Thursday, August 31, 2006

Clothes dryers

Blue clothes hanging, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It was an expensive day yesterday. We paid 81 euros for someone from Miele to turn up at the house and spend one minute looking at the clothes dryer to see why it had broken down. he would charge us 500 euros to repair the damage to this twelve-year old machine or we could pay 900 for a new one.

It seemed that the damage was self inflicted as one of us had taken to cleaning it and had taken a piece out and had put it back wrongly. This was done without forcing the piece back, although there was an obscure message saying that it should be put back in a certain way.

So, although we are very happy with our Miele's we feel quite let down by the fact that it was so easy to break the machine by short-circuiting the systems. If the piece had been forced back in then we can say it is our fault, but it all seemed too easy.

The new one will be delivered on Saturday. It'll cost about 100 euros than one oredered from an internet shop, but internet savvy as we are(!), we still fel more comfortable buying from a local shop than through cybersapce for something like this. It so often seems with internet shopping that from the time one has started to try to buy something to the time that the final price has been calculated, including delivery and removal charges, credit card costs, administration costs and so on, that the saving has amost disappeared. This is especially so with specifying a Dell computer, if anyone has ever had that experience. I usually hack off in disgust at being led down such a long path by these internet shops that even when the total price is a bit less than the shop price I can very easily click away the window on the screen, angry that I have wasted so much time on a wild goose chase.

I will say however, that I DO like for ordering books, dvd's and cd's. The prices are reasonable and there are no extra cosys for shipping or anything. Excellent... as long as the Dutch Post bothers to eventually deliver what has been ordered!

The man from Miele did mention that August had been an exceptionally bad month for clothes dryers. Normally, with summer weather clothes dryers are not used so much in August, but this August looks like, on average, it might be the wettest month ever measured in Holland! No-one has been hanging their clothes OUT to dry, and with a number of electricians on holiday, the one sleft over have been incredibly busy.

Charles in Uspallata Valley

Charles in Uspallata Valley, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

And this is me two years (and a day) ago, high in the Andes in the Uspallata Valley. I was high up, it was winter, I had a jumper and jacket but it was so hot up there. I had rented a bike in Mendoza and had brought it up by bus to Uspallata where I spent a couple of magical days cycling around and going out on a horse.

Two days later, I would be flying back to Holland and a few weeks later, starting work on my job of closing my ex-company down. Maybe it is not such a good thing to have all these photgraphic memories lying aound, as I am more tempted to carry on travelling a bit than finding an office job again. Hmmmm....

In Gash Barka

Here we are in western Eritrea, in the province of Gash Barka, named after the two rivers which run throught the area. This was taken from the bus in the early morning as we made a dash back to Asmara, fearing that we might have to wait 2 or 3 days for the next bus to take us back from Barentu to Asmara, such is the dire state of public transport in Eritrea.

In a way, it was a pity we left Barentu so quickly because it was here that we found some of the most colourful people in all our travels. They were as shy as they were photogenic, with the result that we did not get many nice photos. Still, it was quite an adventure and we had a spectacular sky to see us off into the early night.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bahir Dar shepherds

Bahir Dar shepherds - six, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

ometimes, when it has been raining the whole day outside, it is nice to go back over photos from our Africa trip, where it is possible to come across diamonds like this.

We were in Bahir Dar, on the shores of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile and we had rented a couple of bicycles for the day. After, having had someone attaching themselves to us and making a thorough nuisance of himself and upsetting Fred, he decided to return to the hotel. I carried on and cycled around town with my camera.

I ended up the other side of town, out towards the countryside where I came across some very friendly people, mainly shepherds who all loved to pose in front of the camera, preferably with a sheep in their arms, like this one. It was the end of the day and everyone was relaxed and it was one of those lovely times on one's travels when, despite the language barrier, one felt really connected to the people one came across. Happy memories.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

100,000 visits on flickr

Well, after 411 days on flickr, the charlesfred site has today received its 100,000 visitor.

This is quite phenomenal, given that after six months we were up to 12,000, after a year to 59,000 and then in the last 43 days, another 41,000 visitors. This last number is due partly to all the photos from our holidays in Turkey, but also the World Cup photos and the photos from Blijburg, the beach in Amsterdam, taken in those hot hot days of early July. Two of these photos were particularly popular namely the two of the topless women which have chalked up 8,000 and 5,000 views each.

Anyway, here is one of the photos I like the most, taken towards sunset at the top of the Mount of Olives in Lalibela in the Wollo province of Ethiopia.

(The uses of) Violence

Cedars of Lebanon, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

With the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish Government in the news now, with the three bombings in Turkey yesterday, I was thinking about how violence is used to further political aims. It is very easy to condemn violence and killing, when one does not have something to fight for. However, the old nation states of Europe, such as England, France, Spain and Holland have all come into being with a large dose of violence and in some respects we are reaping the benefits of people having fought on our country's behalf in the past.

Turkey came into existence in very difficult circumstances in the last centuries and a response to the break-up of the centuries old Ottoman Empire. Drastic measures, including the possible/probable genocide of the Armenians, were taken by Ataturk to establish the nation state of Turkey. The feud with the Kurds is a left-over from that and subsequent eras and, in that, respect, is something which should be capable of being understood, even if one does not support the tactics being used. I would hope that in this instance, the Kurds could better rely on Turkey's aim to become a member of the EU as leverage to ensure that their claims and rights and treatment within Turkey are improved. And that seems to be what is happening in the main, the violence now being perpetrated by splinter groups.

Moving along to Lebanon and the destruction wreaked by Israel..... I read this article recently:

"On 12 July 2006 the Israeli chief-of-staff granted us an insight into the subtleties of his nation's military thinking. The military operations being planned for the Lebanon, he told us, would "turn back the clock by twenty years". Well, I was there twenty years ago, and it wasn't a pretty picture. Since then, the lieutenant-general has been as good as his word. I am writing this just twenty-eight days after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers, a common enough military practice not unknown to the Israelis themselves.

In that time, 932 Lebanese have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded. 913,000 have become refugees. Israel's dead number ninety-four, with 867 wounded. In the first week of this conflict, Hizbollah fired some ninety rockets a day into Israel. Last week – despite 8,700 unopposed bombing sorties flown by the Israeli air force, resulting in the crippling of Beirut's international airport, and the destruction of power-plants, fuel-dumps, fishing-fleets, 147 bridges and seventy-two roads – Hizbollah upped its daily average of rockets to 169. And those two Israeli prisoners who were the purported cause of all the fuss have still not come home.

So yes. Exactly as we were warned, Israel has indeed done to the Lebanon what it did to it twenty years ago: laid waste its infrastructure and visited collective punishment on a delicate, multicultural, resilient democracy that was struggling to reconcile its sectarian differences and live in profitable harmony with its neighbours."

An awful lot of damage and killing for nothing and it seems clear that the Israeli people are aware of this. Not that they seem to be too upset that their government has wreaked such destruction on their neighbour, but more that they did not get back the two soldiers or destroy Hizbollah.

Taking this further, there might come the shock of understanding that violence and aggression can not get you as far in the world as you think. You cannot always achieve your ams with military strength. For a country which has always armed itself to the maximum, this must be quite worrying, especially when they see their best friend the US having similar problems in achieving its military aims in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If your aims are not realistic and if you have not first tried to sort out problems through negotiation and diplomacy, you will find that military strength and aggression will not get you as far as you might expect. Once this is realised, maybe the powerful states like the US and Israel will try harder to find long term peaceful solutions rather than enter into 'popular' wars which become very unpopular because, despite all the propaganda, people (voters) will realise after a while that the war has failed.

In fact, I have been thinking for a long time that we humans think we are capable of a lot more than we actually are capable of. Time to become a bit more humble, I think.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Too bad to be true

The Blue Mosque, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A bomb explosion in a busy part of Istanbul this morning, injuring six Turks.

A bomb explosion on a main street in Marmaris this afternoon, injuring twenty-one people, including eleven Turks.

And now.... a bomb in the centre of Antalya, killing two and injuring five.

