Nesfe Jahan, pt 38

23 October 2010

The day I get my visa is the day I know I’m leaving Erzurum. I’ve learned the things I needed to learn there, and I’m dying to make the most of my most essential resource here: time. Even on my way to the highway, I’m torn in two. I know I can easily extend my visa for Iran in the country, and that I really should be there now. But I also know there is a reason to stay for just a bit longer: Hasankeyf. Described by most people as the second Capadoccia, it is slated to disappear under water in the coming years. The main reason would be to increase the economy in the region, which is by far the worst in the country. Turkey won this round. Not fairly, because I’m there. But yes, I’m in Hasankeyf. The hitch here was… a good experience. But right now I’m here. And it’s glorious.

I arrive at about 3 in the afternoon, with the sun low on the horizon.  There’s no doubt in my mind I’m arriving either. The village is perched on the banks on the Tigris, with the ruins of an old bridge 40 meters downstream of the new one. Two masorny minarettes rise high compared the exclusively one-story houses. And right behind the houses is a sheer vertical cliff of 40 meters, dotted with organic looking cave houses. On the other side of the river, there is small dome on a pile of broken masonry. But even before I get there, I’m accosted by two schoolgirls, still in their uniform. Young enough to be curious and playful, old enough to be fussy. I hang out with them for about 15 minutes, taking pictures and talking Tarzan Turkish. They pose, get angry at what comes out of the camera, and of course, blame it on me. After a while I decide to move on, to a place they call “BIG! BIG!!! something, something!”. It turns out to be a valley with some bigger buildings carved out of the rock. But when I get there, the gate is closed and the guy on the other side isn’t letting me in, no matter how many times I reassure him that it’s really no problem at all to let me in. So, I do the next best thing, I take the road on the side of it, going up, hoping to find a way down later. I explain it to the first kid of decent age I come across, and we’re off. There’s about five of us, and they race up some narrow chasm, jumping from rock to rock. And luckily waiting for me now and then. Mountain goats, these kids. But when we arrive, someone walks to us with a detirmined gait uncommon for touts, so I decide to make it back to the river, in time for sundown. I manage to isolate the oldest and smartest of the kids, and treat him to a pomegranate on the bank.

A beautiful moment comes when we get up to return to the other side of the bridge. I take the pastic bag with the remains of our feast, and he motions to me that I can just leave it here. I’m not shocked, but I manage to get across to him that Hasankeyf is beautiful, and that the bag is not. He runs a few meters, and comes back with part of a broken tire, “and this?”. I put it in the bag. He smiles. He points to a huge pile of rubbish by the roadside, “and what are you going to do about this, huh?”. When we get back on the other side, he takes the bag out of my hands, and runs to the only bin in town. Kids. It’s probably best to treat them as adults. For them, and for you. Tonight I’m sleeping with the sound of the Tigris lapping the bridge. And a big truck every 10 minutes, reminding me that I have to hustle.

PS. Taking pictures of young girls. Taking a minor for a walk and buying him fruit. In my country, I could go to jail for this.