Diyarbakir, 2004

Written in 2004 in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey

Diyarbakir.

February 2004. Buyuk Hotel.

In the US, they put a Bible in the room. Here there is a raki glass and a beer glass. Big improvement. Very Wise. When the Eastern European countries had revolutions, the Gideons rushed there with Bibles to stock all hotel rooms. So that’s a difference in the religions, I suppose. But they’ll never overcome the good beer in Budapest. Nor the women who expose their cleavage on the streets all over the city!

It is quite humid here compared to Ankara. That is somewhat nice after the high and dry temperature in Ankara.

Got settled in the room. It is about 45 million Turkish Liras a night (38 US dollars) for a double. We will go out before long. Cloudy today.

Diyarbakir Features:

Population = 2 million.

Mostly Kurdish. Tigris River (Dicle) runs past the city walls. Some oil prospecting in the area. This is a satellite town. Traditional Kurdish life. Arab style mosques with black and white bands.

The Romans took the city in 115 AD. 639 AD- conquered by Arabs. Named Amida before. Arabs brought the Tribe of Beni Bakr. The Realm of Bakr. Diyar Bakr means “place of Bakrs.”

Conquered by Hamdanids, Buwayhids, and Marwanids.

1085, taken by a Seljuk Turkish Dynasty’ the Cuheyrogullari.

But later overthrown by the Syrian Seljuks, Artukids and Ayyubids.

1259: Mongol Emperor Hulgu Khan restored the city to the Seljuks.

But it was lost to the Mardin Artukids.

1394: Tamerlane conquered the city. He gave the city to Akkoyunlu Kara Yuluk Turkoman (White Sheep Turkomans). The Akkoyunlu formed a pact with the Venetian Empire against the Ottomans. In 1473, they were defeated by Mehmet the Conqueror.

“After 1497, the Sufavid Dynasty, founded by Shah Ismail took over Iran, putting an end to more than a century of Turkoman rule in the area.”

1515: The Ottomans came and conquered.

Old Diyarbakir has a standard Roman City plan. Circular walls. Four gates. North, South, East and West. Some of the walls have been knocked down and new gates opened. Bazaar. This is like a Moroccan Medina. A Labyrinth. There are churches in the maze, hidden.

Mid-afternoon. Saw the valley along the city and the Tigris River. The valley and River are impressive and the University is on the bluff on the east side of the river. There is a very old caravansaray bridge across the Tigris River. The river, itself, is not terribly large, partly because there are actually three dams on it now, which take a lot of the water upstream.

Ataturk Kosku. (villa), known as Seman Kosku. It is 15th Century. Akkoyunlu Turkoman Dynasty, 2.5 km south of the city center. One of the most beautiful and best preserved traditional houses. We also saw Ulu Camii, just down the street. Went this morning to a tremendous store, full of piles of all kinds of kuruyemis (dry foods), especially mountains of cevizli sucuk (walnut candy), of many different kinds. And huge containers of nuts and raisins and huge rolls made of sweet havuc (carrot) and full of nuts of various kinds. I have not seen that before. The shop is so full of beautiful things to eat, different kinds of natural candies, actually. Around the old Ulu Camii, a little further down, is that big old Mosque, with a large courtyard inside. Markets surround the area. A huge market just outside selling all types of tobacco, made for rolling your own cigarettes. And they have a small machine that fills the cigarette with tobacco automatically. That is interesting because I really have not seen it in other parts of Turkey.

We went to an area where there were some small restaurants (lokantas) and ate lunch. I had standard fare, kuru fasulye and pilav (dry beans and rice). And  salad.

We walked to the Buyuk Caravansaray Hotel. Up another street we came to an old fort. Right next to it is a mosque. Some people are hanging around to ask for alms from those who visit. It is not far from the Tigris River. The area is Fatih Kapasi, Victory Gate. We thought to walk back, but saw it would be quite a long distance. So we  hired a taxi from there. I noticed that the taxi meter wasn’t working. When we came around to the Hotel, the driver asked for five million without using the meter. It is illegal in Turkey not to use it. We said it should be about three million, because we had come from the railway station in the morning about the same distance. We gave him the five million. I got out and wrote down his license number. When he saw me writing it down, he got out and gave us back the two million.  He decided that it wasn’t worth the risk.