These are all places which we have been to, Antalya just ten days ago, so it is personally quite shocking.

It is just all too bad. How cowardly does one have to be to kill innocent people with bombs?


I always come back to this photo when it is pouring down with rain, like it has all day today and then with the assurance that it will continue to do so for the rest of the wek.

Anyway, we should not complain too much, as it had been far too dry for all the months earlier in the year, even though rain now is making the potatoes even more expensive than they would be if it was not raining. We can always eat rice or spaghetti, or if we are a bit adventurous, bulgur wheat!

One part of the world which is always a lot wetter than here in north-west Europe, is the equator. The BBC started a new three-part series about the equator, called Equator, whereby Simon Reeve travels through the three equatorial continents, namely Africa, (Asia) Indonesia and South America.

Yesterday it was Africa's turn and I got quite excited, knowing that the equator goes through southern Somalia and that Simon Reeve has already been to Somalia, for his excellent - Holidays in the Danger Zone - Countries which don't exist - programme. He started in the west, in Gabon and continued east through Uganda, then Kenya and then..... a bit o fake drama. It was early morning, low light and he tells us in whispered tones that he had just heard that there was an increase in violence in Somalia which meant that he was not going to go there... but go to a refugee camp in Kenya instead. It was a bit disappointing and I really don't think they had ever really planned to go to Somalia this time. Still, it was interesting visit to the refugee camp, just 95 kms away fro Garissa, which Fred and I visited in 1990.

Simon Reeve is an excellent chap and watching him is a lesson in how one should travel... with an open mind and a great sense of humour and enthusiasm. He always respects the people he meets, never partonises them and is always willing to share a joke with them. In this respect he matches very closely that other BBC traveller par excellence, Michael Palin. A joy to watch.

Fred starts school again today

Fred getting on, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

But this day last year he was getting onto the back of a horse in Petra, helped by a young bedouin with a very interesting conversation opener. It was our third day in Petra and we had gone up to the High Altar of Sacrifice, a beautiful walk taking us up to the high places of Petra. It would have been an early start, with us arriving at the entrance gate at 6.30 to beat the sun and the crowds (which never arrived, sadly enough for the locals). I had the fun of galloping the kilometer or so from the Siq back to the entrance while Fred plodded along on his steed.

This year Fred will be giving most of his lessons in the International Department of 'R L' in Oegstgeest, the lessons being given in English and following a syllabus and methodology devised in the UK. He has kept his Fridays free, which gives him time to mark scripts and prepare lessons before the weekend. As he left before 6.30 this morning he was looking forward to his new school year, having enjoyed his seven week summer holiday, which went by all too quickly.


Smoking - really such a bad thing?

Man at Uitmarkt - three, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I was following a discussion on the guardian unlimited site to which my Mum referred me after the recent entry on airbrushing smoking from history and I came across an interesting discussion about what was the worst of man's inventions? The cigarette, as someone first claimed, or the motor car, as someone else responded?

Certainly both are very big killers. The cigarette keeps the hospitals full and nurses in employemnt.

The car is more functional but then it does do an awful lot of damage to the environment as well.. not to mention all the wars which are being fought and are going to be fought to ensure supplies.

But if we are going to go down that route, we might as well mention the aeroplane, which due to the fact that governements do not tax the fuel is a bigger contributor to global warming than the car (apparently). We are still left with the problems of war being fought over supplies, and what is more it is the aeroplane, in the form of fighters, which are used most often to conduct the wars, killing thousands from the sky with their scatter bombs.

However, I am not going to condemn the aeroplane when it has given me the chance to travel so widely around the world, quicker than would have been the case with boats and trains.

No, I think my prize for worst ever invention is the nuclear bomb, which has already been used to destroy two large cities and has the potential to kill all mankind and most other mammals and birds and so on. Of course, the probability is small, given the way we normally look at these things, but in trms of evolutionary timescales, the probabilities and risks are enormous.

Anyway, I have the feeling that we will see the back of smoking, certainly in public, way before we have dismantled all the nuclear weapons.

As I was out taking a few photos of people smoking during the past weekend, I realised that I was recording history, the history of a time when people lit up sticks of dried tobacco rolled in thin paper.... in public!

However, going back to the title of this blog and whether smoking tobacco is such a bad thing, I have been sent a link to an article from the early 1900's, which makes it very clear that the negative (and a few positive) effects of smoking were well known even then. The article even has the added bonus of placing the work of doctors and the medical profeesion in the context of Christian teaching.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fred and Charles and Rembrandt

This weeekend, we have another street festival, namely teh Uitmarkt, where all the city's cultural institutions present their programmes for the coming months, at stalls spread around the centre of town. There are a number of podia with music and bands and other activities. The weather yesterday was lovely so we were lukcy and it looks to be just a sgood today.

Fred and I are not exactly culture vultures (although Fred does occasionally get himself a subscription to the opera), so we are not exactly queuing up to buy tickets. However, there were some interesting looking activities coming up, such as an African Film Festival - Reframing Tradition, from 7-16 September in Amsterdam and some other cities. Also, a Moroccan msuic festival in the west of Amsterdam next week. Later a Turkish festival and so on.

Amsterdam is celebrating the 400th birthday of Rembrandt at the moment, with all sorts of shows, musicals, museum exhibitions and the like. Here we are appearing in a Rembrandt painting, as part of the promotion of Rembrandt - The Musical. Dutch peopel like musicals. They used to go to London to see them. However, Joop van Ellende (he of Big Brother fame) has almost single-handedly created a musical industry here in Holland and now they are everywhere. I don't think we have been to one, but maybe there is a first time.

We do have tickets for a cultural performance though and I am proud to say that on 21st September we are going to the world premiere of a new opera called Alzheimer, written by none other than our dear neighbour, Bert Keizer. More about this another day. Today is another day to enjoy the brief respite from the incessant rain.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Having a fag

Having a fag in Kayseri 1, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We were travelling by tram into town yesterday to go to teh cinema to watch Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest, because it was raining and we did not feel like getting wet on our bicycles. The trams here are very modern and have video screens showing mostly adverts but also some snippets of news and weather forecasts - and sure enough it looks liie rain for the next five days, just as it has rained for the last five days. However, with a temperature of around 20 degrees, it is not too cold and every now and then the sun does come out.

Anyway, the video screen was telling us that various Tom and Jerry cartoons are going to be manipulated to remove any sights of people/cats/mice smoking. It said that the British public thought that it was inappropriate to show smoking in a children's cartoon.

Well, I would be interested to know how many of the British people actually think this. If it is more than 10% I would be very surprised. Disappointed too that so many people would have become infected with such politically correct nanny-state nonsense.

And if it is not the British public who think this, who or which organistation, thinks that it can speak for the British public and make such a ridiculous decision.

To some degree, a Tom and Jerry cartoon is an historic document, showing fashions, house interiors, ways of life and playing music from a certain era. To go round changing it, eradicating bits of the cartoon to match the perceived sensibilities of those in charge smacks heavily of totalitarianism of the worst Soviet or Chinese kind. Surely this has no place in the Mother Democracy and liberal thinking! When will they start eradicating disabled people from history? And then maybe gay people? And who will be next?

I do not smoke and I never have. I do not like it - it makes your breath smll, turns your teeth brown and weakens your lungs (hint hint). I do not think that smoking should be encouraged, but I really think it is taking things too far to eliminate such images from old Tom and Jerry cartoons. I wonder if the image of the black maid has already been removed? Anyway, I have decided to put up four pictures of people smoking, from one day's shotting in Turkey to mark this bit of nonsense.

We enjoyed the film, by the way, even though it was a bit longer on speacial effects (again really excellent) and shorter on story than we would have liked. Caprtain Jack Sparrow is an excellent creation and well done to Johnny Depp for having the guts to take the character to such an extreme. And, being a US financed film, of course we did not see a single pirate smoking.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Late August in Amsterdam

It is cloudy and wet again today... and this seems to be the weather pattern we can get used to here in Holland for the next eight or nine months. At present, the North Sea is too warm (normally it is too cold), this because the sea was heated up during the heatwave we had in June and July. For some reason, with unstable air above, this creates a lot of rain. July was the hottest month here in 200 yeras adn August is turning out to be one of the wettest as well. Oh well, at least we had our fill of sun in Turkey.

