I secretly hoped for Sanliurfa when I first arrived in Turkey and it wasn’t until I got to the edge of eastern Turkey that I found what I was looking for. It’s Turkey without all the -crass- international-tourism. I loved it.
There is a warren of narrow streets that you can lose yourself in. There is a lovely park with a few religiously significant ponds and we got served some of the best Turkish food we’ve ever eaten.
There is a castle here and you can walk along the walls with magnificent views over the city. Using my zoom lens I take a closer look at one of the old tombs chiselled into rock of a neighbouring hill. I take the photo and then zoom in on that. Two young boys huffing substances out of plastic bags held to their faces.
Back on the wall, A young boy asks if I am christian making the symbols of the cross on his chest as he does. I say that I'm not and he exclaims: muslim!?
His mother tried to tell us something. Something about the pillars and a good photo. Now she’s pointing at the pillars and then in a big arc over to the horizon. I don’t get it. I snap off a photo of the pillars and show it to her.
No! I’m not getting it. She’s both laughing and frustrated at my lack of Turkish or her lack of English. Eventually we get it. Here is a good spot for taking sunset photos.
We never did come back for the sunset. So here’s that picture of the pillars that I showed her.
The castle must not have been very good as the city has been captured by at least 19 different civilisations including the: Ebla, Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Armenians, Hurri-Mitannis, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Macedonians, Seleucids, Arameans, Osrhoenes, Romans, Sassanids, Byzantines, and Crusaders.
Mardin was the second city in eastern Turkey we visited. Perched on the side of a mountain with endless plains sweeping towards Syria it has some spectacular views.
It was out east that Turkish people became more friendly and more hospitable. A dozen construction workers had us around for cups of tea while they had their break, a woman came out of her house to offer me water as I hiked in the hill above her home and some young kids threw rocks at me. He was about five and ran off when I caught the rocks he was throwing.
There were many, many children in this city as I hiked through the twisting streets and up into the hills. Either that or I saw the same dozen children as the streets looped back on themselves. On my way back from my hike I stopped to get an ice cream. The young men working in the shop ask me where I am from and want to know if I like Kurdistan. They’re Kurds. Kurdistan good; Turkey, bad. I’m told.
This part of Turkey was the setting of a suppressed independence movement. The Kurds are concentrated in the south-east of Turkey, the north-east of Syria, the north of Iraq and north of Iran. Only Iraqi-Kurdistan has any real semblance of autonomy. We were travelling with a English man who was heading into the region. We almost went with him but ISIL happened two days beforehand.
He made it in and then out alive.
Our problem with Eastern Turkey is that we spend the better part of a month getting here. By this point in time we were bored with Turkey, Turkish food and the amount of sugar in Turkish tea. From here out to the east the distances become further and the temperature becomes hotter.
If I ever come back to Turkey it’ll be to explore further east and the fascinating history that went on here. The neighbouring countries are Armenia, Iran, Iraq (including Iraqi Kurdistan) and Syria.