In Erbil, a festival feel is building before the vote on 25 September. In Sulaimaniya, 150 miles away, it’s business as usual

Its streets bustled with Sunday shoppers. Its teahouses brimmed with men who preferred playing dominoes to talking politics. And on boulevards and in town squares, there was hardly a Kurdish flag to be seen.

On the eve of a historic day in Kurdistan, its two biggest hubs were a tale of two cities. In Erbil, the centre of the independence referendum to be held on 25 September, a festival feel that had built for the past week had taken over neighbourhoods. Flags fluttered from street poles, and car windows and shops were festooned with banners proclaiming the dawn of self-determination.

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