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Impressions of South-East Anatolia, Turkey

If there is one region in Turkey for which there can be no doubt that it culturally belongs to Asia rather than Europe, it is the South-East. 'Impressions of Upper Mesopotamia' could be our title just as accurately, the land caught between the Northern sections of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The land of which history is intertwined with the great Asian empires of the Bronze Age and early Antiquity. Sumer, Ugarit, the Hittites, Urartu, the various Persian dynasties of Medes, Achaemenids, Sassanids and Safavids: they all regularly pop up in our comments, a line of continuity which is only interrupted in reflection of the consecutive invasions and Westbound migrations from the Turkic speaking steppes of Central Asia, by Seljuks, Turcoman tribes, Mongols, and ending with the establishment of solid control by the Ottoman Sultans. Simultaneously, the South-East is also the historical homeland of Armenians, with their millennium old Kingdom that left its traces around Lake Van and elsewhere, and Assyrians, who embraced Christianity in a very early stage and built churches and monasteries to worship in liturgies chanted in Aramaic, the language of Christ. The South-East is also where Hellenism and Imperial Rome reached their real Eastern frontier.


Travelling through land and history to understand people and the present. Not travelling through land and history to be locked up in one's horizon and one's past.

Exploring the South-East provides us with a more historical insight in the confrontation between Kurdish aspirations and Turkish centralism, an issue centuries old. Sufi or otherwise inspired Muslims, Kurds, Arab Christians, Syriac Orthodox, Syrian Chaldean Catholics, each with his past, each with his aspirations, all living on the same land and under the same sun. No, nothing is simple and nothing has unnuanced solutions, nowhere in the world, and definitely not here in South-Eastern Turkey where the diversity is so wide and complex and where the historical charge of things is so intense. But I'll be happy if the comments near the photographic material you are about to discover, can lift just a corner of the sheet of simplification that veils and obstructs the answers of reason, nuance and goodwill.


And while travelling through land and history, why not also enjoy the beauty of architecture of mosques and caravansarais, and enjoy nature, however arid and desert-like it sometimes is; why not acceptthe pleasure of meeting and observing people going about their daily business on a village market, in a copper workshop hidden in a corner of an old Konak, or just strolling through the streets of a chaotic and dusty, but warm and very humane city. In the end, that is what the South-East is all about.


Before visiting the place of your choice:

At the time of visit, in 2002, the museum of Gaziantep harboured the incredible collection of mosaics hastily recovered from the archaeological site of Zeugma, before the remainders of Antiquity were forever flooded at a rate of 80% by the Birecik dam across the Euphrates River. The majority of mosaics date from the 2nd century BC, very well preserved and exquisite examples of Hellenistic expression, full of movement and realism. Sculptures and statues in the museum remind of the artistic style of Palmyra in Syria.

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