Thursday, July 17, 2014

Turkey | Nusaybin | Church of St. Jacob | School of Nisibis

The largely Kurdish city of Nusaybin is located twenty-four miles south of Midyat, on the southern edge of the mountainous plateau known as Tur Abdin, which is Syriac for “The Mountain of the Servants of God”. It is right on the Turkish-Syrian border. Just across the border is the Syrian city of Qamishli. 
The city of Nusaybin in Turkey, top, and the Syrian city of Qamishli, bottom (the border is shown in yellow). The two cities are separated by a No-Man’s Land (click on photos for enlargements). 
The No-Man’s Land separating Nusaybin and Qamishli
We stopped for tea on a square facing the main border crossing between the two cities. According to locals this square would usually be jammed with day-traders coming over from Qamishli to buy and sell goods. The crossing is now closed because of the civil war in Syria and the cafes lining the square host only old men nodding over cups of coffee. Reportedly the city of Al Hasakah forty-five miles to the southwest is now at least partially controlled by ISIS jihadists and thus nominally a part of the Newly-Declared Caliphate. How this will affect Nusaybin in the future is unclear.

Nusaybin is the modern Turkish name of the city. During Roman and Byzantine times the city was known as Nisibis. I was in town to visit the Church of St. Jacob and ruins of the old School of Nisibis, which local boosters and Others try to claim was the world’s first university. It might well have been the first university in what is now Turkey. It was founded by St. Jacob in the first half of the fourth century A.D. Jacob (d. 338) had been appointed bishop of the Christian community of Nisibis in 309. In addition to founding the university, he also, according to local sources, built the church which still stands near the ruins of the School of Nisibis. Jacob was one of the signatories at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. If you are a Christian and attend Christian services you will probably at some point repeat at least part of the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea. St. Jacob was also the first Christian to search for Noah’s Ark. He claimed he found a piece of the Ark on Mt. Judi, about seventy miles north of Nisibis. What eventually happened to this alleged relic is unknown. 
Church of St. Jacob
Church of St. Jacob
Painting of St. Jacob in the Church
Altar in the church 
This may have been a baptismal font
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Coffin of Saint Jacob (d. 338) of Nisibis in the catacombs under the church
Locals claim these are the ruins of buildings which once hosted the School of Nisibis. I have not been able to confirm this independently. 
Nusaybin also is famous for its coffee. Many of the coffees are blended with various spices, the most popular being cardamom. It is ground extremely fine for Coffee Prepared Turkish-Style.
Kurdish coffee sellers in Nusaybin. 
My companions went off to visit relatives in Nusaybin and I wandered through the market by myself. Since I was obviously a tourist the coffee dealers brewed me up some free samples of coffee brewed Turkish-style. Neither of them spoke English and I of course spoke no Kurdish, but coffee serves as a universal language. 
I ended up buying a kilo of the Agit Beyin blend shown above, left, which was flavored with cardamom and I believe cinnamon. I should have bought four or five kilos, since it later proved to be a huge hit even among people in Ulaanbaatar who are not usually big coffee drinkers.

7 comments:

  1. I was taught that coffee stirred in a small pot, brought to the brink of boil several times, tenderly seasoned with cardamom and sugar was Armenian coffee...so it goes. To the winner go the naming rights. It is delicious and is truly lovely with a dense butter pound cake flavored with vanilla and cardamom. MMMmmm-good.

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  2. Love the photos! Next time you visit, could you send me some of that coffee, too?

    -a mes

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  3. I guess if Armenians make the coffee it is Armenian coffee. But Coffee Americano is all the rage in Ulaanbaatar, and it is not made by Americans. But coffee certainly is popular. There are now at least four coffee shops on the two-mile walk from Zaisan Tolgoi to downtown. All of them have opened in the last two years.

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  4. The cardiologists are behind that trend!

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  5. Excellent post! It must have a long history and contains many stories and culture.

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  6. What about all of your past rants against coffee and coffee drinkers?

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  7. That was then, this is now.

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