Sunday, October 26, 2014

flooding history

Hasankeyf lies on the banks of the Tigris river, and has been home over the centuries to Romans, Armenians, and Arabs, though now the town is mostly Kurdish. It was one of the many stopovers on the Silk Road, and has a rich archaeological history. Sadly though, the town is set to disappear under dam waters— though no one knows exactly when. The Ilisu Dam Project has been threatening to swallow up all the homes, caves, and historical sites, relocating people to grey, concrete apartment blocks on higher ground.

Our initial plan was to spend a few days in Hasankeyf to document the people, historical sites, caves, and nature in as many sketches as possible, but we ran into some weirdness at the place we were staying. I am not going to go into too many details, but the owner of the pansiyon was quite unpleasant— for example, when Pedro told a long-term foreign guest that he is a freelance illustrator, the owner, who up until this point pretended that he didn't know a word of English, commented with a grin to the guest in Turkish that freelance really meant "unemployed". His laughter came to an abrupt stop when I shot him a dirty look— my Turkish is very far from fluent, but I have enough. We didn't feel welcome, and at 140 TL a night, the pansiyon was one of the most expensive places we stayed at with the least amenities. Compared to the charming Yusuf bey and his Star Hotel in Akseki, where we spent 70 lira on a bright, clean room, we felt ripped off.

We were sorely disappointed by the experience we had at the pansiyon, that we agreed that one night we spent would be the last, and we woke up early to make a beeline for the next town— but not until we did bit of exploring first.

Once in the silence between the rocks, we were overcome by the beauty of our surroundings, and our frustration eased away. The sun cast long, sharp shadows across the rock faces and the gaping mouths of caves, which up until fairly recently were inhabited. A small herd of goats passed us nonchalantly, their bells tinkling. Soon their billy arrived with a desire for sketchbooks, and a struggle ensued between Pedro and the goat.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the epic rat! Upon exiting our room, our path to the car was cut by a galloping giant rat. I have seen many rats in my lifetime but this rat did not scurry away, it really galloped— galloped with its head high, like a noble lion in the Serengeti. I swear the moment was in slow motion, and that I saw the rat's soft fur shine in the morning sunlight.

"Wow, what a fine rat" Pedro gasped.
"I know!"


liz said...

this is so beautiful and interesting! (except for the hotellier)

szaza said...

Yes, that part was disappointing, but Hasankeyf is stunning— and the other people we met were lovely. I am saddened by the thought that it will all disappear.