Thursday, June 7, 2012

Travels to Mesopotamia

As we last left off, we explored the fine city of Diyarbakir. Now, the capital of Kurdistan, or the base of the Kurdish people, Diyarbakir is a truly unique city. I was surprised, as the eastern parts of Turkey seem to have many more churches preserved than western Turkey does. We visited the church of Mar Peytun, built in the 4th or 5th century. With stone floors and a simple square design, this Chaldean Church still functions today. Red clothes with gold crosses decorated the church. Byzantine portraits of the Christ child and the Virgin are hung beside the altar. A miniature sized temple sits atop the red velvety altar, protecting an ancient relic of a saint from long ago. The church, to me seemed like a compilation of numerous styles and ages- like each person from a different century wanted to add a special touch. Blue and yellow checkered drapes next to red and gold drapes, hanging brass lanterns swaying in the breeze, wooden benches and colored fabrics concealing hidden corners of the church. (Pictures to come!)

After viewing this church, we wandered around to several other churches and mosques, taking refuge from the sun throughout the day. One mosque we visited had a beautiful women's section outside with a staircase leading up to the top for a stunning view. The women were praying, some napping, celebrating, and enjoying life. It was beautiful to see a religious place fully utilized not only as a place of prayer, but as a place of community. But my favorite place of all was the old asylum & jail. The remaining buildings of the old jail and asylum still stand, and you can see where the old rooms were- walking through the complex was a bit eerie. It is odd to imagine that a place so beautiful could hold so much pain within its walls. It was a sad realization for me. Directly next to the asylum was an old Zoroastrian temple. The Zoroastrians celebrate the lightness and darkness, and especially fire. It is an ancient religion- and the temple was exquisite. There was an altar in the center for sacrifices and an open roof, exposed to the elements, but also the light and dark of the sky. I am completely intrigued by this religion! Check it out

We headed to the bus station on Sunday night, ready to leave for Hasankeyf, but were distracted along the way. We passed a check point of sorts- but unlike any I'd seen before. Men and women were led through propped up wooden booths. The women's booths covered in black sheets so as to honor privacy and as they excited, they were thoroughly patted down by security guards. Only then were they allowed to cross a bridge, to a destination we couldn't figure out. I couldn't help but wonder what was on the other side, or what necessitated the check point. Earlier in Diyarbakir, near the walls of the old city, around sunset as we were descending the stairs at Keceborcu, a group of what looked like police officers all filed out of cars quickly, each carrying large machine guns, looking like they had a purpose. That was all I needed to scadaddle, quickly. It was the first time in Turkey that I didn't feel safe.

Before I conclude about Diyarbakir, I had to share some culinary higlights with you:

  • Fistikli Kaymak Baklava (a syrupy sweet dessert of baklava filled with pistachio creme) 

  • Fistlki ve Cevizli Kadayif (a thicker, crunchier dessert- tasted like breakfast cereal to me)

  • Menengic coffee (Kurdish coffee, made of wild pistachios and boiled with cardamom and milk 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search My Blog