Postcard from... Lalish, Iraq
"Close your eyes and try three times," our young guide explains. The
pressure's on. Throw the pebble in the right-hand hole, I get heaven –
the left and it's eternal damnation.
After two tries I'm somewhere in purgatory; on the third, thankfully, I'm saved.
The conical temple at Lalish, in Iraq's Kurdish mountains, is the holiest site in the Yazidi religion, a secretive sect influenced by Zoroastrianism and Sufi Islam. It is here they believe the universe began.
The Yazidis, whose numbers have dwindled to just some 500,000 and are largely concentrated in Iraq, have suffered widespread persecution throughout history.
They worship Tawuse Melek, a peacock angel, the most powerful of seven archangels which they believe God has tasked to rule the Earth. The Yazidi belief that Tawuse Malek refused to bow down to other beings, paralleling the story of Satan in the Muslim and Christian faiths, has led to them being branded as devil worshippers.
Our guide shrugs off the accusation and laughs off our other questions about the religion's more bemusing practises such as refraining from eating lettuce. One legend has it that a massacre of Yazidis took place in a lettuce field, leading to a vow never to eat lettuce again.
Unfortunately for the Yazidis, the attitude of our taxi driver in the nearby city of Dohuk remains an all too common one. "Muslims, they have Mohammed, Christians, they have Jesus, Yezidis, they have Satan," he laughs.
- 2 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 3 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence referendum: JK Rowling, Russell Brand, Nigel Farage and more react to the 'No' vote
Scottish independence referendum: Frankie Boyle reacts to nation's 'No' vote - 'To be fair, I've always hated Scotland'
Scottish independence referendum results: David Cameron pledges plans for 'English votes for English laws' by January
Scottish independence live: Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum - as it happened
Scottish referendum results: David Cameron set to unveil major devolution of powers to England
Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...
£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...
£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...