Why Diyarbakir? Why not. ;-)
Ok, I'll stop being cheeky. :-P The well-worn grooves in the Asian backpacker tourist trail left me disillusioned with the potential for meaningful travel experiences. I wanted to get a little farther off the beaten path. Most tourists to Turkey stick to the western half of the country, but everything I've read highly recommends a visit to the eastern half.
It was clear that we were the only foreigners on the flight to Diyarbakir. Diyarbakir's airport terminal is smaller than Ithaca's. All signs were in Turkish. We said, "Otobüs" to some men in uniforms. It worked! The pointed us outside. The bus driver knew only one English word: "Yes." Well, I guess it's time for adventure!
We were dropped off at some place near the old city. I'm used to locals staring openly at me, and we sure drew some attention. Within five minutes, a group of children had noticed our big backpacks and circled us like puppies wanting playtime. A young woman shook Dave's hand vigorously and kissed my cheeks multiple times. This was the pattern for the next few days: someone talks to us loudly and slowly in Turkish, repeating the words again and again, as if that would help me magically understand (it's hilarious!!).
|ercan, ugur, and another guy whose name i forget|
We visited the city walls, the central bazar, and the Ulu Mosque, and we drank tea together. The students identified themselves as Kurds, not Turks, and were very proud to teach us Kurdish words and to drink Kurdish tea. Kurdish pride is everywhere and constant. When the man selling me a bus ticket randomly indicated that Diyarbakir was Kurdish, not Turkish, I said "roj bash" ("hello" in Kurdish) to him, and I thought he would die of happiness on the spot.
|woman wearing the white headscarf typical of diyarbakir|
|muhammed and sabra|
We spent this entire evening in the company of new friends who know maybe a dozen English words between them. A shared language is not necessary for communication, nor is it necessary for a good time. With the university students, we pantomimed our sentences like a three-hour game of charades. Better entertainment than communication, but guaranteed to provide plenty of laughs! At Muhammed's house, we used Google Translate to "talk" back-and-forth. The translations aren't always perfect, but it's possible to talk about more than "I like ___" and "This is called ___ in my language."
|on top of the city walls|
|the courtyard of a centuries-old hotel, |
back when europe was in the dark ages and the muslim world was the light of civilization