|The Kurdish Pantheon|
Today we woke up with no new world crisis and a simple breakfast on the balcony overlooking the park. I spent a long time watching a little girl empty a trash can, piece by piece (all shiny potato chip bags) until she was noticed by her older sister who, hitherto, had been playing with a friend on the swings. The older one grabbed the trash digger and sat her rather sternly on a bench, but as soon as her back was turned, the little one ran back and put everything she had thrown out back in, piece by piece. Then her sister noticed, and dragged her once more to the bench. When the older one was safely on the swings with her friend, the little one again ran back to the trash and proceeded to empty it out all over. I remember her pink sweat shirt, whose long sleeves she had pulled down to cover her hands.
|Man in a cafe|
|Mesopotamia from the battlements at Goat's Point|
We took a minibus to the ancient city walls—reportedly dating back, in places, some 3000 years when the whole area was a capital of an Aramaic kingdom that at one point had a scuffle with King David of the Old Testament. Near the Mardin Gate is a tower built into the walls called “Keçi Burnu” or “The Goat’s Point”—the oldest and largest of all the towers along the walls. Inside is a dungeon, now a café. At the back, a small slit in the black walls sends a sliver of silver light beaming onto the floor—once, according to the owner of the café, a temple to the sun for the ancient Hurrians who built this place. If this is true, then their sun god would have been Shimegi or possibly Teshub whose Hittite name, Taru, was given to one of the mountains in Delal’s village.
|The Temple of the Sun|
The colors of the fields around the walls were bright yellow gold and green—each black square of plowed earth lined with poplars and sycamores and acacias. Among the trees, a man was calling his doves back to their roost with sharp, musical whistles. The birds swirled and swirled around the ramparts, dipping further and further toward the whistler. The pretty little scene was broken by the appearance of a bomber moving heavily south toward the Syrian border, followed soon by three fighter jets cutting an angle across the sky.
|Cafe on the Walls|
|Doves returning to their dovecote|
After the walls, we took a taxi down to the “Ten Arch Bridge” on the Tigris. Made from the same black stone as the city walls, the bridge was originally built by the Romans in the 6th century. The sun was setting, the banks of the river were deserted. A haunted autumn evening seemed to rise out of the water like lost spirits and snake up the banks and into the poplars. You could look out south toward the empty Mesopotamian plain and feel the history, the weight of tens of thousands of years and all the armies and civilizations and forgotten souls. Here human civilization began. History began. And what came before was mystery.
|Waters of the Tigris|
The markets of the city are like a series of small theaters. Each stall is piled high with merchandise—whatever it may be--so that only a small lighted proscenium reveals what’s happening on the inside. As you walk, they unveil themselves scene after scene. It’s like strolling through a carnival and peeking at private little plays—a group of young men chatting over tea, a small fat boy watching TV and dozing, a man grinning into his iPhone, a sad looking old man in a fedora staring mournfully at a clock.
|The name of the market means "Burnt Market" in Kurdish and comes from a fire that apparently razed the place once|
|One of the prosceniums, curtain off by jeans and shirts, waiting for the entrance of the actor (whom I did not wait for because I would have to buy something)|
|Theater scenes from the Cheese Market|
When we finished, the streets of the old city were dark. The street lamps had not yet been lit. The only light spilled out from closing store fronts. I watched my wife dip in and out of this light as she walked in front of me down the sidewalk, vanishing again into shadow with the rhythm of a lighthouse beam.