Our day began with two things, one salubrious the other highly salubrious; I’ll leave you to work out which is which.
First, comes our breakfast . . . what a spread! Everything and then some, well presented and in such quantity that 2/3rds had to be left. There was an interesting looking red-ish “substance” that we were assured was jam made from berries; jam my arse! it was a violently hot pepper spread that would have brought tears to the eyes of even a hardened Mexican chilli connoisseur. On the other hand there was a huge bowl of clotted cream that has probably taken several years off our lives but was worth every lost second!
Second there is the delicate matter of the “bum-washing” faucet on these here Turkish toilets; most of you know what I’m talking about. They are a splendidly refreshing thing on a hot, sticky day but have always to be approached with a fair degree of caution; a moments inattention can be catastrophic! The nozzle will likely be pointing anywhere other than the expected target and is usually aimed at the gap between pan and seat. Many a chap’s sense of self-worth has been utterly destroyed when he stood up and discovered his trousers had been the recipient of several pints of water. So, you can imagine our surprise and utter delight when we discovered that at this up-market establishment the water has been warmed to a comfortable temperature and we all know that a warm wash is better for the environment, delicate fabrics and delicate nether regions!
Anyway, we’re off to Harran today, about 35-40kms South of here. Negotiating the traffic in the narrow streets of the old town was better than expected it being early-ish on a Saturday morning. There were some heavy black clouds about and a little rain but by the time we got there it was clear enough. The village is a bit of a hodge-podge of old beehive shaped buildings and shoddy concrete with no trees or grass to break up the dusty streets. The land around is fertile and very productive these days thanks to the GAP dam projects.
We drove around to the back of the site and found the remains of the castle and it was here that the chap in a car who had been pursuing us finally caught us up along with a hoard of scruffy little tow-rags who were touting for business/alms for the needy. The young guy was very personable, spoke good English and guaranteed to keep the youthful descendants of Genghis Khan off our backs . . . he got the job! Actually, the kids aren’t the descendants of any rampaging Mongol, they speak Arabic by choice and the kids learn Turkish as their second language at school.
Our new guide gave us a good tour around and included some old beehive houses that he and his brothers had renovated and turned into an enterprise. We now have photos of us dressed up in Arab gear and looking and feeling very silly.
Having done Harran, our guide proposed that he should take us to some little visited sites that are mentioned in our guide books but are a devil to find . . we decided to give it a whirl and it was a very good decision. He took us to a huge underground quarry where
stone for much of the ancient buildings of Harran was hewn; its like standing inside a whole bunch of inter-connected cathedrals. There were underground dwellings at another place and what’s left of the temple of Sin (Moon God/ess). You can feel the age of these places as you stand and imagine how it would once have been. Harran has the remains of the oldest university in the world that stood until the Mongols wandered through the area; how the once mighty have fallen!
That said, the locals are a pretty contented lot; there is now plenty of prosperity from farming, tourism adds a bit more and we were assured that there is little to cause discontent. Our guide was indignant at the antics of some of the kids who carry on the begging traditions of their predecessors. Our visit was capped off by an invite to a simple lunch at our guides family home; all in all a very nice day. Oh! And lots of new flowers to photograph that I won’t bore you with.
On the drive back to Urfa we ran into an almighty thunderstorm and downpour; the whole city was awash. Vehicles were stalled at every inconvenient place and with no one giving an inch the place was grid-locked with blaring horns, pedestrians wading knee-deep across the streets and police standing around waiting – presumably for a riot to break out! Wade into that lot and get things moving? No chance!.
Once the rain cleared up we were able to get out and explore the oldest part of town . . . not much to write home about with a few bits of old houses left amidst a heap of ghastly concrete from the 40s and 50s. Several nice looking mosques, though.
We arrived back to another night of live folk music which is pretty much ok; it’s a bit like being back-stage in one of the dressing rooms listening to the gig in the distance. I’m not sure if it’s the zourna getting into my gut or I’ve eaten too much kofte . . . must go on a veggie diet when we get home!