Saturday, November 2, 2013

Third Day of Tour: Boat ride on Euphrates River; Qal al at Rumi (Rum Castle, a/k/a Rumkale)

On the third day of our little tour the itinerary was thrown to the wind and we were treated to a surprise destination.  We were supposed to drive a long way to Harran and Gobeklitepe before backtracking to overnight in Şanliurfa.  Neither Taş nor Gwen would tell us where we were going.  Most of us liked this idea but one or two people had difficulty adjusting to the idea of going off-plan.  That surprised me.  We are all sailors and are accustomed to plans changing at the drop of a hat.  But a couple of people had difficulty getting their heads around going somewhere that they had not researched before coming on this trip.  They turned out to be as delighted as the rest of the group once they learned several hours later that we were going for a boat ride on the Euphrates River.  The other two planned destinations could wait until later in this trip.
As always, click on any image for larger view.
Northern Bald Ibis
First there was another stop; it was on the road towards our river destination.  In fact, it was situated right beside the river well south of our destination.  This first stop was a refuge for a rare bird called the bald ibis; specifically, the Northern Bald Ibis.  This species of bird is virtually extinct now in this region, although there are still about 500 birds in the wild in Morocco.  The Turkish colony that used to migrate down to Africa is all but gone today.  

Habitat on left; notice old nest holes in cliff on right

The birds had been reduced to only 5 adults and 9 chicks when those were captured and placed into this refuge.  They were allowed to breed and today there are about 200.  These birds normally would nest and live in holes in the cliff face of the hillsides overlooking the Euphrates River.  But they cannot be allowed to live freely because natural predators could easily wipe out what few are left.  

Gwen bought the pretty 'rug' to the left above Bill's head.
It is some sort of large, heavy bag woven from goat hair.
Will make a very pretty wall hanging.

In the wild these birds were being killed at a rapid rate because of the insecticides used for farming.  The birds would migrate southward over Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt all the way down to Ethiopia.  Insecticides are used on crops farmed in those countries.  The birds would eat the poisoned insects and that poisoned the birds.  It is still touch-and-go as to whether this species of bird will survive and ever be allowed back into the wild.

Above Euphrates River

After a short visit at the bird sanctuary and a visit to their souvenir shop we continued on our way north on the road toward the river destination.  We did not know it at the time, but later I checked the map and learned that we drove right past the now-underwater ancient town of Zeugma, the site where all the mosaics had been recovered and moved to the museum we visited yesterday.  About 30 minutes later we were overlooking the town of Haifeti on the Euphrates River.  

The mostly abandoned town of old Haifeti

The bus stopped so we could take photos of this special place.  It is lovely.  For the past decade or more Turkey has built many dams and continues to build even more.  This has created many beautiful lakes and, as one would expect, also has created problems for those living in locations farther south.   The dams are beneficial in that these will prevent flooding that historically occurred during certain times of the year.  This region of the world experiences a wet season and a dry season.   Normally there is not a drop of rain from late May through late September; shoulder seasons with infrequent rainfall occur in April/May and October/November; and frequent heavy rainfall occurs in December through March.  This rainfall pattern presents farming challenges which can be ameliorated by having the lakes for irrigation.  

Our boat was the one on far left
The Euphrates River traverses from the Caucasus Mountains of Armenia flowing southwesterly across east-central Turkey; then generally southeast through Syria and Iraq; ending in the waters of the Persian Gulf.  The Euphrates joins with the Tigris River in southern Iraq, and from that junction continues on as the Shatt al Arab.  Overall it is 2,235 miles in length and is certainly the longest river in the Middle East.  We were told that the longest section of this river is located in Turkey but I have not verified that statement.  At any rate, when Turkey dammed this river it affected all those downstream.  At one point the river flow farther down in Iraq dwindled to only 48 cubic meters per minute; whereas, in some earlier flooding stages that same stretch of river in Iraq was in excess of 2500 cubic meters per minute -- a condition that caused severe flood damage.  Recently an agreement has been reached between Turkey, Syria and Iraq and the normal flow rate beneath the dam will now be 250 cubic meters per minute.  That should provide sufficient water for agriculture and alleviate the problems with alternating periods of drought and flooding.

