Mardin was very nice. I enjoyed my time wandering around aimlessly through the streets. The best part was that everyone greeted you and the kids all said hello and asked you to take their picture (without an ulterior motive, like in some places). The city is idyllically set upon the side of a mountain with a castle perched at the very top of the hill behind. It was a great place to just relax at the end of a busy trip and just sip Turkish tee, well Syrian actually, and watch the world go by.
Looking out over Mesopotamia towards the border with Syria.
From Mardin I took a minibus to the city of Midyat and then another to the town of Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf is an even more beautiful town that sits perched above the Tigris River, which I must admit, was not as large as I pictured it. But any ways, this town is doomed as the Turkish government has plans to damn the river. Now, this has been said for the past several years and has not yet become a reality, but the truth is that it will happen it is only a matter of time. Though the Turkish government is keeping a tight lip over it.
Hasankeyf has a very long history. The city is believed to have existed since 1800 BC. Since this time it has been under the rule of the Romans, where the Cephe fortress was built and then the city became the Kiphas fortress and a bisphoric (also known as a Diocese) under the Byzantine Empire. Around 640 it was conquered by the Arabs and renamed Hisn Kayf. In the 12th century the city was successfully captured by the Artukids and during this time, which is the period of Hasankeyfs Golden Age, the Artukids and Ayyubids built the Old Tigris Bridge, which parts of still remain today. The city was also a staging post on the Silk Road.
The town of Hasankeyf, sitting along the Tigris River.
Looking across Mesopotamia
Looking down on the town of Hasankeyf.
My thoughts had led me to believe that I was going to see the “tourist sites” in Hasankeyf, however, reality had a different plan. No sooner had I arrived than was I befriended by a very friendly bunch of University students from Diyarbakir. The group, about 16 of them, spotted me as I was walking across the bridge; which isn’t hard to do since there was only one blonde haired, blue eyed, white skinned person walking around this town. They were very friendly, polite, asking lots of questions, and made me take pictures of them and also they took pictures of me. It was very weird being the tourist attraction!!! It turns out that they are not “Turkish” but rather, “Kurdish”. After a while we said our goodbyes, only to meet again about an hour later. Again we went through the requisite need to take photos. No sooner had I left them again, while walking around the fortress high above the city, had several other groups of people flocked in my direction wanting to take pictures. I grinned and nodded (even though I hate having my picture taken). They were all really nice.
My new Kurdish friends
New Turkish Friends
This morning I flew from Mardin back to Istanbul and now I sit here, awaiting my fate. For those of you who have been following the news, you will know that the Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland has been spewing smoke & ash into the upper stratosphere which has caused almost all air traffic to halt over much of Europe. . . including my flight home. I am currently in the process of trying to find alternative ways home. I’ve contacted Delta Air Lines once I arrived in Istanbul and was on hold for about 45 minutes without actually speaking to someone. I am hoping that it was just because it was the weekend, though I know that it could be anything; it is Sunday after all. I have people in the US looking into things for me with Delta Air Lines’ reservations (thanks Joan). I am trying to get a flight directly from Istanbul to JFK and then to Minneapolis or alternatively through Athens, Rome, Madrid, Tel Aviv or Cairo. My main problem is that I had bought 2 separate tickets. Originally this trip was only going to be to the Netherlands and then morphed into a second subtrip after I found a good deal to Istanbul. I don’t know how Delta will treat this and I am sure it will cost me a few dollars more than I want to pay. Time will tell.