These Turks are Confusing


I sat right on the brow of the overhanging hill and looked out at the angry dark sky approaching. In the distance, the Muezzin man had climbed the minaret of the small mosque and was intonating gloriously into the wind.

Was he just calling the faithful to prayer or could he really be pulling cosmic energy down from the heavens? My mind was in turmoil about this.

I had been on a whirlwind. The day before I had been in Istanbul to experience and marvel at the opulence of the Blue Mosque interior, the grandeur of the Sultanahmet mosque posing on the hill like a fat Buddha, and the magical peace of sitting crosslegged for an hour in the unique deconsecrated Haghia Sofia. I had a brainful of stories of Sultans, Hittites and Byzantine exploits.

In a corner of the Topkapi Palace, my little Turkish guide had suddenly whirled breathlessly round to demonstrate the motion of the dervishes. Her arms outstretched almost horizontal she seemed to glide as she spun in perpetual motion. She excitedly explained that they held their hands outstretched to increase their surface area for cosmic energy absorption. By spinning they harmonise with the spiralling energy of the universe. I was transfixed.

Then she started to talk about The Matrix, Neo and Rumi even as she continued to defy gravity with her spin. She must have been breathing through her nose I thought. Something we have lost the ability to do in the West.

“Within thee is the matrix of life. And the beauty of thy names.” Thats Rumi she said.

I was perplexed and couldn’t make the link. What had whirling got to do with Keanu Reeves? “The Matrix Trilogy is straight from the sufi philosophy of the 13th century poet Rumi,” she explained.

Obviously the Wachowsky brothers had read more than just the bible to create their Christlike hero Neo.

So there I was sitting on the top of the “Hill of Wishes” in Cappadocia wondering whether I was real or in a dream. The Muezzin man pulling down his cosmic energy had made the clouds so angry and they were approaching now. So I stood up to walk back away from the blackness of the sky and literally towards the light.

That morning at Derinkuyu I had been deep down under the earth in a subterranean town eight floors below the surface. Walking back I remembered standing in a small room and creaking my neck downward. It was weird to think those Byzantines were so small and so scared. Fearful of attack from their Muslim neighbours they resorted to burrowing like moles way below the earth in their thousands. They blocked the passageways with boulders if their hideaways were impeached by marauders. The ventilation shafts they built to give them the air were a feat of ancient engineering.

Near Goreme is the valley of the churches. They are etched into cone-shaped ancient volcanic hills that the locals have dubbed fairy chimneys. In one elaborately adorned church a brilliant Christ the Pantocreator stared down at me. He was still staring straight at me even if I moved a few paces to the left or the right of where I was standing. In another church there was the strangely androgynous St Onophrius with his or her beard and breasts.

Standing at the car park waiting for my driver, the Western sun set rapidly and the fairy chimneys silhouetted against a salmon pink sky. When I reached my own special troglodyte home set in a volcanic hill, the owner and I drank tea and ate delicious spicy chicken, salad and bread and nodded at one another in a friendly way. He, like the other residents, went off up to a modern house with electricity and running water over the hill and I was left alone to the darkness, the small valley and my dreams.

The next morning while looking out my window at the predawn sky I heard a loud whooshing sound that made me jump off the bed. A great orange balloon filled with a family of waving tourists passed a few feet away from my nose. I had become the attraction and was no longer the voyeur.

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