Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hasan's Pleasure?

Batman to Hasankeyf

Distance: 43 km
Time elapsed: 2:48:00
Average speed: unknown
Max speed: unknown
Temp: 29 C
Weather: warm and cloudy, some windy patches

I woke early in our CS host's home, waiting for the late night guys to rouse from sleep. Eventually they got up and about, we even shared a silver breakfast platter accompanied by AlJazeera before Chris and I hit the road. So glad to leave this second nightmare city of devil children. Yesterday when we arrived I actually lived through 28 days later, with armies of çocukler crawling out from every crevice, hungry to attack. If we even slowed down they would find us, running up or alongside and grabbing at our bikes. Worse if we stopped, which we had to do in order to call Muzaffer, our host, who happens to be a teacher. We joined him at his school for the final class, entering the Death Star with reserve.

Women in the villages making clay bread ovens, Fırın Ekmeği

Chris and our CS friend Muzaffer, coookin up a storm

Anyway goodbye industrial Batman! Leaving the city we passed some tire fires on the road, apparently a protest day. Once away from the town, wide and empty plains filled our eyes- nothing but rolling orange hills for miles. In some areas fires blazed across the fields, clouding the air with thick smoke, both choking and blinding me. Chris and I have headcolds, so we would stop on occasion for a coughing fit, spitting up smoky phlem from our lungs. Yuck.

Breakfast, Kurdish style

Roadside fires= no good for lungs

Along the way we found an abandoned fortress and the first set of troglodyte caves, just off the road. With the nearby river this must have once been prime real estate!

Where are all the troglodytes?

Our first view of Hasankeyf was from across the valley, looking out at the river and broad cliff walls carved with dark black holes. We stopped at a prettily tiled tomb, immediately pounced on by two young boys, then approached the yeni köprüsü (new bridge) connected to the town's neck. The main drag is literally one small street, lined with a few old man cafes and shops selling rugs, scarves, and tourist junk.

Textiles for sale at the mosque (and more Kufic script)

The central mosques's minaret is decorated with Kufic insignia, a geometric script reading Muhamad from various angles, and topped with a giant birds' nest. From its terrace people can climb up to see a beautiful view of the Roman bridge stumps out in the river, and the canyon full of caves (which is unfortunately off limits but we can't get a straight answer why). Word on the street is that Turkey's GAP project (22 dams 9 power plants) has been approved, scheduled to flood this valley, town, and the ruins in 2 years. I really hope the companies pull out or that the Ministry of Culture halts the project, it would be terrible to condemn the Hasankeyf to a watery grave!

Looking down at the stumps of the Roman bridge and mosque

Main caves, but off limits

While wandering around the upper neighborhood, exploring the backside caves, a family on their porch invited us over for çaj. Gladly accepting, we stayed awhile, then asked if we could camp in their front yard. No! The father said pulling me inside, pointing to a room and exclaiming You will sleep in here! Well alright, so we stayed. Chris spent the evening drawing chalk murals on their house, which they say they will paint the design on permanenly, then drew henna on the girls. They have 5 children, a fairly small family compared to most out here.

Chris drawing on the walls

Drawing henna designs on the mom's hand

Hanging out

Sleeping was quite comfortable on their floor pads, though I didn't sleep much. I was up early again too, not because of the deafening rooster outside the window or the obnoxious cow outfront, but due to the army of flies that appeared, swarming the room and relentlessly crawling over my face.

Sunrise at the caves

We ate breakfast with the family on the front porch, shifting in the shade as the nearby minaret's shadow moved. Chris painted more henna on the girls, neighbors, me, and finally the boys and father. Scorpions, very manly.

Morning with the family

Kını (kuh nuh), or henna

Eventually we said goodbyes, then went back up to the hilltop to get a final view of the caves and town. Not much to do except photograph them from afar, even the lower cafes are off limits. They used to have places for people to sit for tea, dangling their legs in the flowing Tigris water. Intent on returning someday, we biked out of town, headed for Midyat.

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