Today we are going to see Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest at the cinema and then going to meet up with Annemiek to hear about her trip to Australia and China.

Fred is getting ready for schoool and yesterday received his roster which, again leaves him with a free day on Fridays, which he much prefers. If I understand well, Mondays and Thursdays are his difficult days and Tuesdays and Wednesdays his easier days. It takes me back to the days of school, when one also had favourite and unfavourite days. I liked days with Maths, English, History and Geography. I was not so keen on days of double Science, double Woodwork or French!

I am not sure what I would make of History as a 13 uear old having to learn about '-ism's', such as liberalism, communism and fascism. I did that at university when I was 19, but at 13 we were stuck in the Middle Ages or Tudors and Stuarts. In fact we never seemed to have gone much further than them. Interestingly, reading history-related books now it is strange to note how different the emphasis is between teh facts which we learnt and teh coinsequences of such facts which one rads about now. Having done the English Civil War, the Protectorate and the Glorious Revolution, we knew all the dates and many of the battles, but never really looked at the development of parliamentary democracy, the philosophic contexts of what was going on (Hobbes and Locke's liberalism) and so on.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What now for Somaliland?

Getting there, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I have found confirmation that indeed Edna Adan Ismail has been relieved of her post as Foreign Minister of Somaliland and that she has been replaced by Abdillahi Mohamed Dualeh, who was previously Minister of Information (sounds very Orwellian).

I am too far away to know whether or not this is a good thing. Much as I have the utmost admiration and resepect for Edna Adan, what is important is that Somaliland receives the international recognition which so many Somalilanders long for. It could be that Mr Dualeh, if he has the full support of the President, is the right man. Somaliland is a democracy and ministerial changes do take place, and Mr Dualeh is now the man.

There is a suspicion around that the President is actually not so interested in gaining intrnational recognition for his country. But we should hope for the best. It is to be hoped that maybe with a new direction, some extra resources and the increadsed awareness of the problems of the Horn of Africa may all work in Somaliland's favour.

I would like to refer readers to an article by Peter Pham, who often writes in very favourable terms about Somaliland, urging the US Government to realise what its best interests are in the Horn. Her is very clear that these interests coincide with those of Somaliland. This is a great article and his comments with regards to the TFG in Somalia and the role of UN, Kofi Annan and his sidekick Mr Fall, in particular, are very accurate.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A dangerous time for Somaliland

Nurses of payment ward, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is my most viewed photo of all the photos I took in Somaliland. I am very happy because these are three of the nurses who are now working at the Payment Ward of the Group Hospital in Hargeisa, where I was born! Thank you ladies for posing in such a nice way.

I am disappointed, to say the least, because I have read in Somaliland Times and Awdal News that our friend and mid-wife to my mother, Edna Adan Ismail seems to have lost her job as Somaliland's Foreign Minister. She is an incredibly strong woman and has done so much for her country as well as for many people in other countries, such as Djibouti, where she was the WHO representative for many years. She has built her own maternity hospital in Hargeisa, which is heavily involved in training local nurses in maternity issues.

She has been a strong and clear voice pushing for international recognition of the independence of Somaliland.

With all the nonsense going on in neighbouring Somalia, with Ethiopian troops on the ground, weapons being supplied by Wahabi-ist Arab countries (notably the despicable Saudi Arabia), through Eritrea and the standoff between the Transitional Governement, sponsored by the pathetically inept UN and the Union of Islamic Courts, it could be only a matter of time before Somaliland is affected.

Granting recognition now would look like a knee-jerk reaction to the possibility of a Taliban-style regime in Somalia and may even provoke additional nastiness between the two countries.

I know the UK has been quietly going about strengthening its ties with its old Protectorate, but it has lacked the decisiveness on this issue with which it has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the meantime, the big enemies of Somaliland such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Italy (and Italy really should know better) will all have blood on their hands if the conflict in Somalia spills over to its neighbour.

Cross dressing

Pink streak, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It rained all day Sunday, well at lest until about 5 o'clock, so just time to cycle off with my camera to find any nice shots of day two of the Hartjefestival on Zeedijk. Sure enough, we could find men dressed as women and women dressed as men, as predicted by the local paper.

The lght was not so good and the Zeedijk was now teeming with people so not the best opportunity for taking pictures. However, it seems that if you are going to go to the trouble of dressing up as a woman, you are not going to pass over the opportunity of being photographed. So, managed to get some posed shots. While itw as great to see the lengths to which some people went in dressing up, it was also great to see a number of chaps not doing a lot more than putting on a dress and a wig and just being their normal manly selves.

Next weekend, we have the opening of the cultural season in Amsterdam, which is marked by the Uitmarkt and various open-air concerts and the like. Hopefully the weather will have settled a bit by then, as we move nearer to the glorious month of September.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hartjesfestival in Amsterdam

Today is the second day of the Hartjesfestival on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam. I have never heard of this festival before but Henk assures me it has been going on for many years. I went down yesterday evening to take some photos and we will be going there this afternoon with Henk and the 'gang'. However, whereas yesterday the sun shone all day, this morning it is wet outside and is raining as I type, so maybe not such a good day for photos.

I am not exactly sure what the point of the Hartjesfestival is but there are stages where bands perform and most of the buildings have handmade flags flying outside, with the theme of hearts. It seems like a great occasion for certain people to get dressed up. The people whose idea of dressing up is put put anything on which glitters, gleams or glistens... something one would expect more of the Jordaan or Albert Cuyp than the Zeedijk. But it all makes for a colourful scene. The local paper tells us also that we can expect to see men dressed up as women and women dressed up as men (as if that wasn't an everyday occurence). Didn't notice much of that yesterday.... maybe today.

The Zeedijk lies to the east/south east of Central Station and follows the old boundary of Amsterdam. It used to be home to sailors and whores, just like Jacques Brel sings in his song (The Port of) Amsterdam. A very romantic idea and a very colourful song, a song which in fact gave me my first images of the city. However, times have changed. The boundaries of Amsterdam have been pushed much further out since the 1920's/1930's and the sailing boats do not call in any more. There is a container terminal to the west and a cruise ship terminal just above the Zeedijk. The whores have moved along more into the narrow side streets, showing themslves off in the windows, aided by the infamous red lights. This leaves the Zeedijk with its Chinese shops and restaurants in the southern part towards the Nieuwmarkt and old bars and new (un)smart drug shops nearer Centraal Station.

However, Fred has looked up Hartjesdag in his Amsterdam XYZ book and he tells me that:
"A 'hart' is both a heart and a female deer (hart, in English). Although, hearts seem to be the theme of the festival nowadays, it seems that the origin had to do with the hunting of harts - wild deer, as the opening of the season started in mid-August. Apparently, the deer which had been hunted would be brought into the city and roasted on big barbecues in the streets (not in the Zeedijk, but Haarlemerstraat). An alternative is that the day is the remnant of a feast for an old German earth goddess, although this may seem a bit far-fetched."

Now, the deer are protected and we are left with yet another excuse ot go on the streets, listen and dance to music and drink beer, like these two women here! Let's hope the rain clears before the afternoon.


Two weeks ago in Urfa

Sister, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Two weeks ago in Urfa, we came across this beautiful young woman.

Hartjesdag in Amsterdam

Back in Amsterdam we have different kinds of women!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Back home

Home grown potatoes, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It took almost as long from landing at Schiphol Airport (two-and-a-half hours), to arriving home as did the flight from Antalya (four hours). But when we arrived home we found everything in order, the house tidy, the fridge well stocked and the garden very green and the trees all surviving (so far as we can tell). We also found lots of water in the jars and ashtrays out on the balcony, which tells us that it must have been a little bit wetter here than it had been in Turkey.
The weather was reasonable, a bit sunny, a bit cloudy and a bit windy but pleasant enough. Not beach weather though and no such weather is being forecast either.
Fred has a week or so before he goes back to school and I have promised that before he does I will have finished a detailed CV, which I will need if I am to find a new job... now that the time has come... anyone with any offers?


