Express News Service

Recently, I made a trip to Turkey. I share some of my impressions of travelling in the magical land.

GAZIANTEP There is music. Not the kind we are used to but the body picks up its rhythm and my mood is upbeat. I am in the small town of Gaziantep. It is a land of coppersmiths and the perpetual background sound is of copper being hammered. It seems to me that the townspeople are dancing to its beat as they go about their daily chores, plan their meals and work. I am magnetically attracted to regions that continue with their indigenous craft traditions. It feels like the most vibrant and authentic way to live. Express what’s inside you. Don’t die without expressing it, what could be a bigger tragedy than that? Cobbled streets, ancient stone houses and nomadic histories told in kilims. Shoes are hand-sewn with love. Pistachios are so abundant that it is a feat that they are contained in their sacks and do not roll onto the streets. The gastronomy that results from the largesse of ingredients? Melt in the mouth meats, yoghurt-infused dishes, plenty of eggplant, olives and nuts. A friend of mine wanted a description of the bread. I write “ dreamy”. Sesame encrusted, molasses oozing and stuffed with olives or walnuts. And then this is also the spiritual capital of the pistachio sweetmeats. Beyond baklava, let’s understand the shobiyat’s juiciness. And what of the unique Katmer? You can’t just walk into a patisserie and order some. You have to dream about it and then wait while some angels work on making your dream come true. Folded pastry layered with clotted cream and powdered neon green pistachio. Then ladled into the cave-like ovens. Then it comes to you cut into squares of crunch and mouthfuls of heaven. But eventually, it is people who steal our hearts, isn’t it?

MARDIN

Up above a rocky hill over the Mesopotamian plains near the Tigris River sits the ancient city of Mardin. Gift wrapped in a cloud of honey-coloured limestone and gorgeous terrace l a den Artquid architecture t h at i s unique to the city. I run across the i t y w h i l e young children trying to grab my phone and take expert photos of me. This is the seat of civilisation predating almost every other. The sophistication is evident in the beautiful living monuments, mansions, museums, mosques and the wonderful Deyr az Zaferan, the fifth-century saffron monastery. I feel lightheaded as I drink in the city. The honey is more than a colour – it is sweet in the smiles of the children, the bounty of fruit and the special sugared almonds. The bazaar is an enchanted rabbit hole of the famous bitten soap (made from wild pistachio), angora , cotton, fine jewellery the region’s special wines and dibek coffee (made with sales, meninges, mahleb , cream and c o f f e e , milled in the dibek stone). I wear Mardin’s blue talisman and S u m e r i a n Nazr close to my heart. May the powerful mystical energy protect the human race.

CAPPADOCHIA

Straight out of our mindscape of fairyland. Live in a mushroom shaped cave, shop for groceries from a bigger one, watch a multi-coloured sunset, in the evening, walk around moon face, and then suddenly, the ancient cave walls swaddle you to sleep. Suddenly, you don’t know if you ever woke from the dream. It is a chance to be a troglodyte (cave dweller) in this century and learn about lives that feel prehistoric. Except now, the knowledge enters you like the soft white volcanic tufa to widen your perspective of what you didn’t think could exist. The unreal becomes real. Volcanic geologic formations from 60 million years ago, ancient frescos in cave churches, Hittite stories (and existing pottery traditions), Romans and Seljuks, and us – Cappadochia makes you feel like a magical, historical creature. Maybe that is what we are?

SANLIURFA

East of the Euphrates stands Sanliurfa. A proud, multi-coloured jumble of descendants of Assyrians, Romans and Greeks. I see more Arabesque here than in Antep. Urfa feels hot and dusty but the cave that is birthplace of Prophet Abraham is magically cool and tranquil. The pool of Abraham is beautiful with lots fish being happily fed. There is the huge bustling bazaar, with cloth, kilims, felting, spices and jewels. The 5000-year-old technique of silver filigree, called telkari, is so much like the Cuttack filigree I have grown up with. I sit in a courtyard to have the Urfa menengic kahve (wild pistachio cooked in milk). The energy of this Ottoman era courtyard will stay with me as a highlight of this travel. Then there was a surprise for me. Normally archeological sites can’t really hold my passion. I enjoy learning what I can but they never delight me. Yet, Gobekli Tepi struck me like a lightning bolt. The temple of T-shaped pillars (with exquisite pictorial art) are precursors to the Stone Age by a thousand years. The complex cult rituals signify that agriculture may have followed worship and not the other way around! Startling, right? I unwind with Sirageces, a live musical unique to Urfa . We sit in an ancient mansion with an endlessly high roof opened up to the sky . The crescendo is the drummer setting his drum on flames in front of me . I am indeed afire with all these new sensations.

ANUPAMAA DAYAL
This fashion designer is about happy clothes and happy homes for happy women

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