, which was home to come of the worst actors during this period.

Where to eat in Raqqa

Generally breakfast and lunch and dinner can be easily gotten at one of the many vendors that occupy the market. Dinner is soften gotten at one of the many famous shawarma shops, which of course do “other things”. I found this out by having Raqqa fried chicken.

Other treats were the bakery in the morning which has traditional Syrian baked goods, as well as some great Raqqa style rotisserie chicken. Whether these things flew during the IS stage is unknown.

The pure highlight and perhaps the best restaurant in not just Raqqa, but Rojava as a whole was Al Fakher Restaurant Raqqa. This place which shall get its own article was not just clean, but offered truly great Syrian bbq, dips, breads, sauces, as well as pretty much any other fish from the region that you might imagine.

From what I asked while it not illegal to drink in Raqqa conservative views mean that there is no one brave enough to sell it off of the back market. Yes I could have brought some beer to Raqqa, but I thought better of it.

Where to stay when you visit Raqqa?

There are far form a plethora of hotels in Raqqa with the few private ones complained by the most famous Guest Hotel. This is ran as not for profit by the Kurdish and is there to house journalists, aid workers and those on a cultural exchange. Not amazing, but sheer testament to Kurdish hospitality.

And therefore it is perhaps the best example of life in Raqqa in 2024, not perfect, but held together by the Kurds.