The Hotel is actually the Sixteenth Century Deliller Han. It is on Gazi Caddesi near Mardin Kapasi. A beautiful place, but somewhat pricy at $65 or more. Not bad for the quality. An authentic historical place that was actually used as a hotel on the silk road about 400 years ago. We had Turkish Coffee.

We called another taxi and asked for a tour of the old city. He showed us all around for 20 million TL, very reasonable. The walls around the city are huge, extensive and impressive and stretch all around the city. One can walk right on top of them if one has time. It seems the school kids were doing that today. The walls are definitely impressive. They are falling down in a few places, however. Some of the towers have fallen down.

There are many huge bazaars and fruit markets around the city selling kiwis, two million a kilo, and huge oranges, from the local areas. They look delicious. And apples and bananas, dates and figs (incir). I bought two boxes of dates (hurma) from Bam in Iran. Alas! Ancient Bam is gone after the earthquake. That old fort shown on the boxes of dates crumbled in the recent earthquake. That is a fact and maybe 40,000 or so people died in that! Americans are not supposed to buy products from Iran. Imagine that!

There are some huge shopping areas. There is even a Galeria shopping center, which I want to avoid at all cost. The small shops are great. I am surprised that one can see the town so easily. It seems too small for two million population. Actually this is only the old city. I saw later that most of the population live in poor housing areas outside the walls.

There are many fields in the valley there near the Tigris (Dicle) River. These small fields that are very fertile where vegetables are grown. Many trees get covered with water when it floods according to the taxi driver. There are fields of wheat down there too. Outside the walls there are many gecekondus that have come up. These have been fed by the destruction of villages in the area in the 1990s. Villagers flooded into  the city. The taxi driver said they were going to get rid of these gecekondus, which might actually mean a second displacement, I suppose. Perhaps there is a program to build them some kind of alternative housing. But many of these are just on the edge of the flood plain along the bottom, it seems. So I am not too sure about what is actually going on there. The city does not seem to be too bad for most people.

The place has a somewhat different atmosphere than other parts of Turkey. Some of the older men look like something out of space and time, and not a little absurd sometimes! But they are in their element here. I think they look right here. Like they belong here. And why not? I wonder if they have resentment against the West.

Some of the women are very nice-looking. Most are not dressed modern, but they look somewhat different. There are considerable numbers of women wearing black too, mostly older. Quite a large number of students around. The streets are generally crowded and bustling. There are plenty of cars, but it is not as mad for walking as in Ankara. It is true that parts of the city look quite run down, similar to what one sees in Morocco. But most of the town is not really like that.

Evening. By now, 92 are dead in the building that collapsed in Konya. Shameful. Several injured. The rescue team did manage to pull some people out alive. Shoddy construction. So they should be charged with criminal activity.

When we were out, we went to a quite nice place, and had soup, salad, and rice pudding. Light food. The first place we went, we ordered mercimek (lentil) soup, but it was very watery, so we didn’t stay there. Went to this other place along the same street. Some streets do not have street lights, so seems dark out there.

Sinan Lokantasi is a sort of a beer bar on the second floor with a view of the street. Would be nice when it is a little warmer. Nesem Yemek Solunu, restaurant. Buryan Salunu, restaurant.

The light is only coming from the shops that are still open. So not very inviting, but it doesn’t seem unsafe. Back to the hotel.

The destabilization process in Iraq goes on. That big bomb, Iskendriya, I think, killed around 55 people or more today at a police station and it goes on. Hard to believe they have been that successful in blowing things up.

Now, a lot of pressure is being put on the Cyprus talk in New York, pressure on Denktas and the Greeks, that is, and the Turkish Government finally seems determined to get down to the task of forging some kind of agreement. Everybody knows there are hard-core hold-outs on both sides, in both Greece and Turkey who would like to sabotage it. I don’t think Denktas can be pushed into it very easily either and Professor Soysal is there as his “advisor” in New York. An old dinosaur. I don’t know what the chances are that they can push them into an agreement.

Early morning. Rainy Morning.

