Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

With the panic attack I had the previous day in Mardin plus the hot showers, I slept like a log.  Woke up the following day early, took breakfast at the hotel and made a last minute packing.  After almost a week in Midyat, it’s time to move to the next destination – Hasankeyf.

I took the dolmush (shared van) from Midyat right at the doorstep of Midyat Gap Hotel.  I could have walked to the old town’s otogar (bus station) where it’s starting off but the receptionist phoned the driver to pass by the hotel to pick me up.  That was convenient.  Didn’t I mentioned on my previous post that people in Midyat are extraordinarily hospitable?

The van was already full when it arrived so I have to sit at a small wooden stool, although it took just a couple of kilometers along the way until two passengers got off and that paved for me a comfortable seat beside a local couple. 

There was a military checkpoint along the road and we all have to handover our IDs – for the locals – and my passport.  I was the only non-local on board so I felt very foreign, alien-ish at times.  I think the military are checking something on their computer records, nothing that I should be worried about, I know I have not violated any of the country’s law as far as I could remember. It took about 5 minutes before the van moved its way.

The trip from Midyat to Hasankeyf took almost an hour along beautiful plains, mountains, and zigzagging concrete highways.  I handed my fare which was TL8 to the driver. 
Caves on the mountain sides.

While our van was approaching the town, I know I’ll be in for some unexpected surprise - spectacular scenery, green mountains where some caves carved onto the sides like some form of ancient dwellings I have seen during my several trips in the Cappadocia regions.  

The history of Hasankeyf dates back to 1800 BC, it may have been what is referred to as the "important walled city on a large river" called Ilānṣurā as inscribed on the Mari tablet.   It became known as "Hisn Kayf" which means Rock Fortress, following the Arab conquest of 638 - 640.  With a long history, the town of Hasankeyf is an open-air museum with many ruins around and mostly are entry free.  This bucolic ancient town with a population of only about 3,000 (mostly of Kurdish population) is the icing on the cake of this trip.  It was so sweet, I got diabetes.  Figuratively-speaking, of course.

It is spectacularly set along the Tigris river with the remains of the ancient bridge vis-à-vis the modern concrete one, and the stunning castle dominating the whole town.  Although the castle complex is closed until further notice to tourists, it can be seen at a near distance and stone throw away from accessible neighboring hills and tea garden set on a rock cliff.

I know that the town is impressive that is why I wanted to see it.  It was a dream destination, not the tourist part of me (Paris was, and that was during my early days of traveling), but the traveler (later) part of me.  But I never expected how striking the town is, add to that the fact that it’s not the usual tourist destination, so people are genuinely friendly.  With several years of wandering around this country, I’ve realized that the more remote the town is, the friendlier it gets.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of (most in general) tourist-friendly cities and towns in Turkey.  Places along Aegean, Mediterrenean or Marmaris side are friendly too but some are touristic-friendly.  Let me quote that famous line of Richard Gere from the movie “Pretty Woman” and I quote “they’re friendly with your credit cards”.  Although that is not a general assumption with all due respect.

Hasankeyf Castle.

Historical structures along the river.

People in Hasankeyf speaks Turkish and Arabic.  There are only two accommodations if you plan to stay in the town.  One is the Hasankeyf Motel, a small 2-storey building right in the middle of the town at the foot of the bridge, rooms with balcony overlooking the Tigris river, very basic.  And the one where I stayed, at the friendly Hasankeyf Hasbahce with its nice garden, clean rooms and friendly family who owns the place.  The trout (fish) freshly caught in front of you from their fish pond and grilled is so delicious with a plate of fresh garden salad on the side.

This destination is one that earned a place on top of my bucket list for reason that it may never be the seen in the future as it is now.  The construction of the Ilisu Hydroelectric Dam which is a concern from most of its residents may cause the town’s historical treasures being submerged under the waters.  Much like those antiquities (some of which were saved like the Temples of Abu Simbel) from the construction of the Aswan High Dam in southern Egypt.  

Tigris River.

I felt privileged to have seen and explored this town before the physical demise of its historical marvels deep down under the waters.

The following day will be busy, exploring the town of Hasankeyf.

To read more about the conservation efforts group, go to: Hasankeyf Matters

If you want to make sure you have a place to stay in town, visit: Hasankeyf Hasbahce


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