Thursday, December 9, 2010

Father Abraham (In a Purple Headscarf?)

After Mr. Turkish Bull got our stupid, foreign asses onto the right bus, we found ourselves in the middle of Şanlıurfa. On a whim, I dragged Dave into a bookstore, where I scored a pocket Turkish/ English dictionary for 3 lira.

This came in handy, as shortly thereafter we were mobbed by a dozen young boys who would be our friends for the afternoon. Twelve-year old Mahmut somehow had a Turkish/ English phrasebook with him, so we swapped phrases such as, "I hope you have a safe journey" and "How many children do you have?"

little mahmut in the white shirt next to dave
The boys decided to take us to "Fish Lake." As the legend goes, King Nimrod got really pissed off at Abraham and threw him into a fire. God/ Allah was all like, "Oh no you don't," and He turned the flames into water and the coals into carp. The fish in this pond are huge, glossy, and very excited to eat the pellet food sold by vendors in the park.

"fish lake" at dusk
The next day, we made a pilgrimage to the cave where Prophet Ibrahim/ Patriarch Abraham supposedly was born. The sign next to the door noted the segregated sides for men and women and requested that women to wear long skirts and headscarves (and to refrain from taking photos during prayer). Fortunately, I happened to wear my long skirt and to have a scarf in my bag.

entrance to ibrahim's/ abraham's cave
I don't think I would have taken any pictures, anyway. The mood inside the cave is pretty intense. Women swathed in the purple headscarves typical of Şanlıurfa sat on carpet squares in tight rows, either praying or sitting quietly. One woman was reading a beautiful Arabic Quran. Some women were filling up cups or bottles with holy water from a spigot. A little boy ran around, occasionally shrieking. One woman was crying.

It blew my mind to think that Abraham was born here, oh, plus or minus 4,000 years ago. And this city has been continuously inhabited for nearly 6,000 years! Even the historical Buddha was born "only" 2,500 years ago. Such history! And how lucky I am to have visited so many sacred places this year. Too bad Christians, Muslims, and Jews seem to forget that they are all children of Abraham...

urfa's citadel
After visiting Abraham's cave, we climbed to the top of the Şanlıurfa kale, or citadel, to enjoy the great views of the city. Highly recommended, it was a lovely little walk.

other tourists at the top
Şanlıurfa fashion is... distinctive. Many women wear traditional clothing: a velvet, floor length dress with a leather belt, a velvet cloak, and then another light brown cape. It reminds me of medieval dress. Both men and women wear purple headscarves, apparently all the rage this year. But there are also many women who wear trendy long skirts and snazzy, urbane long jackets.  This is Turkey: part West, part East, part modern, part traditional.

women in typical urfa dress
How could I resist? My lone Turkey souvenir is a trendy purple Urfa headscarf.

this picture destroys any chance at holding public office in the united states.
(i'm not sure i'm disappointed.)
but isn't it a pretty color?
Did Father Abraham wear a purple scarf?  I guess we'll never know...

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