PDD Geoguessr Challenge #14: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Rania, Iraqi-Kurdistan

Rania, Iraqi-Kurdistan. Photo based on an interpretation of aerial imagery by Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The next of Duluth’s sister cities in this challenge series is its most recent. Rania officially became Duluth’s fifth sister in November 2015. According to the webpage on Duluth’s sister cities, Rania is located in a partially autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq near Lake Dukan. With a population of 95,000, it is about the same size as Duluth. Exchange activities have included a visiting professor from Rania at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a visit to Rania by a Duluth choir group.

There aren’t too many tourist videos of Rania online but one blogger on a mission to visit every country in the world stopped in Rania to give a talk and provides a brief overview of the city in this six-minute video:

Kurdish people celebrate New Year’s at the same time as Iran, at the moment of the spring equinox, which was just a few day ago. Specifically, the new year started on Tuesday, March 19, at 10:06 p.m. in Duluth, which is Wednesday, March 20, at 6 a.m. in Ranya. According to Wikipedia, the New Year’s celebration is the most important festival of the year for Kurdish people. This seems to be no exception for Rania. The New Year’s holiday involves more than just marking the moment winter ends and spring begins. The holiday lasts 13 days and ends with the tradition of heading to the countryside for a picnic on the final day. This year, the 13th day of celebration will take place on Monday, April 1. The video below from 2019 shows people from Rania heading out to the countryside for a New Year’s picnic.

I thought this particular Geoguessr challenge might be a tough one to make because some places in the world, including most of Iraq, do not have great coverage on Google Streetview. Rani is not one of those places. In 2016, the regional government created its own Streetview imagery and loaded it onto Google, making this challenge possible. Each round has a time limit of 5 minutes.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #13: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Rania, Iraqi-Kurdistan

How to Play Geoguessr

GeoGuessr can be played on a laptop or desktop and on Android or IoS mobile devices with the GeoGuessr app. Just click on the link that fits how you play and create an account to start playing.

Every game consists of five locations based on a theme chosen by the game creator. You are shown a Streetview image stripped of all the informational labels that are normally overlayed onto the image. Unless the challenge specifically restricts it, you can move around and look for clues like street signs and business names to find out where you are. The image below shows a basic overview of the Geoguessr screen layout and controls.

Once you think you know the location — or are nearly out of time — you use the inset map to place your marker where you believe the round started. After you hit “Guess,” you will see how close you were to the correct location and how many points your guess earned. The closer you are to the location, the higher your score, with a maximum score of 5,000 points. On a map that covers a small area, like the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood, being off by a few blocks will cost you a lot of points. On a map that has locations from around the world, you will get nearly all the points just for finding the right city. The maximum error for a perfect score also changes by map size, but in general if you are within 50 feet (15 meters) you will always get the full 5,000 points.

Not often, but every now and then, GeoGuessr gets a little buggy. If the underlying Streetview imagery has changed since the game was made, sometimes it repeats the last round, gives a black screen, or doesn’t allow a guess to be made. If that happens, please let me know and I’ll update the challenge.

At the end of the five rounds, an overview screen shows your score for each round in addition to your guessing time and how far off you were from the correct location. The correct locations and your guesses are also shown on a map and you can click on any of the round numbers to review the locations. Additionally, the final screen in a challenge will show how you rank compared to the top scorers of the challenge. When choosing your user name, keep in mind that your user name and score per round will be visible to other players of the challenge.

If you have feedback on this challenge or ideas for future challenges, please share them in the comments below.

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