There were so many checkpoints during our trip to Samarra that either you become sick of it (we the tourists) or just get use to it (the local population) and further more the guards manning the posts were holding handheld thingamajig that they were scanning the buses with it. I guess it was to make sure there are no explosives or other types of ammunition on the buses. But one thing I have to say that the Iraqi army despite its shortcomings is doing a good job in trying to secure Iraq. I don’t know about protecting their borders but inside Iraq, they are doing a good job that is why we were seeing much hustle and bustle in the streets of Karbala and Najaf.
Now back to our trip, when we were approaching Samarra, one of the pilgrims took a picture of Iraqi guard manning the posts and it delayed our bus for quite a few minutes. The guard noticed that and with their M-16 boarded the bus and took the camera, he was really angry and wanted to take the camera permanently but after some talk with Iraqi guys traveling with us, he was calmed down. He told us that we are not allowed to take any pictures of the guards. Anyway when we reached Samarra, there were more Iraqi troops then usual with lots of APCs’ mounted with machine guns. As with other shrines, we had to park our buses much farther away from the shrine and had to walk there by foot interrupted by checkpoints.