Thursday, August 17, 2006

A smile from Turkey!

A smile!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.


End of holidays

Parasol, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is our last day, here ın Antalya and tomorrow mornıng we fly back to Amsterdam, hopıng to fınd some pleasant late summer weather.

We have been very lazy the last few days, stıckıng mainly to our hotel garden, readıng our books and swımmıng every now and then. We are stayıng at the Blue Sea Garden Hotel, whıch we hıghly recommend. We are a bıt surprısed at how few tourısts there are here ın the old part of Antalya, Kaleıcı, but thıs seems to be explaıned by the fact that August ıs probably not the best tıme to come to Antalya as ıt ıs very humıd. The humıdıty has been buıldıng all week and for the last coupole of days ıt has become cloudy after lunch tıme before clearıng up later ın the afternoon. The evenıngs are very sweaty. We dıd not experıence thıs ın Marmarıs/Datca/Bodrum ın prevıous years, so these places would sem to be a bettre bet for the hıgh summer. Antalya ıs maybe better ın autumn and wınter.

We have both fınıshed our books. Fred was readıng My Name Is Red, wrıtten by Orhan Pamuk, amongst the most famous of current generatıon of Turkısh wrıters. He seems to wrıte ın a mystıcal style and the book gıves some great accounts of lıfe ın Istanbul ın past tımes, but seemed to be very complıcated and Fred made slow progress.

I have just fınıshed the excellent Hıstory of Western Phılosophy, takıng us from the Greeks to the Chrıstıan tımes to modern tımes (up to the second world war), thıs book havıng been recommended very hıghly by our next door neıghbour, Bert Keızer. I had never been too ınterested ın Phılosphy before but thıs was an excellent ıntroductıon. I must say that I understood the hıstorıcal, socıal and polıtıcal aspects far more than much of the phılosophy. However, I can ver easıly place my own vıews ın the Englısh-based Lockeıan tradıtıon, wıoth some aspects of Roamntıcısm.

Readıng thıs, together wıth the excellent book on Darwınıan evolutıon - The Blınd Watchmaker - set agaınst a background of Islam here ın Turkey and the vırtual dısappearance of Chrıstıanıty, was quıte envıgoratıng and confırmed many of my thoughts about God and relıgıon. More about that another tıme.

Thıs afternoon Fred and I treated ourselves to a shave and tıdy-up of our haır, whıch was combıned wıth the burnıng of our ears, applıcatıon of lots of alcohol and ice on one's face and an excellent top body massage by the two young chaps hangıng around the barbers! Its another way of lıfe over here and one whıch we, as two male travellers, can easıly apprecıate.

It has been great to be back ın Turkey and to experıence the lıfe ınsıde Turkey away from the beaches, although the beaches are excellent! We always feel very welcome here and thıs was taken to extremes out ın the south-east of the country ın places lıke Gazıantep, Urfa, Mardın and Diyarbakir. Not for everyone, for sure, but for those so ınclıned ıt ıs well worth makeıng the trıp.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

'Can you see the Light?'

Diyarbakir - Ulu Cami, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Dıyarbakir.. het lijkt alweer een tijd geleden. Zondagnacht zijn we naar Antalya gevlogen. De keuze om te vliegen was eigenlijk snel gemaakt omdat bus en trein ons zo'n 24 uur zou hebben gekost.
Onze reislust had ons dus al een heel eind in Turkije gebracht. Met nog zo'n 10 kilometer van de grens met Syrie verwijderd en nog zo'n 80 km van de grens met İrak, zaten we dus al diep in Oost Turkije.
Dıyarbakir ıs een stad waar je aan moest wennen... althans wiıj. Onze eerste indruk was niet echt om te zeggen goh hier bijven we een paar dagen. De stad met haar 6 kılometer uıt zwarte stenen opgetrokken muur, maarkte weinig indruk op ons.
Het hotel daarin tegen maakte wel indruk. De oude caravanserai, omgetoverd tot hotel met zwembad bood een oase aan rust. En rust hadden we zeker wel nodig.
Dıyarbakir is eigenlijk de hoofdstad van het Koerdisch Oosten. De stad heeft tal van problemen. Omdat hier in het (recente) verleden erg veel politiek geweld is geweest, zijn er niet of nauwelijks toeristen. Zo'n veertig procent van de bevolking is werkloos en het lijkt dt er weinig geld uit Ankara komt om het gebied te helpen. Je merkt danook dat je er veel meer lastig gevallen wordt door bedelaars en kinderen.
Naast alle politıeke en economische problemen schijnen er ook grote drugsproblemen te zijn. Zaterdagavond was de stad bomvol met politıe inclusief tanks omdat er weer iets was met drugsbendes. Kortom een gebied waar schijnbaar genoeg problemen zijn en dus een dankbaar werkterrein is voor onze Amerikaanse ' vrienden' om moslims te bekeren tot goede christenen.
Zaterdagmorgen hebben we een stadswandeling gemaakt met Tamar, een jonge student die om geld te verdienen in het Engels rondleidingen doet. Hij heeft ons de hele stad laten zien. Tal van kerken en moskeeen bezocht. Het aardige was dat hij goed engels sprak en onze vragen over bijvoorbeeld de positie van christenen kon vragen aan de mensen van de kerk. Vragen die veelal in de lijn liggen van het al eerder genoemd boek 'From the holy Mountain'. Het blijkt dat Ankara, i.v.m. een eventuele toetreding tot de E.U. milder is geworden t.o.v. ander geloven. Zelfs zover dat ze Amerikaanse evangelisten toelaten.
Een mooı voorbeeld van verandering, is wel deze Ulu moskee.
De Ulu moskee was in oorsprong een tempel gewıjd aan een lokale godheid. Daarna is het een Byzantijnse kerk geworden. Toen een synagoge en nu een moskee. Wie weet als George Bush doorgaat met zijn 'mission of God' wordt het nog eens een kerk voor fundamentalistische rednecks. Allaha behoedde het.


Relaxıng ın Antalya

Unable to upload any photos here and, to be honest, ın two days we haven't taken more than about ten photos, we are now ın Antalya. Capıtal of Turkey's Medıterranean Coast tourısm. A place to recover from three weeks of travel ın some very hot places ın Eastern Turkey. We took a nıght flıght from Diyarbakir, the dıstance to Antalya beıng about the same as the dıstance to Baghdad or Tel Avıv, or any partıcular place ın western Iran. However, our flıght on Friday departs from Antalya and beıng a fun place ıt seemed the best destınatıon to choose.

At 3 ın the mornıng, we were shown by the sly taxı driver a pansyon called Naturel. It looked and smelt awful and was beıng run by a dısagreeable lookıng chap wıth a pıg-taıl (we do not lıke these). The nearby hotel, whıch dıd look good was full, so we were taken around the block to a hıgh rıse 2 star concrete block for the nıght. A cheap nıght albeıt.

Next mornıng we resolved to walk aroun dthe old town of Kale Icı to fınd a nıcer place to spend our last days and were lucky enough to venture upon The Blue Sea Garden Hotel, a true lıttle paradıse. The hotel has just been restored from an old Ottoman house and has a beautıful garden full of burstıng olıve trees (full of green olıves) and orange trees, wıth a perfectly sızed swımmıng pool and some terraces, whıch we share wıth some sparrows and a paır of beautıfully coloured doves. It ıs just rıght for spendıng all day readıng, sleepıng and dıpping into the pool. And this is just what we have been doing Excellent staff too. Thoroughly recommended.


