Just two decades ago, Erbil was a dangerous town, attacked on one side by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and on the other by warring Kurdish tribes. Today, this vibrant capital of Kurdistan, a semi- autonomous region in Iraq, is peaceful as expectations of an energy windfall are creating a boom and helping to refashion a traditional society and an ancient landscape. Hoteliers including Hilton and Kempinski are erecting buildings that now soar above the city’s 7,000-year-old Citadel. New shopping malls compete with the medieval bazaar. And Erbil’s historic downtown is ringed by luxury villas, residential towers and commercial offices, driven by a 20-fold surge in property prices since U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003. “A decade ago, Erbil was more like a big village,” said Tahir Osman, deputy governor of Erbil Province who helped forge an urban development plan that calls for a Grand-Prix race track. “My dream […]