Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Turkey | Mardin | Deyrulzafaran Monastery

Deyrulzafaran Monastery is located about three and half miles from downtown Mardin. Every travel agent in town offers a stop at the monastery on one their tours of the local sites, but there does not seem to be any public transportation. A taxi costs 25 lira ($11.77), which seemed rather exorbitant. I tried to bargain the price down to 20 lira with several different taxi drivers but to no avail. The last one got a bit huffy and unleashed a barrage of Turkish at me that didn’t seem all that friendly. So I decided to walk. If I can’t walk three and a half miles in an hour it is time to hang up my walking cane. At ten in the morning it was still fairly cool and the walk out of town went quickly. I soon arrived at the turnoff to the monastery at the village of Eskikale. From here it about a mile to the monastery through sparsely vegetated hills inhabited by flocks of sheep and the occasional horse and frolicking colt.  

Outside of the monastery were half a dozen big tour buses, dozen or more minivans with tour groups, and a sprinkling of private vehicles. Just outside of the monastery grounds is a new visitors center with an extensive gift shop and a cafe with abundant patio seating. After quaffing down two liters of water I bought a six lira ticket and entered the monastery. 

Deyrulzafaran is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. It was founded in 439 on the site of a former sun-worshippers’ temple, as was the Mor Behnam and Mort Sara Church. Unfortunately only the main courtyard and several rooms fronting on it, including a small chapel, are open to the public. 
Deyrulzafaran Monastery (click on photos for enlargements)
Deyrulzafaran Monastery
Main entrance to Deyrulzafaran Monastery
Gateway leading to the inner courtyard
The inner courtyard
The inner courtyard
Walkway fronting on the courtyard
Walkway fronting on the courtyard
Dining Hall in the monastery
Chapel in the monastery
View of the plains of Mesopotamia from the monastery
It was quite a bit warmer by the time I started walking back to Mardin. I did not have a hat, and the sun was uncomfortably hot on my head, freshly shaven just this morning. I was just about out of steam by the time I reached the main road back to Mardin. Maybe it was time for me to hang up my walking cane. Then a car stopped. Inside were three downright gorgeous women who looked to be in their twenties or early thirties. The driver asked me in a sexy French accent if I needed a ride. For a moment I thought I might have stepped into a scene in some risqué French movie. Did these women drive around country roads picking up men and ravishing them? Were these women about to ravish me? No, as it turned out.  The driver explained that she and her friends were from France but working in Istanbul. They had flown to Mardin the evening before, rented a car, and were taking in the sights. They planned to fly back to Istanbul tonight. They were now on their way to Midyat. We drove to the edge of town and they dropped me off at the cutoff to Midyat. Back in the Mardin town square I saw one of the taxi drivers who had turned down my offer of 20 lira earlier. “Manastir—yirmi besh! (monastery—twenty-five lira),” he offered, I held out my ticket stub to the monastery and made walking motions with my fingers. He snorted, clearly not believing I had walked to the monastery and was back in time for lunch. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

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.

Turkey | Midyat

The city of Midyat, about thirty-seven miles east-northeast of Mardin, is in the middle of Tur Abdin, the old Syriac Christian heartland located in the mountains and plateaus just north of the Mesopotamian plain. Many Syriacs migrated out of the area in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the old Syriac quarter in Midyat was largely abandoned. A modern Kurdish city grew up nearby. A few Syriacs have drifted back to the town in the twenty-first century—according to local sources about 130 Christian Syriac people now live in the Old Town. There is also reportedly a small Syriac Jewish population. Kurds also live in the Old Town, and in fact I did not encounter any Syriac Christians. Locals say they do not engage in casual encounters with tourists. 
 The old Syriac Christian quarter of Midyat (click on photos for enlargements).
 Syriac Christian Church undergoing renovations
 Steeple of Syriac Christian Church. Note the characteristic teardrop design on one side of the steeple.
 A private residence utilizing the teardrop motif
Street scene in Midyat. I don’t know why, but I kept expecting Joseph and Mary and their little toddler to come walking around the corner. 
  Typical street scene in Midyat
 Typical street scene in Midyat
 The old bazaar in Midyat. The store fronts on the right are all boarded up. 
 The entrance to what is apparently a private residence. The stonework of tawny limestone appears to be new. The art of stone masonry and carving is alive and well in Midyat. There are numerous new stone buildings with elaborate carved decorations in the Kurdish part of Midyat. 
 We walked half a mile or so in the brutal heat to the Mor Abraham & Mor Hobel Monastery, which supposedly contains a 1700 year-old church, only to find that the entire complex was closed to the public that day. 
 An old Syriac mansion which has been turned into a museum, cultural center, and conference hall. It and the nearby streets also serve as the settings of a popular Turkish soap opera called “Sila”. Curiously, Mardin was also used as an open-air set for a Turkish soap opera. 
A room in the museum made up as a traditional Syriac Audience Chamber. The local Syriac patriarch sat in the chair at the end of the room. Petitioners knelt on the carpets and pleaded their cases. 
 One room in the museum is a traditional Syriac bridal suite made up for the wedding night. Enough to make anyone want to get married. 
 Kurdish man who drove me to Midyat. His regular job is as an imam in a mosque in the city of Batman. He is the proud father of eight children. 
 Kurdish girls hamming it up. They spoke Kurdish, of course, but my driver claimed they did not speak Turkish at all. They were eager to practice English, however, which they learn from watching TV.
Kurdish girl 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Turkey | Mesopotamia | Mardin

Wandered out to Mardin, in southeast Turkey, 673 miles east-southeast of Istanbul, on the very border between Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The Syrian border is about 14 miles to the south, but there are few visible signs of the war in Syria in this part of Turkey. Mardin is famously located on the side of a 3700-foot high hill overlooking the great plain of Mesopotamia. The southern edge of the town is at about 3000 feet, but at the Syrian border the elevation has already dropped to 1600 feet, almost 2000 feet lower than the town. 
 The hillside city of Mardin (click on photos for enlargements).
 The great plain of Mesopotamia viewed from Mardin—home of Suberians, Hurrians, Elamites, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans, and Byzantines—and that’s just up the fourteenth century!—and beloved by current day Neo-Mesopotamians.
 The town of Mardin
 Most of the lanes running up and down the town are staircases. 
 The narrow streets of Mardin. 
The 170-foot high minaret of the Great Mosque (Ulu Camii), built by order of Qutb ad-din Ilghazi in the 12th century. As you probably know, Qutb ad-din Ilghazi was the ruler of the Artuqid Turks, who in the 12th century established an emirate more-or-less independent of the Saljuq Sultanate of Rum. The mosque originally had two minarets, but one was reportedly destroyed by Amir Timur (Tamurlane). 
Courtyard of the Great Mosque
Mardin is the jumping-off point for the region known as Tur Abdin, “Mountain of the Servants of God” or “Mountains of the Hermits”, which rumor has it may contain a Portal to Shambhala. More on Tur Abdin to follow . . . 

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.