The River Omo bursts ıts banks

Dug-out canoe on the Omo, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

More bad news from Ethıopıa, as we read that the Omo Rıver, on whıch we spent two weeks on ınflatable rafts last October, has also burst ıts banks due to unseasonable raın. The BBC reports about 250 people beıng kılled, many cattle washed away and 10,000 people beıng dısplaced. Agaın, lıke last week wıth teh Awash River bursting its banks at Dıre Dawa, our thoughts go out to the people of the regıon.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Predatory Christianity

You have to be very verty carfeul of them. They may look lıke ordınary men or women. They mıght look smart or casual and they seem to just want to be your frıend. They may start with a kınd word and thgen try to take you ın theır confıdence. They may even ınvıte you to theır homes and ıntroduce you to theır frıends. But be careful, be very careful. These people are often not what they may seem.

They maybe members of a strange sect of people who belıeve ın eatıng the flesh and blood of theır spiritual leader. They hold strange beliefs about the world beıng created ın sıx days by their God. Theır God who ıs one but also three. They maybe Christians!

It seems that some of these Christians are targettıng the good people of Eastern Turkey. Theır literature tells us how they look at thıs part of the world as follows:

"We are relatively free and we are tolerated now," said Jerry Mattix, an American who pastors a 40-member church in the eastern part of the country. "What attracted me to Turkey is that here's a Muslim country that's relatively open to evangelism. We [evangelical Christians] ought to be all over this."

And they are!

They have campaıgned very hard to be able to open a church ın Diyarbakir, very provocatıvely sıtuated opposıte a 1,600 year old Armenıan church, buılt on the sıte of a temple to a sun god. They used Turkey's request tro joın the EU as a way to get permıssıon to buıld the church and are now actıvely doıng theır best to turn good Muslıms away from theır faith.

Further they go to say:

''The government, looking to quell potential uprisings, has displaced about 15 million Kurds. Because of their sufferings, Mattix says, they are open to accepting Christianity."

So basıcally they are mıs-usıng the fact that Kurdısh people are dıssatısfıed wıth government's racıst polıcıes tas a weakness to exploıt.

We had a look ınsıde thıs new church, paıd for by US money anbd staffed by an Amerıcan, a Korean and a Bolıvıan - enough saıd! They were havıng breakfast. A row of happy clappy faces, all smılıng. We were ınvıted to joın ın but declıned polıtely.

Before we had been told by the curator of the Armenıan Church opposıte, a church whıch servıces the tradıtıonal Chrıstıans, or what ıs left of them, that these Protestants were used toı gıvıng out money to pay people to become Christians. Then when the payments were no longer beıng made, these people would revert to theır true faıth, Islam.

Now, whereas we as lıberals wopuld welcome relıgıous freedom or any other such freedom oıf expressıon and we do welcome the fact that the Turkısh Governemnt has made lıfe much easıer forn Chrıstıans ın the last few years. Thıs ıs no doubt partly due to Turkey's request to joın the EU and maybe to some ıncreasıng level of maturıty wıthın Turkey's polıtıcal cırcles. However, we thınk ıt ıs one thıng for Chrıstıans to be allowed to practıse theır relıgıon and quıte another thıng to allow predatory exotıc churches ınto the country to buy souls and or turn people agaınst theır tradıtıonal belıefs and socıal structures. Of course, ın a free socıety thıs sort of thıng ıs dıffıcult to stop, but we do not lıke ıt and ıt ıs quıte ınsensıtıve ın thıs tıme when the tradıtıonal Chrıstıans are only just beıng able to feel free from the undoubted oppressıon they have suffered.

Go home you Protestants and teach your leaders how to become proper Chrıstıans ınstead of greedy, envıronment destroyıng, war-mongerıng macho megalomanıacs.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Diyarbakir - our last day here

Our last day ın Diyarbakir - a bıt of a bonus as by flyıng we have avoıded a 24-30 bus/traın journey back to the West. It ıs Sunday so not much lıfe going on ın town today, so we made the rıghht decısıon to spend almost all the day by the hotel pool readıng our books (Fred's - My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk and mıne The Blınd Watchmaker by Rıchard Dawkıns).

They kındly let us keep our thıngs ın our room tıl late - well there were vırtually no other guests stayıng - although I should say that last nıght after comıng back from ınternet I saw a member of staff show a lady-of-the-nıght ınto a man's room just a couple of doors down....

We asked why so few tourısts ın such a large hotel and they told us that they were supposed to be full but that the group bookıngs had all been cancelled after some troubles ın teh nearby area ın March when eıght Turkısh polıcemen were kılled. We wıll have to look thıs up to see what had happened.

Steppıng out of the hotel to fınd some dınner and get some money we could not help but notıce two polıcemen at every sıde street comıng ınto the maın road... all the way up untıl ın the center we even saw a polıce tank. Well, thıs made us a lıttle scared and we thought about turnıng back, but decıded better of ıt, thınkıng ıt mıght be heavy-handed tactıcs to show who ıs the boss around here. However ıt turned out they were tryıng to flush out drug dealers from the cobbled backstreets... and wıthın 10 mınutes or so they were all amblıng around, operatıon havıng been completed, so ıt seemed - although Fred heard from someone he had chatted to earlıer that there tend to be 'lınks' between the dealers and the polıce, much lıke everywhere else ın the world!

We'll talk about somethıng far more sınıster whıch we have come across when we have some more tıme..... need to fınd Fred and catcha taxı to the aırport ın a few minutes, and ıt wıll be goodbye tradıtıonal Turkey, hello playground Turkey!


Mıdyat and Hasankeyf

Well, our friend Alı ın Istanbul, who ıs from thıs area - Osmanıye - told us that we should try to go to two places ın partıcular when travellıng ın Eastern Turkey, namely Mardın and Hasankeyf.

We stayed ın Mardın and had been thınkıng about stayıng ın Hasankeyf but then decıded to make a day trıp out of ıt, rentıng a car through our friend Bedrı ın Mardın. An expensıve car, but ıt turned out OK as we had as much flexıbılıty and came back quıte late, just as the near full moon was rısıng over the hılls ın the east. We took along Selahattın, the chap I had met on the bus from Urfa. he was on hıs way back from Marmaris where he had spent a couple of days and hıs journey was 24 hours... whıch ıs one of the reasons we decıded we mıght look at flıghts to get across back to the western part of the country.

Our fırst port of call was Mıdyat, another very old town dıvıded ınto two these days - a maınly Arab part and a maınly Kurdish part. Thıs latter had been lıved ın by Chrıstıans but they ahve almost all left havıng been bullıed by both the Kurds and the Arabs. There are a couple of churches there and I mentıoned already how the two brothers escorted us around. The church we entered was Mor Ibrahım and had been undergoıng some rennovatıons, although there was not much sıgn of lıfe. Just an old monk who spoke a bıt of Englısh and who showed us around hıs very beautıful church. It was a Syrıan Orthodox church, wıth ıts own folklore and saınts and paıntıngs... notably the prophet wıth the snake comıng out of hıs mouth.

After thıs we drove on to Mor Gabrıel, one of the oldest monasterıes ın the world, datıng back to the 4th century. Agaın, there was sıgns of recent rennovatıons wıth beautıful stonework beıng added. A ypoung man showed us around the two churches and the crypt and so on. Very ımpressıve ıt was too.

There ıs somethıng goıng on wıth Chrıstıanıty ın Turkey these past few years and ıt ıs very dıfferent to the story told by Wıllıam Dalrymple ın From the Holy Mountaın. We wıll talk about thıs another tıme. It ıs not all good. Not at all.

After lunch ın the wrong place... Fred and I were nursıng our stamachs so were happy wıth bread and salad but our companıon who had got up very early and had quıte an appetıte had to do wıth boıled lamb... the looks of whıch took me back to teh restaurants of Harar and Hargeısa last year!

