Buket and I wandered as much as possible in the time before sunset. I drew our grave, kind, fifteen-year-old guide, Erkan. His portrait has hung on my wall ever since. I saw him then and still do as the face of Hasankeyf.
Three young men, students from Izmir, held still on the edge of the castle for portraits, staring down into the vista of caves and lantern light. “We read Atlas,” they said, “and so we travel Turkey this summer and learn our history.”
Buket and I climbed down the slippery stones from the top of the Byzantine clifftop castle to dinner on the beach below.
Dinner was river trout barbecued and served at tables set up in the shallows. A jolly crowd sat at a tilting table with our feet in the Tigris, eating the fish caught in the river and throwing the bones back in to repay the river. Girls in trailing headresses waded out into the rushing water, legs glowing in the gloom.
We were going to sleep on railed platforms set up in the river. I hiked across the rocky beach toward the vast sheer cliff with the zigzag staircase and the castle on top, to use the pay restroom set up in a cave and manned all night by two hardy kids, when I saw a jeweled archway in the cliff…
Rocking the Cradle of Civilization in Hasankeyf: NEXT: 9 OPEN SESAME