Golbasi Park Home of Abraham, Sanliurfa, Turkey
Walking through Golbasi Park near Abraham’s Dergah, Chaya and I were approached by a young man who greeted us with a big, “Hello, where are you from?”
This is normal here in Sanliurfa in the east of Turkey, a city that lays just on the lee side of the influx of Western tourism. When people see Westerners here, they often just want to talk to them out of seeming curiosity or just for something to do. This is fine by me, as I know that tourism has not infected this place yet.
I am treated as a human here, rather than money on legs. This is good, as it means that I can interact with people on a level plane and do not have to constantly decode hidden agendas to remove me from my money. It is not a bad move here to embrace with conversation people who approach you in the streets, as they probably really do just want to talk and “practice their English” without hidden motives or objectives. Sometimes a fellow wanting to sell me a tour approaches me in the streets here, but, for the most part, Sanliurfa is still a very real place to travel through.
I like places where I am treated as a human, and can interact with other humans as such.
The young man walked next to us as we passed by the pools where Abraham’s carp are fed by pious pilgrims and the local children. This was the place where the Biblical King Nimrod (Nemrut) received a prophetic dream that a child would be born who would overthrow his rule. Upon hearing this, Nimrod had every baby in his kingdom killed upon birth. The baby Abraham was keep hidden in a nearby cave. Seven years passed before Abraham was discovered, and Nimrod tried to caste him into a burning pit. But when Abraham touched the flames they turned to water and the firewood to carp. It is now auspicious to feed the thousands of carp that still live in these pools. I looked at a family feeding the fish as the young man spoke.
“I want to be an international lawyer,” he said, “but it is very difficult. I not only need to learn and pass all of the law exams, but I need to speak English as well. That is why I want to talk to you.”
At least he was honest. It is my impression that this kid still has a lot to learn about his chosen profession.
We made small talk as we walked through the park. I told him that I am a journalist who came to Urfa to research a story on the Gobekli Tepe archaeology site, and that I had been here for a week making arrangements. He then stared at Chaya.
“She has the face of the Israeli people.”
“Yes, you are correct, she is a Jew.”
Poor Chaya cannot hide her big Jew nose for a second here. Even while wearing a hijab scarf around her head, she still looks absolutely Semitic.
“Are you from Israel?” He asked her.
“My family is from Poland,” Chaya answered, “and they moved to the USA after the war.”
“Oh, yes,” the boy said, “the USA does have Jewish people.”
“Is she your wife?” he asked me.
I answered in the affirmative and patted the baby in Chaya’s belly for additional emphasis.
“Oh!” the boy exclaimed, “Polish women are very beautiful.” With a big pat on my back and a sly grin he added, “And your wife is not bad either.”
He laughed. I laughed. We then came to the end of the park and parted ways with a photograph.
With the lawyer kid in Sanliurfa.
Not long after sharing goodbyes with the lawyer kid, Chaya and I walked by four grown men scrunched together on a single park bench. I walked by looking at them as they looked at me. This moment of eye contact was enough to facilitate a conversation.
One of the men could speak a little English and pretended his comprehension was far better than it really was. It was apparent that his friends were also his admirers, that he was the leader of that little pack. This man was not bashful about showing off either, as we talked about the basics.
I introduced myself and shook the man’s hand as he looked towards Chaya for an introduction.
“I am Chaya,” she said as she reached for his hand.
“It is very nice to meet you, Iamchaya,” the man replied.
He told me that he was Kurdish, I told him that I was American. He told me that he was an aspiring politician, I told him that I was an aspiring voter. He offered to give me a ride to Gobekli Tepe in his van, I told him that I already had a ride. He asked what hotel I was staying at, I told him that I did not know its name. Like this we talked into the sunny afternoon.
After about ten minutes there was little left to do other than say goodbye and be moving on. We all posed together for a few photos, then Chaya and I went on with our walk through the park where monotheism was born.
Kurdish aspiring politician and friend.
Feeding the sacred fish.
Sacred ponds of Urfa.
Cotton candy vendor in the Golbasi park of Urfa.
Golbasi Park Home of Ibrahim in Sanliurfa