One of the most daring journeys I have had the opportunity to partake on was visiting the political hotbed area of Kurdistan. As of 2017, tourists are dissuaded from visiting this part of Turkey due to the intensified in-fighting between Turkish government forces and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) as well as repeated suicide bombings perpetrated by ISIS. Diyarbakir, the city I used as my launching pad for traveling around the region, had horrendously suffered a few vicious suicide attacks the past year or so. The conflicts evidently have no end in sight and that is lamentably disheartening as the Kurdish people are one of the most heartwarmingly friendly people I have ever met in my travels. As the lone tourist in their neck of the woods, locals consistently went out of their way to ensure I was comfortable and safe. While waiting for buses, I was asked repeatedly by locals to come inside their houses to sit down and have tea with them without wanting anything in return. On buses, I was frequently given the best seat in the house and a few times was asked to sit in front next to the driver. Those memories are forever etched in the deepest recesses of my brain. I wish the violence in the region finds its fateful demise sooner rather than later as the Kurds deserve peace just like everybody else on this planet.
Itinerary for this day trip via public bus:
Diyarbakir – Mardin – Midyat – Hasankeyf – Batman – Diyarbakir
a. Dipping my feet in the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers
b. Seeing ancient Mesopotamian towns such as Hasankeyf and Mardin. To read more about the heartwrenching story of Hasankeyf, the Smithsonian has an excellent article about this ancient Mesopotamian town. Mardin, on the other hand, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will enamor many a traveler.
c. Interacting with the Kurdish people
From Diyarbakir, I pressed on northward via overnight bus towards the Black Sea city of Trabzon – the gateway to Sumela Monastery.