Friday, August 6, 2010

Dawn at Mt. Nemrut, evening Kurdish folk dance

I started out this morning at 3:00 am, waking before dawn to climb Mt. Nemrut in the dark. As the light began to fade the crescent moon and stars into pre dawn blue haze, 2 m heads of gods began to emerge from the darkness. A megalomaniac pre Roman king build these statues around 64-38 BC. Earthquakes have toppled the statues and reduced most of the structure to a pile of stone rubble. Somehow these stone heads of the gods and the king remain intact and standing.There is Apollo the sun god, Fortuna or Tyche, Zeus, then the King Antiochus, Hermites an dAres or Artagnes. Statues of lions represented power from the earth, and eagles power from the sky. There was a temple and tomb, a ceremonial road to access the throne of the Gods, and a place for sacrifices to the gods. Antiochus I was the Roman buffer against then Pathians. Unfortunately in the 3rd decade he allied with the Parthians who lost, and was deposed by the Romans in AD 36. Guess the gods couldn't help him.

It was interesting to observe in this time, the goddesses were still in Mesopotamia, and the sacred power of the feminine was alive and well. The Abrahamic religions seemed to obliterate the sacred feminine, establishing a very patriarchal monotheism.

Later in the day went to see Shalufa, the Prophets City. This is where Abraham was born in a cave. The story told to me today goes as follows: Nimrut was a powerful king, and wanted people to worship him. It was prophesied that a child will be born, and he would end Nimruts kingdom. The king ordered all male babies to be killed. Abraham's mother knew it was her time to give birth, and she found a secret gave to give birth to him. She nursed him when she could, but it was not enough milk, so a deer nursed him as well. As Abraham became a young man, he taught the people to believe in only one God, Allah, not King Nimrut. The King told Abraham if he recants his teachings, he can save himself. Abraham refused, and they throw him into a fire. Abraham says, "be cook, be cool, be cool" three times before they pushed him into the fire. The fire turns into water, and the logs become fish. There are beautiful pools and a mosque here, with sacred water from Abrahamic times and sacred fish. It is said if you touch a fish, you will go blind. We all fed the fish, and each prayed for a wish to become true. An overzealous person lost their glasses in the pool, so the attendant had to carefully dip net the glasses without touching a sacred fish! All went well, the glasses were retrieved, no one went blind.

The women and men went into separate rooms, where we prayed, then drank the sacred water, and poured some out for the sacred fish. (They were trout, very healthy, with all age classes so also reproducing well). The source rivers the Tigres and Euphrates are sacred, from the source to the Mesopotamian Marshes to the Gulf, and all the fish and aquatic organisms are sacred and part of the circle of life as well. Mesopotamia was the beginning of agriculture, and now the irrigation from Ataturk dam particularly is turning the desert green with tobacco, corn, pistachios. Wells used to be over 300 m deep, and now water is carried through the desert for water and crops. People in the region benefit tremendously, and Turkeys economy is growing very rapidly and robustly. There are real benefits from dam construction for the local people.

We went to see Ataturk Dam, the 4th largest dam in the world. It was constructed between 1983-1993, completed around the time Saddam Hussein was completing his drainage of the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq. Over 10,000 people worked on the dam; there is a monument to honor those who died in dam construction. It produces 8.5 kw of electricity annually, and has a reservoir 48.5 km3 of water. Many people were displaced, and many archaological sites were inundated. There are huge tunnels carrying irrigation water out into the desert. Dam construction brings progress with electricity and irrigation for food; it also brings damage to downstream users and ecosystems without adequate and fair allocation of downstream water flows.

Lastly, tonight was our guide's sons 10th birthday. We went to a local place for Turkish folk singing and dance, which in this case was provided by haunting and evocative kurdish music. Songs were tender and poignant, with a Balkan strain mingling with Arabic rythms. Kurdish people, and Armenian people for that matter, and Greek Christians, have been displaced in the Anatolian region. Just as the king should have bet on the Romans, the Young Turks should have bet on Britain and Allies during WWI. The dispossession of their nation and partitioning by imperialist countries has contributed greatly to overall instability in the Middle East.

There is a Kurdish group working for fair and equiable treatment of Kurdish populations in Turkey, rather than a separate Kurdistan promoted by more separatist and nationalistic groups. By giving Kurdish people standing in the democratic process of the country and having their culture and language represented in the education system, it will go a long way to diffusing some of the tensions and violence.

Listening to Kurdish music, dancing the fun and intricate patterns of their dance, I could feel the vitality and fire of the kurds. Its a beautiful culture, and tradition. I felt blessd and overjoyed to experience it tonight. Ma'a al salaama

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