Mesopotamia!

55 mesopotamian valley

This word has such meaning. It reminds me of Latin classes in high school. It has a wide space and a great deal of romanticism and history with it. It was the land of man conquerors, including the Hittites, the Romans, the Seljuks, the Turks. When I had a chance to go to Mesopotamia, I was thrilled.

A few years ago I met a man, who when I asked where he was from (you ask that of everyone in Istanbul), told me he was from Mesopotamia. I asked if he was Kurdish. He was somewhat offended and responded that he was from Iraq (a very pale Iraqi, I might add). I did not go to the Iraqi part of Mesopotamia, but to what is now the Turkish part.

43 no room in the dolmus

no room in the dolmus

First my friend and I went to Diyarbakir. After wandering around there for a couple of days, we decided to go to Nemrut, which is an ancient place famous for huge statues. We went to the bus otogar, but there were no busses going to Kahta, which is where we had decided to go. I suggested we hitchhike, but the tout we were talking to was horrified at the idea. Instead, he took us to another bus that would drop us off on the way at Siverek and then we could take a dolmus, a private van that took people. When we got off the bus, we got a kid to show us where to get the dolmus and tipped him for his time. The dolmus was just about ready to go, so we crammed in with the other people. Normally there were seats for 12, but by the time it was full, there were more like 20 people. Brad crammed into the front seat and I crammed into the back. I sat beside a young man who was on leave from the prison in Adiyaman. His father or grandfather had died, so they let him out to go to the funeral. He was Kurdish and had been imprisoned for having a gun or some such silly thing. The prison there was full of Kurds. The older man sitting beside him was also Kurdish, but he was from so far up in the mountains that he barely spoke Turkish, which meant that he probably had not gone to school.

At one point the dolmus drove on to a ferry, which took us across a lake that had been formed behind the Ataturk Dam. While on the ferry we got out and answered questions from the curious passengers. I was struck at seeing a stop sign on a little island that had obviously been a bump in the road that was subsequently flooded by the dam waters.

Finally we got to Kahta. It is a rather drab little town. A tout suggested a pansyon, but when we went to look at it, it was smelly and shabby. We looked at a couple of other places and finally decided to share a room in a more modern hotel. Its main benefit was that it had a swimming pool, which was great after being in such sweaty travel conditions in the hot climate. Through the hotel we booked a driver to take us up to Nemrut.

45 karakus

karakus (black bird– but really an eagle)

Abdullah showed up in his minivan but we were the only passengers that day, so all three of us sat in the front. The first place we stopped was Karakus Hill. There we posed in front of a column with an eroded eagle on it. After that we stopped at another column where the two figures were shaking hands. I can’t remember who the figures were, perhaps Hercules and a Hittite ruler. We also stopped at the Septemius Severus Bridge, built by the same Roman ruler. It crosses the Euphrates River (Firat in Turkish), another name from Latin class. When we were there, picnickers and shepherds were there, one herding sheep and one eating them.

47 goats at septimius severus bridge

septimius severus bridge with goats

48 picnicking on the euphrates

euphrates river (firat)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 castle village    51 castle on the rocks

We stopped in a little village near Kahta Castle to have tea. There were only a few houses and of course a mosque. Our driver, Abdullah, asked if we wanted to go up to the castle, but we wanted to make it to Nemrut before sundown, so we settled for just the tea, which we drank in the welcome shade of some trees. After that we went by another bridge, this one built by the Seljuks, who overtook Mesopotamia in the 11th and 12th centuries.    53 selcuk bridge

 

57 molly at nemrut 2 goddesses

goddesses

Finally we got to Nemrut. Practically everywhere you go in Turkey you can see post cards of the famous heads of Nemrut, so I was a little disappointed to see that in real life they were only about the size of a standing person. The whole mountain had been changed in order to build a tomb (never found) and statuary for King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene. You can still see the thrones where the statues once sat and there is some speculation that the heads were taken down on purpose, since their noses are bashed in (often done by iconoclasts). There are also some steles and some other statues, notably a lion and eagle. People try to get up there for sunrise or sunset, as the view over Mesopotamia at that time is amazing. We just made it and it was well worth it.

Abdullah was quite taken with me and called me when I got back to Istanbul. In fact, he went to Istanbul and called me to invite me out, but I declined. I had no idea why he was so interested, since I certainly had not expressed interest in him on our trip.  Perhaps he thought there could be yet another conquest in Mesopotamia.  It was just a funny side story to our trip through time.

 

and look what i stumbled upon on youtube!  poirot in mesopotamia  www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_EwM3p1qsA  right at the beginning of the film there is a brief glimpse of one of the nemrut heads, but judging by the names of the cast, i think it was actually made in tunisia.  it was a better story than mine 🙂

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