Sunday, December 1, 2019

Turkey | Hasankeyf

Update: A Turkish Dam Is About To Flood One Of The Oldest Continuously Settled Places On Earth.

My post on Hasankeyf:

Wandered by Hasankeyf, on the Tigris River about forty-six miles northeast of Mardin. As long as 3600 years ago a cave settlement was established here in the cliffs and ramparts bordering the Tigris River. It was later occupied by the Romans and turned into an important stronghold on the Roman-Parthian and later Roman-Persian border. In times of peace it served as a strategically located way-station on the Silk Road between the Orient and Occident. The headquarters of a Orthodox bishopric during early Byzantine times, it was conquered by the Arabs in the 640s and Islamized. The Mongols attacked and sacked the city in 1260. The details are unclear, but this assault on Hasankeyf may have been made by Mongol forces under the command of Kitbuqa Noyan. This Mongol army would later suffer a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Egyptian Mamluks in Palestine. In 1550 the city became part of the Ottoman Empire. It may not exist much longer. A dam now planned for the Tigris River will flood much of the area. 
Remains of the bridge over the Tigris River built in 1116 by the Artuqid Sultan Fahrettin Karaaslan. Local guides claim the the supports of this bridge were build on the foundations of an earlier bridge built by the Romans. It was one of the largest bridges in the world in the twelfth century. The Citadel can be seen on the corner of the cliffs to the left. The pier-like structure extending from the left bank is the dining area of a restaurant which serves fish fresh from the Tigris River (click on photos for enlargements). 
 Ruins of one of the main bridge supports 
 The Citadel looming above the Tigris River
 Ruins of ancient Hasankeyf
 Cave residences
Cave residences and ruins
 Pathway leading the top of the massif where the royal palaces and mosque are located. 
Another view of the pathway leading the top of the massif where the royal palaces and mosque are located. 
 Cave dwellings
 A view of modern-day Hasankeyf from near the top of the massif. The new town is inhabited by Kurds, Arabs, and Syriacs
 Another view from the top of the massif
 A massif which according to locals served as the site of an important mint where silver and gold coins were made. The only access to the top, where the mint was located, was via the staircase carved out the rock which can be seen winding its way upward near the middle of the massif.
 Another view from the top of the massif where the royal palaces are located
 The top of the main massif
Ruins of dwellings on the massif
 Ruins of one of the royal places, reportedly built by the Ayyubids, descendants of the great Saladin,  who conquered the area in the 1230s. 
 The Ulu Mosque, at the top of the main massif, was probably also built by the Ayyubids in the thirteenth or fourteen century. 
 Another view of the Ulu Mosque
 Graveyard associated with the Ulu Mosque
 Tombstone with the Ulu Mosque in the background
 More tombstones
We descended from the massif and walked up the valley to a famous spring where people go to either meditate or indulge in Dionysian bacchanalias, depending on their inclinations. 
 The spring. I consider myself a cognoscente of drinking water and this water was excellent. It was not mineralized and icy cold, even though the air temperature was in the low 90ºs F.
A couple of miles from Hasankeyf is another smaller cave complex. 
 Cave dwellings
 Cave dwellings
 Just upstream from current-day Hasankeyf is the tomb of Zeynel Bey, ruler of the Hasankeyf area fron 1462 to 1482. 
Current-day Hasankeyf is famous for its fish restaurants with fresh fish from the Tigris River. Many of the restaurants feature dining on barges in the river. 
Relaxing on the dining barge in the Tigris river. Ancient cave dwellings can be seen on the far bank of the Tigris.
Information About The Dam which will flood much of the area if built. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Iran | Yazd | Carpets