Bill had a great time
The original town of Haifeti is now partially underwater since the dam was constructed.  When these dams are built the Turkish government relocates the towns.  New homes are built for the residents in a nearby location.  Some people are not happy with this because they would prefer to live in their old homes and villages, not in more sterile and modern housing.  The new town of Haifeti lacks the quaintness of the original village that is partially still above water.  But the people have no choice in this matter -- this is the same as "imminent domain" in the USA.  

Mark & Dorothy and Gwen
My family was subjected to imminent domain when the university in my hometown wanted to expand its campus in 1974.  A residential section 12 by 5 blocks was taken as new campus.  My parents, like all the other residents, had no choice but to accept the amount of money the university was willing to pay and were forced to move.  Sales price was non-negotiable and was never enough to purchase another home.  In this regard I think the Turkish way of handling this forced relocation is better.  Rather than pay the residents a nominal amount for their old homes, the government builds new homes and a whole new town.

Tom, Bill, Dorothy & Fran

Jet ski on the Euphrates??
So, here we are.......a group of 15 sailors who left their own boats to go on a boat ride on the Euphrates River.  And while enjoying beer and wine on this boat ride we are passed by 2 men on a jet ski.  How absurd is that!  To be fair, this was the only jet ski we saw.  The men were coming from another flooded village down river to another flooded village.  My thought was what the heck would they do in that swift current if that jet ski broke down.  Pull out a cell phone and call a friend with a boat, I suppose.

On a rotten pulpit
Bill asked me to walk out on the pulpit so he could take a photo.  That wooden pulpit looked pretty dry-rotted but I agreed to try it.  I was out there very briefly because I did not like the sounds coming from that rotten wood.  After I rushed back to the bow, Frances from S/V Hamamas walked out and posed for several photos.  
Fran was more comfortable out there
She weighs about one-third what I do and she was not bothered by the crackling sounds of the rotten wood.  This boat had seen better days.  The wooden railings were all loose and dry-rotted, as well as the seats.  Not seaworthy in any sense.  Heck, the life rings were even NAILED to the wooden support posts.  You could not throw one in case of a man overboard until you first found a claw hammer to remove the nails holding the life ring to the boat.  No such thing as coast guard safety inspections on this river!

Rumkale in distance
About half-hour up the river we came to the castle called Qal al at Rumi in Arabic, Rumkale in Turkish or Rum Castle in English.  This is believed to have been built in 4th century B.C. but no one knows for sure.  It is large and high up.  Visitors are no longer allowed.  As we could only see from the water level on two sides of this castle, we have no idea what access might or might not be afforded via land travel.  It appeared that this castle was very isolated and there were no people visible anywhere up there.

Getting closer to the castle

Side of castle

Two links to information about Rumkale:   Information about Rumkale   

Wikipedia info for Rumkale

Cliff cave/rock houses

The cliffs overlooking the river on the castle side showed signs of having been occupied very long ago.  Many caves were visible and places where the stone had been cut away to make living spaces.  There was some rock formation also indicating old rock homes or buildings, as if people lived there long before that castle was built.  But that is just supposition based on what we saw; I have no written information about this place.

Submerged mosque except upper part of minaret 
About 10 minutes past the castle there was another partially flooded village on the right side of the river.  The most notable thing was the upper part of a minaret protruding from the water.  The mosque was completely submerged, as well as the lower part of the minaret.  There were still numerous buildings that were above water level and it appeared that some people were still living there.  Probably the last hold-outs to the forced relocation.  Eventually they will also move on because life surely will become too difficult in a partially flooded village that has no access to goods and supplies except via river and there are no scheduled supply boats.

