Monday, 14 June 2010

Of Buses and Cavemen





Sophie T. and I were sitting on the bus, driving through Hasankeyf, looking at the thousands of caves that perforated the mountains around us.

"I think they're man-made. Look, that ceiling is so straight and kind of perpendicular to the walls," perceptive Sophie T. said.

"Hm, but I can't imagine anyone digging a cave into that mountain face without high-tech equipment," I said.

We talked about how nice it would be to have a weekend cave - spend the week in town, the weekend in a cave - when the man sitting next to us suddenly leaned over and said: "They are man-made. My father actually used to live in one." He paused, then added with a smile: "We are all cavemen here."

Our new friend spoke excellent English because he spent half the year working in resorts on the coast, but he was originally from Hasankeyf. He explained to us that caves were actually better suited to the harsh climate than houses - dug deep into the soft stone, they are cool in the Summer, warm in the Winter. In the old days, women would carry up water from the Tigris, and the men would grow fruit and vegetables in the valley.
When the bus pulled past a few caves close to the road, we could see that the entrances were partly covered by brick walls.

It made me want to get off the bus and explore the caves, but we had to meet some friends in Diyarbakir that evening. Next time, we thought - though we shouldn't leave it too long. Even though the area is dotted with spectacular ruins and monuments, it may soon be flooded as part of the Ilisu Dam project.

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