5/22/2010

Şanlıurfa



The Kurds dropped me off just beneath the old city. With zero Turkish lira and a single digit Kurdish/Turkish vocabulary, I headed for the old Arab bazaar. It became clear immediately that I hadn't gone too far from Syria: chadors, shawarma, sheep skins and backgammon games were scattered through the bustling market and its shaded 
khans and courtyards. Within twenty minutes I found myself seated with Arabic-speaking friends, eating sweets and drinking shay. Most distinctive about the Şanlıurfa crowd were the bright purple keffiyehs and scarves, worn by both men and women. Excited to have crossed another border and content to wander the old stone labyrinth, spiked with its pencil minarets and arched byways, I almost forgot to call Weis' friend Yusef. Not to call would have been a big mistake.


I met Yusef at a fan shop where a couple young Turks had been nice enough to let me use their phone. In the 24 hours that followed I received nothing but the best of Kurdish hospitality and met the cream of the Kurdish crop: Yusef introduced me to Kerim, the congenial young director of DSI (the group that manages about half of Turkey's hydroelectric plants), who introduced me to Omer, a Jude Law look-alike and manager of Istikbal (Turkey's largest furniture company), who introduced me to his buddy whose name I couldn't remember (owner of the local Ford dealership). In short, Weis Dada had hooked me up. I dropped my bag in a complimentary four-star hotel room, courtesy of my new hosts.
That afternoon Yusef and I walked through the Golbasi, a well-kept picnicker's paradise of tea gardens and elegant mosques. We then circled the legendary Balikligöl, the Pool of Sacred Fish: according to the history books it was built on the spot where Abraham was tossed into a fire by the great king Nimrod. The fire was then engulfed in a sudden spring and the coals spontaneously turned to carp. As would be expected of fish that are actually 4,000-year old ex-coals, they're revered to this day. No fishing here. Plenty of pilgrims had come just to feed them, and visit the supposed birth site of Abraham himself at a cave just south of town. No big deal in Şanlıurfa, where historical depth is taken for granted. Some claim it's actually the biblical city of Ur. Meanwhile, nearby ruins mark the world's oldest stone temples, built almost 12,000 years ago (roughly 24 times older than Columbus' arrival in America).


That night after a home-cooked meal with Kerim, we headed to a private hangout spot overlooking one of his dams. In the company of both high rollers and switch operators, all Kurdish, we talked for hours into the night, mostly about the unmentionable in Turkish politics: Kurdistan. We drank cold yoghurt water, downed several pots of overly sweet, cinnamon-flavored Kurdish chai and stuffed ourselves with kebab and hefty portions of bakhlava. Only the guys in charge of the dam's heavy machinery, just arrived for their night posts, shared the whiskey.

In the morning, my three new friends escorted me to the bus station, bought my ticket before I could refuse and slipped some snack money into my bag despite my avid protests (although it's possible that I could have been a bit more avid). Kerim waited until the AC bus to Mardin pulled out of the sleek new station, chatting about travel plans and adventures of various kinds. I thankfully remembered the Kurdish farewell he'd taught me just as I stepped onto the bus. 

1 comment:

Shery said...

Everybody loves Joeymond!