I spent my penultimate night in Anatolia at a homestay in the village of Yuvacali (Yu-va-JA-li), following a day tour to the ‘bee hive’ houses of Harran, near the Syrian border, and the ancient sites of Sogmatar and Gőbekli Tepe – the latter, dated from 9000 BC, being the world’s oldest known religious temple.  Both experiences were courtesy of Nomad Tours, an responsible tourism outfit run by British ex-pat Alison Tanik – now married to a village man – and employing her various in-laws and other villagers.  More on Harran and the ancient ruins later; for now I am very glad to be able to give further impressions of Kurdish culture, thanks to my new experience of their tremendous hospitality.  I stayed with married couple Pero and Halil, and their two sons Farouk and Fatih.  Fatih, 19, has taught himself English and speaks it with languid delight. After dinner, he…

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    In our country a look a wave of the hand means the world In our country there are no terraces of paradise no rewards from ‘The North Gate’ Bejan Matur Wikipedia will give you all the background facts: 25 to 30 million Kurds inhabit the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, a region known since antiquity as Mesopotamia; they have never enjoyed self-government but since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire have been the subjects of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Kurds represent at least 20% of the Turkish population, and are the dominant population in the southeast of the country; Kurdish separatists have resisted assimilation into the Turkish state since the nineteen twenties.  From 1925-1965, Anatolia was declared a closed military zone in which Kurds were forbidden to read or write their own language and the very words ‘Kurd’ and ‘Kurdistan’ banished from Turkish dictionaries; from…

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So why Kurdistan?  As readers of previous posts may have gathered, I am here location scouting for my second novel, Astra. Without giving too much of the plot away, the book is set a century from now, after global warming has rendered much of the planet unfit for human habitation and the survivors of the catastrophe are slowly trying to reinvent civilisation.  To reflect drastic changes to coastlines wrought by the floods of the Dark Time, and to signify the start of a new era, they have changed the names of all Earth’s continents and nations.  When the book begins, the project of rebuilding is well underway, and Astra is a seven year old girl living in a new country called Is-Land, which has been settled by immigrants from all over the world.  Is-Land’s location is purposefully ambiguous; its citizens’ relationship to their new home has echoes of the history…

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Arriving in Diyarbakir – one of the most remote and unexpected travel destinations I have ever set my heart on – was in the end a strangely familiar experience.  I was the only Westerner on the plane, but rather than feeling isolated by my conspicuous presence in the crowd of Kurds, I found myself reconnecting with my past – the person who took a 17 hour bus journey through the Mexico jungle, an indigena woman’s baby partly resting on my lap; or crossed Southern India on a train that trundled along so slowly I could sit on the steps of the carriage and watch the butterflies flit by.  I had lost some of that independence over the last decade, I realised, and it was good to feel it edging back. I also felt reassured by the nature of my travelling companions.  Be-suited gentlemen with sun-creased faces sharing a joke in…

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So, after two days in Istanbul – during which I discovered all the trains I wanted to take aren’t running – I’m packed and ready to fly to Diyarbakir tomorrow.  This evening then, marks the end of the beginning of the first leg of my research trip to Kurdistan and Palestine.  Does that make tonight the right ankle of my trip?  Stick with me folks – I’ve had a little sun today, but I’m in a cool basement hotel room now, and the puns might get better…  In the meantime, here’s a puzzle for you, the significance of which will hopefully, like a line of Arabic calligraphy, merge into the shape of a transcendent whole.  (Or perhaps a pineapple, which according to one Turkish artist, is one and the same thing) But on with the game.  The day before I left England my friend Iain asked me to cite the…

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My new Dell Inspiron laptop arrived yesterday.  Having spent the last three months complaining to BlackBerry support about the malfunctioning touchscreen on my new ‘Playbook’ tablet – bought on sale as a Christmas present to self, and cause of nothing but warfare ever since – I was in fact dreading the arrival of this new piece of kit.  Apart from a hiccup of admiration for its sleek black case, I took possession of my new workmate joylessly, and spent the day bleakly summoning the courage to plug the thing in.  Even so, I was not prepared to be crying before I even turned it on. But then, I didn’t expect that Dell’s designers – surely intelligent individuals who occasionally use their own products – would have microwaved their brains and decided to place all the sockets not at the back but along the sides of the notebook. Meaning that my mouse,…

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