Note the underwater weeds.  That looks like hydrilla to me.
Don't know how it got there but it can devastate a lake.
At this point the boat turned around and returned to old Haifeti where we enjoyed a great lunch at a restaurant built over the water.  I think this restaurant was actually built above a roof of one of the submerged buildings.  Immediately next to it was another submerged building and then a partially submerged mosque.  It was like looking at a ghost town -- where most of the town is underwater and the town is dying block-by-block as one goes uphill on the streets.  A few of the higher-level homes were still occupied; all of the lower-level homes and businesses were vacant except for the restaurants next to where the few river boats docked.  Seemed sad.

Tavuk Izgara = grilled chicken
We had ordered lunch before departing on the boat, so lunch was served as soon as we returned.  And what a lunch it was!  Not as elaborate as the first day's lunch at the Iman Çadaş restaurant in Gaziantep, but still a very nice lunch.  Mezze of 4 starters were served; then the main course; followed by plates of fresh assorted melon slices.  Bill and I opted for the tavuk izgara -- grilled spiced chicken chunks.  And it was very good.  The red peppers were different in this region.  We are accustomed to the sweet long red peppers in the area around Fethiye and like those very much.  These peppers looks like very small red bell peppers but they were quite hot.  I liked these but some people found these pepper too hot to eat.  That was a common complaint among our group; a few people found the food in this region too spicy.  I loved it.

After lunch we backtracked southward to the main highway, then eastward to Şanliurfa.   The preface  Şanli in front of a city or town name means 'glorious' or 'divine' and usually means that someone important in religion is from this town or lived in this town or that some significant religious event occurred in this town.  

Castle above Urfa, a/k/a Şanliurfa
This city is ancient.  It has been known as Ur, Urwa and Urfa, as well as Odessa or Adessa or Edessa.  I believe it was called Edessa when the French Crusaders were here very long ago; but for Biblical references I think the more recognized name is Ur.  The Turkish have given this city the preface of Şanli in honor of the battles that happened here with the French; a recognition of the religious significance of those battles.  

The squiggly beneath the 'S' means it is an 'sh' sound.  Therefore, the correct pronunciation of this city today is SHAHN-lee-UR-fah.

Tony sitting on one of the many lobby sofas
Our hotel was in the old town district, directly beneath the ancient castle.  We would again visit this area later in the trip so I will wait for another blog posting to describe Şanliurfa.  The hotel was posh Turkish sultan style decor.  This was much appreciated after the lower-quality hotel in Gazientep.   In Gazientep the price of real estate for an apartment 3 years ago was 10 lira per square meter.  That was before the Syrian refugees arrived en masse.  Because of the sudden influx of population, those same apartments now cost 1,000 lira per square meter.  Supply and demand; always, supply and demand.  Due to the high price of real estate now in Gazientep, our hotel was of lesser quality than normally provided on these tour trips.  It was okay but barely okay.  This hotel in Şanliurfa was top notch.

The ultra-dropped crotch in pants is popular here with
both men and women.  Sometimes the women's pants
have the crotch all the way down at their ankles.
We walked the old city district for sightseeing.  It was filled with all the typical Turkish bazaar type goods; nothing we wanted or needed.  We were on a mission to find Nescafe instant coffee so we could have coffee when the rest of our group enjoyed tea several times daily; but while Nescafe is found everywhere in Marmaris and Fethiye, it was not to be found here.  Bill finally did find some of the tiny packets of Nescafe 3-in-1 in a shop down a narrow alley, and we bought a few so we could enjoy coffee in our hotel room.  I prefer black coffee but creamer and sugar will do.

We soon tired of walking around the old city.  I saw several men who appeared to be wounded Syrian refugees.  Some had severe leg damage; one had both arms blown off at the elbows; and some wore bandages on faces and heads.  We were not that close to Syria but this is a large city and apparently lots of Syrians have sought refuge here. 

We did notice a much larger Arabic influence here than anywhere else we have visited in Turkey.  The people were not as open and friendly as the Turks we have met elsewhere.  They seemed to have a harder life here.

Every cloud has a silver lining.
Photo taken from our hotel window.
A good way to end the day.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bill and Judy,

    Thanks for the 3 posts of your side trip. It was a fun read with great pictures. We enjoyed it very much.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff


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