While in Yazd I wandered by a complex of shops selling pottery, brass and copper work, fabrics, clothes, carpets, and other items of interest to tourists, gadabouts, and pilgrims, both domestic and international. 
Courtyard of the shopping complex (click on photos for enlargements)
Pottery for sale at the complex
I was most interested in carpets. Stepping into one store I was surprised to see a selection of carpets very much like some that I already had in my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi. I had bought mine in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, however. “Where are these carpets made?” I asked. I fully expected the salesmen to say “Yazd”, since most visitors are interested in buying locally made products. Instead he answered, “They are made in Serakhs.” “Serakhs, Iran, or Serakhs, Turkmenistan?” I wondered. The salesmen smiled, “Probably both.”
Salesmen in carpet store
I have of course been in Serakhs, Turkmenistan, since it was one of the cities trashed by Chingis Khan’s son Tolui in 1221. I did not have an Iranian visa at the time, so I could not visit Serakhs in Iran, which is right across the border. Nor did I have time to check out carpets stores, as my Turkmenistan visa was expiring and I had to get back to Ashgabat.
Ruins of the ancient city of Serakhs, destroyed by Tolui. The modern city is nearby, with a sister city just across the border in Iran.
Serakhs carpets in Yazd
Serakhs carpets  in Yazd
Serakhs carpets  in Yazd
Serakhs carpets
Serakhs carpets  in Yazd
These kind of carpets, single knotted silk, with emphasis on the color red, are often called “Bukhara Carpets” or “Bukharans”, after Bukhara in Uzbekistan. They were given these names because they were commonly sold in Bukhara, one of the great Silk Road emporiums, not because they were made there. Even today dealers in Bukhara will try to tell you that they are made in Bukhara, but even the most cursory investigation will prove this not to be true. The salesmen in the stores adamantly stick to this story, however. Someone else in Bukhara, a salesman in a store selling hand-woven fabrics who appeared to have a grudge against the carpets guys, warning me that they were dyed-in-wool liars and not to believe a word they said about anything, told me that it was common knowledge among local merchants that the carpets in question came from Serakhs, in Turkmenistan.  I seem to have found proof of this assertion here in Yazd. 
Carpet Store in the Abdullah Khan Tim in Bukhara 
“Bukharan” carpets in the Abdullah Khan Tim. In all likelihood they were made in Serakhs.
“Bukharan” carpets
“Bukharan” carpets
A “Bukharan” carpet, probably made in Serakhs, on the floor of my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi, Mongolia.
Regardless of where they are made, they are gorgeous carpets. I showed one to some Carpet Guys In Istanbul and they grudgingly admitted—they are not big fans of single-knot carpets—that they were of excellent quality. One dealer even offered me cash for one. The profit would have covered my plane ticket to Ashgabat, but I passed. I certainly do not want to become even a part-time carpet dealer, a profession which on the social scale is only slightly above pimps, prostitutes, bartenders, and lawyers. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Atas Bogd Uul

After Solongo’s Accident we continued south towards Atas Bogd Uul.
Crossing gravel flats with Atas Bogd Uul in the far distance (click on photos for enlargements)
Pass through the Arslan Khairkhan Hills
Faint trace of the ancient caravan trail—at one time probably a northern extension of the Silk Road—running between Atas Bogd Uul and Inges Uul.
Stone tripod used for cooking: a pot is placed on the top. 
Local herdsmen claim that Mongolian caravan men never used permanent pot rests like this. They would use three stones as a temporary pot holder, but they would always knock the stones aside before they moved on. These permanent pot holders, claim the local camel guys, were used by Chinese caravan men who traveled on the trail back at the end of the nineteenth century or earlier.
8842-foot Atas (Male Camel) Bogd Uul 
Ranger station south of Inges Uul where we stayed for two days
Ranger Station
6936-foot Inges (Female Camel) Uul, just to the east of Atas Bogd Uul. Inbetween Atas Bodg Uul and Inges Uul is Botgos (young camel) Uul (not visible on this photo). 
Horns of the so-called Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii). They are common around Atas Bogd and Inges mountains. 
Spring near where we camped
This was the first water source we encountered after leaving our starting point at Zakhyn Us 112 miles to the north, as the crow flies (longer by our route). We had to carry enough water on our camels for the five and half day trip here. The oasis around the spring is frequented by a Gobi Bear, whose sign we saw everywhere. The tracks of wolves, sheep, and wild asses were also seen around the spring. 
Site of a famous 1938 battle between Mongolian border guards and the notorious Kazakh bandit and warlord Osman. In the 1930s and 40s Osman roamed the steppe and deserts of northern Xinjiang Province, China, making periodic raids into Mongolia to seize livestock and women. 
At least seven Mongolian border guards were killed in the battle and buried on site. Their graves can be seen here. 
Monument to the battle
Sister Dulya, camp boss on the trip, preparing boortsog (fried bread) at the ranger station for our 112 mile trip (as the crow flies) back to Zakhyn Us, just east of Eej Khairkhan Mountain.
Solongo, chief cook and assistant camel wrangler on the trip, preparing boortsog. 
After a two day rest our camels were raring to get back home, 112 miles to the north.
Sister Dulya, still looking stylish after eight days on the trail, was raring to get back to Ulaanbaatar. First we had six long days of travel by camel to get back to our Starting Point at Zakhyn Us