The Islamic State is the world's newest de facto state, located in the Middle East on territory claimed by Syria and Iraq. A self-described caliphate, this state is governed by ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which purports to represent "all Muslims". While its borders remain in a state of flux, as it is at war with essentially every state and non-state military in the region, the Islamic State looks to have durability as a new sovereign state, and has begun to set up its own form of rule. While travel is not very safe in the region, an intrepid traveler will be rewarded with a look into what life is like under a fundamentalist government deemed so extreme that it has been disowned by Al Qaeda.
The Islamic State is best understood geographically either as territories formerly belonging to Syria and Iraq (although the government would dispute the notion of this separation), or a more purely geographical split between the territories running along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
- Ar Rutba - little sightseeing to do, but perhaps of some interest to travelers looking for the Iraqi Desert experience.
- Deir-az-Zur - a former Syrian city with a formerly well maintained museum, which is probably closed right now.
- Falluja - best known to the world as the site of major battles in the 21st century, this city is also rich with Islamic architecture, with over 200 mosques.
- Mosul - formerly Iraq's second largest city, the new capital and largest city in the Islamic State is one of the most convenient places to experience life under full control of ISIL.
- Ramadi - not exactly paradise on the Euphrates, but it is on the Euphrates!
- Raqqah - considered the capital of the Islamic State prior to taking Mosul, a former Syrian city and one of the most stable places to check out what life is like under the new state.
- Tal Afar - a minor stop on the tourist circuit for its Ottoman ruins.
- Ashur - home to a UNESCO World Heritage List site.
- Palmyra - or what's left of it. Watch for mines and step carefully.
- Hatra - the Islamic State's only other UNESCO World Heritage site, unfortunately destroyed by its government.
This is tricky. The Islamic State has yet to set up a coherent visa regime, and does not have any diplomatic service stationed abroad. Give it a little time, though, they're still getting the basic functions of state set up. In the meantime, you'll have to travel to Iraq or Syria and slip through checkpoints along the roads along the rivers, in an active warzone.
Hitchhiking is not very safe in the Islamic State, but it's probably your only bet.
Arabic is the official language of the Islamic State, and by far the most widespread tongue. A large number of locals also speak at least some English, owing to ten years of American occupation in the former Iraq region. ISIL has a large contingent of foreign fighters - mujaheddin from other countries inspired by its extremism and ultra-violence - so you may be able to find speakers of other languages as well.
The ruins at Hatra and Ashur are the Islamic State's most notable attractions. They are not receiving maintenance, and any cultural icons could potentially be targeted for destruction by the extremist ISIL government, so you might want to get some photos quick while the getting's good.
Activities available to travelers are minimal, both because of wartime interruptions in daily life, and because the government frowns on the enjoyment of life. Recreational shooting is one of the only options, and is less heavily regulated than in most countries.
Arms are widely available, but for the most part, the local tourist-geared arts and crafts industries have suffered over the years of instability in the 21st century.
Expect cuisine similar to what you would find in other Middle Eastern countries. Restaurants are mostly closed, though, so you'll have to rely on your wits and local hospitality to obtain food.
Drinking, dancing, music, and pretty much any sort of joy-filled activities are pretty much a no go, since they are punishable by all sorts of exotic death sentences, like public crucifixion, beheading, hanging, firing squad, stoning etc. Tea is as strong a drink as you can safely enjoy.
Hotels and guesthouses are probably closed, due to expectations of a prolonged season of low tourism and business travel.
Educational opportunities are limited at present, as universities are only active when being used as battlefields. In the future, one might expect Islamic studies with a fairly extreme bent will be an option. Women will likely not be allowed to study, anything.
Oil refineries are back up and running, and apparently turning a good profit despite a supposed worldwide boycott, so you might put your petrochemical engineering skills to use here. Otherwise most foreign visitors are here just to wage jihad (sometimes unexpectedly) against anyone with any slight deviation in religious doctrine from ISIL.
OK, this just isn't a realistic option.
Hospitals have reopened in major cities such as Mosul and Raqqah to provide basic medical services, but their quality is unknown. If you hear someone screaming "ALLAHU ACKBAR!", you will only have a moment to react. Make it count by taking cover immediately.
Be cautious to observe local cultural norms. This is not a matter of avoiding intercultural embarrassment, it is a matter of life and death.
Finding reliable internet access is another problem as the Islamic State faces the growing pains of state building.