Re: Smoking Hookah in Iraq, what it is like!
Basically my time was spent in a couple of big cities.
I never spent much time in the countryside ( not much chance of selling food and beverage processing equipment in little villages) but I did go to a marsh region as the regional governor was supposedly up for buying water treatment equipment and I found out that the locals (called the al hwar Arabs) had their own culture and although they were supposedly dissidents oppressed by the Ba'athist regime I saw no signs of strife and had no problem entering or leaving the area.
I always wanted to learn about the Yazidi and since I did spend time in Mosul I got see the wonderful tomb of Sheikh Adi although I understand that the Chermera temple is more impressive but I never got to see it. I also found out that the Yazidi are secretive and have no interest talking to outsiders and that everyone else views them as "devil worshipers" which sounds wacky.
You're lucky because you've gotten a better chance to find out more about normal, rural culture and meet typical people. Almost everyone I dealt with were Western Educated, urbane types and all of them were ba'athists. Nice, smart people but hardly a reflexion of the rural heartland.
I hope you stay safe and learn some cool stuff.