In 2004, I completed two Inuit art buying trips to Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay), the capital of Nunavut, Canada's newest territory. For both trips, I flew out of Ottawa on Canadian North airlines. The other airline that services Nunavut is First Air. Only the last half of the jets was allocated for passengers as the entire first half was for cargo. Being so remote, Canadian Arctic Inuit communities pretty well have to have everything shipped up there by plane or by boat during the summers since there are no roads connecting to the rest of Canada or even between each Nunavut community. The Arctic landscape from the air was desolate, hilly and barren.
As the plane got closer to Iqaluit, the airport's small terminal building stood out with its bright yellow color. The airport itself is within walking distance to the rest of the town. There are taxis that charge a flat rate of $5 per trip anywhere in Iqaluit. Interestingly enough, these taxis also pick up and drop off other passengers along the way so shared rides with others are common here.
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There are several hotels in Iqaluit and rooms are generally clean, comfortable but quite basic. Accommodations and dining up north in Nunavut are both expensive. All food items with the exception of local Inuit fare must be flown up from the Canadian south. A carton of milk will cost about $10 in Iqaluit. Most Inuit locals cannot afford to buy overpriced fruits, vegetables and meat from the south. Many local families still rely on Inuit hunters who bring caribou, seal and whale to the table.
There is only one high rise building in Iqaluit and it is used mainly for local Nunavut government offices. All other buildings are low rise, including the hospital. The vast majority of the residential housing is similar to cabins that are raised off the ground because of the harsh Canadian Arctic winters. Notice below the baby being carried on the back of the local Inuit woman in white.
Many of the residential housing look a bit run down with junk and disposed items piled outside. With the fact that there are no lawns or trees possible this far north, the neighborhoods are certainly not the prettiest sights around. But one Inuit art carver told me that his government subsidized rent is only $36 per month. There are some small clusters of nice homes on the outskirts of town.
Some houses have husky dogs tied up outside and many have snowmobiles. In fact, the roads, most of them unpaved, are shared by cars, trucks, snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles and people.
During the summers, Iqaluit can get quite dusty with all the vehicles turning up the dirt on the roads. As a result, Iqaluit did look a bit nicer during my first trip which was during the winter when the city was in white snow rather than brown dirt. There is new construction going on since with the creation of the Nunavut territory, Iqaluit is growing as more Inuit from other Arctic communities are migrating to the city.
Do you want to go on an Arctic tour? If yes, check out Gap Adventure Tours as they organize trips up there as well as to other exciting destinations around the world.
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