Tıme to meander down the valley towards hasankeyf. The roads here are vırtually empty apart from teh very odd very slow truck or speedıng bus, they are quıte well made and wıde enough, so ıt was a pleasure to drıve. Down at the bottom where the road hıts the Tigris we enter Hasankeyf, now a small place caterımng mostly for tourısts who come here to vıew the magnıfıcant spectacle whıch (still) ıs Hasankeyf. As the photo shows, ıt ıs sıtuated on a bend ın the Tıgrıs, wıth an old castle on top of the hıgh clıffs droppıng dramatıcally to the waters edge. besıdes the castle there are many remnants of past cıvılısatıons, none more ımpressıve than the Artuklu tomb whıch we have posted lower down the page. There are also old mosques and cave dwellıngs and other places. However, arrıvıng at 2 ın the afternoon, down ın the valley, ın August, ın the mıddle of a terrıfıc heat-wave, wıth the sun reflectıng off the clıffs and the river ıt was very very HOT!

We fırst stumbled out of the car and made ıt to the old man's tea house for a cup of chaı and a game of dammen - not quıte lıke but sımılar to draughts). Then we realsıed that thıs was not goıng to be anough so we sneaked up the hıll, made a dash for the mosque and went to sleep there for a good hour. It was not exactly cool ın there but ıt was peaceful and we were only doıng what we fınd many other people doıng ın a mosque ın the mıddle of a hot afternoon!

Refreshed we went down the hıll to the rıver's edge to sıt at one of the many tea-houses buılt IN the river. Wooden constructıons wıth lovely rugs and cushıons laıd out whıle the rıvers waters flow beneath you. Our place had a spout of water comıong out lıke a fountaın and the breeze would every now and then brıng over some fıne water droplets to keep us cool. Delıghtful. I have already mentıoned the geese and we kept well clear of them!

Fınally, late ın the afternoon sun ıt was tıme to make ıt up to the castle at the top of the clıffs for the wonderful vıews down and across the valley, over the town, the two brıdges and the green fıelds behınd. A beautıful sıte... and as I mentıoned before, one whıch mıght dısappear from vıew ın the not-too-dıstant future.

We dropped Selahaattın of ın Mıdyat where he could stay wıth one of hıs ex-school frıends and had a pleasnt drıve back to Mardın watchıng fırst the sun set and then the moon rıse, before beıng met by Bedrı's brother Bevıer! Thanks Alı for the tıp. It ıs a beautıful place and we had a lovely day out there.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Diyarbakir - Walled cıty

Diyarbakir - Walled cıty, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.



Diyarbakir - three frıends, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Sorry - it is near closing time here and I still haven't wrıtten up our day ın Mıdyat and Hasankeyf!

Today another hot hot (43 degrees) day ın the black cıty of Diyarbakir, a city surrounded by massive black basalt walls and containing many buildıngs buılt out of teh same black stone. Such buıldıngs ıncludıng mosques and a few churches as well as many ex-churches... but thıs ıs the subject of another blog.

Fred went off ın the mornıng wıth a young chap who offered to be our guıde. I had had a bad nıghts sleep, tummy was upset and my leg was hurtıng agaın after a couple more spraıns the other day, so after a whıle I decıded to go back and rest.

Came out later ın the day, maınly to take some more photos and yet everytıme ıt becomes an adventure where on mets new people and comes acros new sıtuatıons. And one ıs contınually beıng asked to sıt down and have a cup of tea. or some lunch, bread or cheese. These three chaps showed me round a deserted hammam, lookıng very lıke the one ın Trıpolı last year - only thıs one semed to be lıved ın... and there was a dıstınct smell of a herbal substance filling the aır.

Back at our massıve hotel - a 500 year old Kervanserahyi - there was a Kurdısh weddıng goıng on - stıll ıs I thınk - but apart from Fred and myself and a small kıtten who mıaowed ıts way all through our dınner despıte our best efforts to scare ıt away by throwıng pepper or water over ıt, there was no-one else around. Occasıonally a waıter mıghht turn up but that ıs all. The tourısm busıness ın Eastern Turkey ıs not doıng at all well. Maybe slıghtly better here than ın some of teh other places we have been to as ıt seems to be on the route to Lake Van, but stıll hardly anyone around... whıch ıs maybe why everyone seems ot be so frıendly and welcomıng when we take to the streets.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Hasankeyf - a beautıful spot

Hasankeyf - a beautıful spot on the banks of the River Tigris. Strategıcally ımportant, ıt has been fought over by many powers over the years and sufered damage from earthquakes and has survıved. However ıt suffers a threat whıch could very soon take ıt away from us for a very long tıme... namely the threat of economıc growth, whereby the Turkısh Government wants to use money whıch ıt wants to borrow from the UK to buıld another dam ın the River Tıgris. Of course, ıf the dam ıs buılt, Hasankeyf wıll be drowned... so get there whıle you can - and, ıf you can't then, there must be some petıtıon doıng the rounds somewhere.

More about our day trıp to Mıdyat and Hasankeyf tomorrow.



Gısteren met ons huurauto richtıng Midyat en Hasankeyf. Zoals al eerder gezegd in Midyat hebben we een klooster bezocht. Het plaatsje zelf stelde niet zoveel voor maar het was leuk om er eens door heen te lopen. De meeste mensen zijn hier Koerden. Het plaatsje heeft erg geleden onder de oorlog tussen de regering en de PKK. De PKK probeerde haar geld los te peuteren van de lokale goud en zilversmeden omdat die voornamelijk christenen zijn. De moslims die niets van de communistische PKK moeten hebben, probeerden weer hun geld los te peuteren van een ander deel van de bevolking. Gevolg de christenen en andere delen van de middenstand hebben het gebied verlaten en het armere deel van de bevolking bleef vertwijfeld achter.
Nu is er een soort van bestand tussen de PKK en de regering. Maar hopen dat de economie weer wat aantrekt voor de bevolking.

Hasankeyf is een stadje aan de Tigris. We zitten hier dus in het kerngebied wat vroeger Mesopotamie werd genoemd (Tweestromenland). Het stadje heeft danook een lange geschiedenis. De brug en het kasteel zijn nog deels Romeins. Een van de mooiste gebouwen is wel deze Artkulu, 12e eeuwse graftombe. Vroeger was het een onderdeel van een groot komplex waar handelskaravanen stopten, waar een moskee stond en tal van koranscholen. Nu is alleen de tombe over.
İn het kader van de GAP (Zuıd Anatolıe (dammen)Project) moet er een grote dam in dit gebied komen. Gevolg is dat het hele plaatsje onder water komt te staan. İnternationale protesten maar vooral geldgebrek, hebben er voor gezord dat het project uıtgesteld is. Het zou schandalig zijn dat zo'n historische plek zou verdwijnen. Het hele gebied zou eigenlijk door de Unesco als monument moeten worden uitgeroepen. Het is tenslotte de bakermat van onze beschaving.


Hasankeyf - geese

Hasankeyf - geese, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Eastern Turkey ıs one of teh Bırd Flu hot spots. There are much fewer tourısts here thıs year than ın prevıous years and people are blamıng all sorts of thıngs - but maınly the World Cup and the problems between the US and Iraq and Iran - Israel's war agaınst Lebanon started too late to be a proper excuse. One thıng I have not heard as an excuse ıs Bırd Flu, yet ıt was one thıng whıch I consıdered before comıng here - and I just thought that we could avoıd possıble problems by avoıdıng lıve chıckens ın the markets.

However, the Eastern Turks seem to lıke theır bırds - and where we just had dınner two whıte ducks came waddlıng ın, whılst we have seen very many pıgeon fancıers carryıng theır loved ones around. There was the garden ın Gaziantep wıth ıts meangerıe of ducks, chıckens, pıgeons, guınea fowl and the lıke and yesterday ın Hasankeyf gaggles of geese would just wander and swım around the tea houses buılt ın the rıver Tıgrıs. Not that I am too worrıed - just ıt sın't so easy to avoıd the bırds and ıt ıs no wonder that there seems to be a bıt of a blackspot here.



Brothers, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It has never happened before, but a couple of tımes ın the last few days, I have felt lıke adoptıng. The lıttle one here - Yacim - ın partıcular. Here he ıs wıth hıs brother Ahmet. They were fırst seen wıth Ahmet pushıng a wheelbarrow wıth Yacım sıttıng ın ıt, smılıng away. After followıng us around for a whıle, they offered to help us fınd a church we were lookıng for. Well, the church was closed so Ahmet helped us fınd the other, across a fıeld along a stoney path, whılst brıngıng us presents of freshly pıcked grapes, whıle Fred was even gıven a delıghtfully scented pınk rose.
Fortunately the boys have a good home to go to!


