Friday, September 30, 2011

Lonely Planet Entry on Conag

A break from my long Conag blogs (I only have one more brewing) and a short Conag sketch with something whiny and ordinary at the end to top it off.

If there were a Lonely Planet entry about Conag, the Things to Do section might feature something along these lines.

At the Merga Ağe

‘Feeling parched?  Then stock up on your thermoses (thermi?) and mosey on up to the Merga Ağe.  The word is local Kurmanci lingo for ‘the Lord’s Fountain’.  That ain’t the Lord Jesus, kiddies, but rather the feudal type—called an Ağa in Turkish and an Ağe or Aga in Kurdish. By the way, that last g is pronounced like someone just waking up from a long (drunken) winter’s nap and trying to pronounce a French r. Villages for miles around know the Merga Ağe—it has a rep for spewing the best, purest water in the world. Of course the locals will pass onto you their own thermoses, empty soda bottles, and cups as you pass.  ‘Fill it, won’t you?’ they ask. It’s best to oblige. They’ll hook you up with some tea and snacks on the way back down.
The red algae in the dike

Follow the path that winds up the hill and catch the stream that the villagers use to irrigate their fields. The stream turns into a dike and continues snaking around the mountain side past various precarious drops. Some sections of the dike are extraordinary.  It grows this blood red algae that from a distance looks like a scarlet ribbon trailing over the rocks. The water from the Merga Ağa is as yummy as its rep, and it comes with a story about how it got it’s name, told by a local over tea one night.

This fountain once belonged to an Aga (Turkish Lord) from Kiğı, thirty miles north. This Aga knew that it was the best water in the world, bar none, and so he dispatched his servant to fetch him some. The dude liked the water, but the help was lacking. The work was hard—(imagine carrying buckets of water for thirty miles!) and so the servant decided he’d just take the shortcut, pinch some water from any old fountain and then have himself a nap in the shade before wandering back to his Aga with the goods.  Of course, the Aga wasn’t fooled. He took one sip of the counterfeit H2O and chuck the entire bucket at the luckless peasant. ‘Go to that fountain and bring back the water!’ he shouted. ‘Or next time you will lose your life!’ And he did.  Every since then, the place has been called The Fountain of the Aga.

Incidentally, my wife is starting a cooking blog about Kurdish food so we watched Julia and Julie—in light of her project it was fun to watch and inspiring, but as a 40 year-old-writer, it was both galling and encouraging.  Julia Child’s struggle to get her book published, despite its commercial potential, was a lesson in perseverance and luck. I just don’t really get why the other woman got such an overwhelming response from her readers—Maybe that’s my problem. Do I have readers? One wonders. Anyway, as soon as Delal’s website is up and running, I’ll give you all the news. Then you people can partake in some of the wonderful Kurdish food I get to have—I think the Kurds have heeded Julia’s advice.  You can never have too much butter.

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