We decid to cut it short by three days and get back to Ankara because snow will start by Thursday evening according to reports. We will plan to go from Antep tomorrow. We buy bus tickets hoping that it does not snow too much to get to Ankara. This can happen easily in the winter time when snow storms come through. The bus goes about half past three today to Antep. Takes around five and a half hours. It is rainy today, but light rain. So not a bad day here, and quite mild. I just wish we had gotten the train from Antep.

If the snow catches us, there could be a sort of adventure on the way back. In any event, it is an adventure. I have learned that it is never a good idea to try to beat a snow storm. Better to let it go and then come behind it.

Half past twelve. We check out of the hotel. We go to the bazaar and buy some nice things from a shop that sells beautiful metal pieces. I buy a coffee mug that looks more like a beer stein. We bought a beautiful small mangal and cay danlik (tea pot). Nice things with hand-made designs. The shop keeper makes me a gift. It is a raki holder to cool the drink. One puts ice around it to keep it cool. The bus leaves around half past two. That big bazaar is piled full of things, too many.

It has become quite dark and cool in the town. A damp wind is blowing. The bazaar in this town reminds one somewhat of the ones in Marrakesh.

The carrot sweet they have in big rolls in Kuruyemis shops is called Jezelye.

Ehli-keyf is one who is capable of enjoying themselves.

The explosion in Baghdad today had about 35 victims. They were signing up for the Iraqi army which the US is trying to get started. It was next to the Green Zone, the American compound. The one yesterday for recruits to the police station killed around 55. That makes around 90 victims in 24 hours. The US is failing very badly in their policies. But that is exactly what the critics said would happen.

The slow train to Paradise went through the Black Mountains, across the green fields, through the valleys and across the rushing snow streams down to the Green Valley and Rocky Basalt Fields and surprising canyon and Volcano Rocks and across the Rainy Waters to the cinderblock apartments and the train road, the Iron Road Street and into the Station of the place of the Tribe of Bakir and to the horn-sounding street and big Mosque Square  and Japan Market to the Big Hotel, Buyuk Hotel, with the Restaurant of Sinan and the Roast Chicken of the small restaurant sellers, spicy and turning in the open windows of small restaurants and the dry beans and lentil soup and bread and roast flat bread and boiled chicken and patlican (eggplant) and boiled potatoes and the small kiosks selling cigarettes and gazettes full of lies and sweets with a large black fly in a sweet shop with Honey Daddy Sweets and huge shop with walnut sausage sweets in big long sausage shapes and stacked like cord wood along the wall and huge bins of dry walnuts and carrot sweets full of thick grape juice extract and walnuts and hazel nuts and sweets, so many that it was difficult to count them and old Arab-looking gentlemen with baggy pants and coats, tailored, and skull caps and canes and homemade cigarettes walked slowly down the streets and young women in Black and sometimes fashionable clothes and striking beauty in dark-Black Eyes and Hair, and dark, lusty flesh and carts filled with huge bags of rag stuffing and crowded small streets and huge markets stocked to the gills with every type of trinket and owned by the operators and not any big corporations as in the West and there were huge piles of tobacco, like hair, so fine for homemade cigarettes and piled in the markets and cigarette cases and the shops piled high with denim jeans with hearts embroidered on the legs and dresses for men, cloth for tailoring and cloth shops piled high with fabrics, some from state shops and countless small shops on the street with windows lined with cell phones and small restaurants and offices of local bus lines and horse carts and big pick-up trucks from Japan and ancient market places and old caravansarays, turned into market places for antiques. And a hundred pharmacies, selling many types of medicines. And salep, sweet milk, sugar, cinnamon, hot, and piles of fruit and push carts, orange, banana, red apples, tangerine, yellow apples, kiwi and piles of flat bread and optics shops, salep in big brass containers with brass spigots, with cinnamon to sprinkle on and cassette shops with songs blaring. Big piles of fruit, dates from Bam and dried sweet-sugared figs, men unshaven, grubby. Small cigarette and cigar stands, matches, lighters, push carts with peanuts, pistachio, walnut, hazelnuts, and on a push cart, piles of bags of potatoes and onions. And beggars and farm tractors with the cloth cover with “Masallah” written next to “Massey Ferguson.” And rolls of flat dried figs and round dried figs.

We leave Diyarbakir.

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