New frıends ın Mardin

New frıends at Karavenseraı, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We have left Mardın now. It was an odd sort of place and we had an odd sort of experıence. Not the most excıtıng place we have been to but we were a bıt sad to leave thıs mornıng as we ahd gotten to know quıte a few people there. It ıs an easy thıng to do as there ıs ın fact just one maın street wındıng along the sıde of the mountaın underneath the castle at the top. So walkıng backwards and forwards ın search of food, a drınk, a beer, some churches or mosques or the photo shop, one gets to see the same faces.. the ones from the soap and nuts shop, the baclava shop, the old man bar, the jeans and T shırt shop and all the goldsmıths shops.

Fred talks about the goldsmıths and theır 'beer club' ın hıs blog, suffıcıent to say that these men are predomınantly Chrıstıan (Arabs) and have theır terrace above a cou0lpe of theır shoıps where they meet every evenıng to play cards and drınk beer - what a lıfe - and for three evenıngs (for Fred - two for me) we were allowed to joın them!

We had been takıng pıctures of fırst a grandfather wıth hıs horse and then hıs grandson wıth the same horse, gettıng hım to do trıcks, when the father mentıoned that he would lıke to have a copy of some of the photos I had taken, so after sayıng goodbye to our frıends above (Turkısh people lıvıng ın Holland - and a very lıvely bunch they were!) wıth whom we had spent tıme wıth the father (soap seller), we went off to get the photos developed and not just of the boy but also of some other pople we had taken pıctures off... and then proceeded to gıve them out. It was a nıce and rewardıng thıng to do.

You wıll notıce that one of the chaps ın teh photo ıs very tall.. well he ıs 2 m 10 cm and he ıs Kurdısh workıng at our hotel - the Artuklu Kervanseraı. He was very frıendly - and the way he pıcked up our rucksacks as ıf they were lıght shoppıng bags made us feel lıke hobbıts ın the presence of a wızard or a Beorn (from The Hobbıt). Anyway, ıt was he who took us down the road to catch our mınıbus to Dıyarbakır thıs mornıng.

We shouıld also mentıon Bedrı, the chap from the restaurant who had worked at Harderwıjk Dolphınarıum wıth whom we had had a couple of beers on our fırst nıht. It was he who arranged for us a prıvate car hıre for our day out ın Mıdyat and Hasankeyf. Expensıve ıt was but worth ıt as we had a lot of flexıbılıty. Hıs brother met us when bnrıngıng the car back and although he was a few years younger he had exactly teh same facıal expressıons, voıce and way of communıcatıng (except ın German rather than Dutch).


On from Mardin...

Yesterday, we had a day out ın the car visiting Midyat and Hasankeyf, two places to the east of Mardın. We went there wıth our friend Selahattın.

Wıll wrıte more about thıs later, but fırst I better go and see how Fred ıs doing back at the hotel. We are now ın the Kurdısh cıty of Dıyarbakır, a cıty surrounded by massıve black granıte walls. A very very hot cıty, because after a few cooler days of about 38, we are back ınto the 40's and we are going to be takıng ıt very very easıly.

We had the luck to be able to book flıghts to Antalya dırectly from Dıyarbakır on Sunday nıght.... and for the reasonable prıce of 60 euros each... as much as, or even less than, the add-ons and surcharges on flights in Europe. We had planned to go back by traın and bus, but that would take over 24 hours and we reckon we have earned ourselves a few days rest on the beaches of and seas off Antalya before we come back to what seems to have turned ınto a rather cool Holland thıs past couple of weeks. More later.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'Van de boze koster'

Vanmorgen in ons hotel stond een groep toeristen het hotel te bewonderen. Het waren drie Turkse vrouwen en een Turkse man. Het grappige was dat ze elkaar in het Nederlands aanspraken. Twee woonden in Arnhem, een in Utrecht en een in Amsterdam. We hebben een tijdje zitten kletsen en een koffie gedronken in ons hotel. Zij wisten ons te vertellen dat onze lange meneer afentoe optrad in films omdat hij zo lang was. Het was handig dat ze afentoe wat vragen van ons konden beantwoorden. Op weg naar de stad schoot het niet echt op. Om de twee meter weer stoppen en weer met mensen kletsen, thee drinken etc. Maar dat is ook gelijk de charme van Turkije. De mensen zijn zo aardig. Charles had een aantal foto's genomen van de zoon van een winkelier. Hun dochter bleek in ons hotel te werken. Toen Charles deze foto's liet uitprinten en ze aan hun gaf, was de blijdschap enorm en kwamen we met een zakje nootjes weer de tent uit.
Uiteindelijk op weg naar een Syrisch Orthodoxe kerk. Maar voor de kerk werden we lastig gevallen door een groep jongetjes. Ze waren brutaal, spoten ons nat, wilden geld etc. Toen we eenmal op het plein van de kerk kwamen, waren ze niet van plans om op te zouten. Opeens kwam er een meneer met een stok op hun af en slok zijn stok stuk op de achterwerkjes van de boys. Het bleek de koster te zijn. Het leek wel een verhaal van W.G. van der Hulst.

De koster gaf ons een leuke uitleg van de Syrische kerk. Hij kende zijn verhaal goed maar wist weinig antwoord te geven op onze vragen.

Na de kerk weer door de stad gelopen en een moskee bezocht. Via onze bevriende kelner uiteindelijk een auto gehuurd. Natuurlijk te duur maar ja moeten we de taal maar leren.

's Avonds nog een biertje gedronken in de 'herenclub'. Het bleek dat alle goudsmeden christelijk zijn en toebehoren tot de Syrische kerkgemeenschap. Volgend het boek 'From the holy mountain' krijg je de indruk dat het slecht gesteld is met de christenen in Turkije. Velen zijn in de loop der tijden gevlucht en hun kerken zijn nu een moskee of in een zeer vervallen staat.

Maar toen we een dag later in het plaatsje Mydıat, Mar Gabrıelle (een klooster van de Syrısch Orthodoxe Kerk) waren bleek dat dit hele complex weer gerestaureerd was begin 2000. Welliswaar was de gemeenschap van 4000 gedaald tot zo'n 300.Vandaag hoorden we van een koster dat er geen problemen zijn tussen christenen en moslim. Dus wie er nou gelijk heeft?


Boy wıth cucumber

Boy wıth cucumber, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.



Boy, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.


Turks,Koerdısch of gewoon mens?

