Erbil, Iraq – For 75 years, Mohsin Majeed Machko’s family has been running Erbil’s most famous teahouse, the Machko Chai Khana.
Built into the southern wall of the Citadel – a UNESCO World Heritage site – the teahouse was opened by Mohsin’s father Muhammed 1940. Its doors have never closed since.
Frequented by tourists and a favourite spot for locals of all ages, Machko Chai Khana’s smoke-filled quarters hold the history of the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.
It’s a well-known meeting place for Kurdish intellectuals and activists; the pictures on the walls are a testament to who has been here.
There’s a photo of Walid Jumblatt – the famous Lebanese politician (one of Mohsin’s favourites) – among dozens of local and foreign politicians.
Despite the teahouse’s popularity among loyal clientele, Mohsin told Al Jazeera that a significant decline of tourists in the region has hurt business.
While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group does not have a foothold in Erbil, it has claimed at least one suicide bombing in the city this year. In addition, ongoing violence across Iraq has kept tourists away.
“Business isn’t what it used to be,” said Mohsin, before adding that people should not be afraid.
To defeat ISIL, the Kurds don’t just need military support, he said, but the support of the same people who used to come to the region to spend their holidays. He wants them to come back.
He says he wants to be able to save some money for repairs so he can continue to run the shop just like his father – serving the best tea in all of Erbil.