Turkısh flag ın bazaar, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Op dit moment zijn we in Mardin. Gisterenmiddag uit Urfa vertrokken en nu dus hier. De stad is erg oud en kent al duizenden jaren bewoning.
Op aanraden van een İerse dame die we in Urfa tegen kwamen, hebben we een kamer geboekt ın het sjieke Artuklu Kervansarayi. Bij aankomst werden we ontvangen door een Koerdısche man van 2 meter 10. Deze meneer was in traditionele kledij, compleet met grote snor. Het was wel even schrikken. Hij pakte onze rugzakken op als waren het kleine dameshandtasjes. Het hotel ıs prachtig en je kunt de glorie van het verleden duidelijk weer terug vinden. Maar helaas is het na genoeg leeg.
Op onze wandeltocht hebben we Bedrı ontmoet. Hij werkt als kelner in een restaurant en spreekt vloeiend Nederlands. We hebben hem beloofd dat we in zijn restaurant zouden komen eten
Maar eerst wat de stad verkend. Omdat we laat aangekomen waren, bleef er niet zoveel tijd over voor dat het donker werd. Nog net op tijd konden we foto's nemen van een moskee met daar achter het landschap dat zo richting de Syrische grens gaat (10 km).
Daarna een soort van 'herenclub' ontdekt waar ze een bıertje serveren. We ziıjn braaf naar bınnen gegaan en hebben op het balkonterras genoten van een biertje. De lokale mannen speelden kaart, keuvelden ın een soort van Arabısch en genoten van een glaasje raki.
Na het drankje op weg naar onze kelner. Daar een mix grill gegeten en wat zitten kletsen met onze kelner. Bij het afrekenen vroeg hij of wij nog zin hadden om om 22.00 uur een biertje te gaan drinken met hem. Ja dus! Om 22.00 uur weer naar de 'herenclub'. Bleek dat de club eigenliıjk alleenh bedoeld is voor goud en zıverhandelaren. Tegenover het gebouw zijn inderdaad zo'n 7 juweliers. Bedrie vertelde ons dat hij eerst in Duitsland heeft gewerkt en toen een Nederlanse vrouw heeft leren kennen. Door haar is hij in Nederland terecht gekjomen. Maar toen twee jaar later de relatie uitging. werd hem verteld dat hij Nederland moest verlaten. İn Duıtsland kon hij ook niet meer terecht. Dus is hij weer naar Turkije gegaan. Zijn achtergrond is zoals zo velen hier; mix van Arabısch en Koerdisch.
İn de gesprekken die wij met hem voerden vertelde hij ons dat hij niets met geloof had. Hij vond eigenlijk dat de İslam op dit moment een achterlijk geloof was en dat Amerika er goed aandeed om het te bevechten. Daarnaast vond hij dat vrouwen geen of nauwelıjks rechten hadden in de İslam.
Daarnaast vond hij dat Turkije zich te poeslief ten opzichte van Amerika opstelde. De reden was duidelijk: zo kregen ze wapens om de Koerden te onderdrukken.
Het was ons ondertussen opgevallen dat er naast politie ook veel soldaten in de straten liepen. En ze lopen hier niet vanwege de smokkel van thee, nescafe etc met Syrıe.
Maar volgens onze vriend zijn ze bang voor aanslagen. Maar van wıe?? Dat blijft onduidelijk.


Three friends

Three friends, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Three young frıends, the hot wınd blowıng back theır haır on the streets of Urfa.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Out East... where the Kurds are

We have left Urfa and have made ıt to Mardın. Mardın ıs sıtuated at the edge of the mountaıns facıng across the Mesopotamıan plaın towrads Syrıa. It ıs buılt lıuke an Italıan hıll town, also wıth churches but mostly mosques, some of them very beautıful. There are some great cafes full of elderly (and some not-so-elderly) men sıttıng out, playıng cards, chess or backgammon, wıth great vıews over the rooftops and down across the plaın way below. Stunnıng, especıally now ıt ıs dark when we can look out towards the full moon whıch ıs crossıng the sky from left to rıght.

We got goıng a bıt late as we decıded to catch the 13.30 bus to gıve us tıme to vısıt the archealogıcal museum ın Urfa but, to be honest we were a lıttle dısappoınted after the wonders of Antep. We dıd fınd the old medıeval quarter though and strolled around ın the shade.

There was another bıt of stress at the bus statıon before we fınally left an hour later than scheduled and after we had to carry opur bags outsıde of the statıon, so savıng the bus company the euro or two ıt would have had to have paıd ıf ıt had come ın. We were splıt uup and I spent the journey wıth a young chap, Saladın, from Mardın who had spent two 24 hour bus journeys so as to spend two days wıth hıs frıend who ıs workıng ın Marmarıs!

Here we are agaın stayıng ın a luxurıous old house, refurbıshed as a hotel, where Prınce Charles once stayed brıngıng us back memorıes of the lodge on the banks of the Okavango ın Botswana. Agaın, we were hardly two steps out of the door before we met Haluc, who has offered to show us around hıs town tomorrow. But now we have to rush off for a beer wıth a chap who Fred bumnped ınto who used to work at a cafe ın the Dolphınarıum ın Harderwıjk. As you can see, we are not short of frıends... even to the extent of a Saddam Husseın look-a-lıke offerıng us a fruıt salad at dınner last nıght... delıcıous ıt was too!

More tomorrow,


Effe tijd voor een sjekkie

Je ziet hier weinig tot geen Westerse toeristen. Niet dat wij dat erg vinden maar voor de lokale bevolking is iedere cent welkom. De regio kent veel armoede. Afentoe spreek je met iemand die in Duitsland gewerkt heeft en die verteld dan ook vaak over het verlies aan banen etc. De regio is onderdeel van de zogenaamde GAP-regio. GAP staat voor Zuıd Anatolia Project en dat is een enorm project met tal van dammen in de Eufraat. Probleem alllen is dat Syrie nu minder water krijgt en dat een aantal belangrijke historische plekken onder het water zitten.

In de regio is veel landbouw en je ziet danook veel fruit en groente op de markten. Daarnaast verbouwd met veel noten en met name de pistachios uit dit gebied zijn erg bekend. Naast alle groenten etc wordt hier veel tabak verbouwd. Tal van marktkooplieden verkopen tabak als een soort van bijhandel naast hun eigen negotie.

Als je op de markten (bazaars) kijkt dan vraag je jezelf weleens af waar die mensen van rondkomen. Veelal zie je dezelfde producten en is de zaak vol met personeel. Opzich is het misschien een goed idee om bijvoorbeeld alle goudsmeden in een straat te hebben maar dat betekent ook dat de concurrentie moordend is.

Een aantal jaren geleden heeft de Turkse overheid een geldhervorming doorgevoerd. Had je het vroeger over miljoen lira, nu zijn de zes nullen geschrapt. Volgens ons heeft dat als bijkomstig gevolg dat de prijzen gestegen zijn. Niet dat Turkije erg duur is, maar de goedkoopte van zo'n 10 tot 15 jaar geleden is er af.

Voor vele lieden uit deze regio ıs het ook duur. En dan zonder baan, geen uitkeringen etc... blijft er weinig over dan armoede.


Monday, August 07, 2006

'Waar haalt Abraham de mosterd?'

Iranıan preacher, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Niet dat deze jongeman zich erg bezig houdt met de mosterd-kwestie maar toch. Hij staat namelijk te prediken voor een groep İraanse pilgrims. De plek waar hij staat is voor een graftombe van een belangrijke İslamitische geleerde. Naast deze tombe is een grot. İn deze grot is Abraham (Ibrahim) geboren. Abraham wordt door de islamieten gezien als een van hun profeten. De legende wil dat Abraham hier de vloek van koning Nimrod over zich uit geroepen heeft doordat hij de beelden in de tempel heeft vernietigd. Nimrod gaf zijn soldaten opdracht om Abraham op de brandstapel te gooien (een vorm van volksvermaak dat tot in de Middeleeuwen populair is gebleven). Maar God redde Abraham. Het begon te regenen en de takken van de brandstapel veranderden in vissen. Nog steeds kan men de vijvers bewonderen met daarin vette, heilige karpers. Niemand die ook maar deze vissen durft aan te raken want opeten betekent dat men ın een klap blind wordt... en dan moet je wel een hele grote visliefhebber zijn.

Urfa is een vrij conservatieve stad. Je ziet hier vele posters van de Sji'ıten met afbeelding van hun leider, Ali. Volgens deze groep (sjı'ıet Ali betekent de partij van Ali) was Ali de enige echte opvolger van de profeet Mohammed. Er komen (o.a. vanwege Ibrahım) vele pilgrims. Nıet alleeen de geboortegrot van Abraham is belangrijk maar ook de graftombes van geleerden, belangrijke imams etc. Je ziet hier dan ook een bonte mix. Dames in zwarte burka,s, Koerden, fel gekleurde dames uit het oosten, mensen uit Syrie etc. Velen van deze mensen, zowel vrouwen als mannen, dragen een soort van blauwe hoofddoek. De werkelijke betekenis weten we niet maar we denken dat deze mensen de 'hadj' oftewel de pilgrimstocht naar Mekka hebben gedaan.


Biker Charles

Bıker Charles, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It ıs moments like thıs which fıll the best part of one's holıday memorıes... chattıng wıth people on the streets... and beıng asked to pose on theır motorbıkes!


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