Sunday, May 20, 2007

Turkey fieldwork notes: cultural heritage tourism

Kurdistan/Turkey fieldwork notes extracts

At 11.05pm on the 9th of May 2007, I scribbled down that,
even tourism is beyond me here. Last night I was trapped in a pointless little circles with the hotel manager, because he knew I wanted to go to Nemrut Dağı and Harran and the sites along the way and wanted to take me on his own tour, although I refused to pay the "group" price and go by myself and there was no other - shudder - "tourists" who wanted to go.

I lost at least half-an-hour telling him I didn't have the money to cover the set price myself and didn't have the time to wait for a group to appear; he didn't directly refuse to book me a place on one of the Harran Dolmuş's regular tours, instead denying that we could know that a tour group wasn't going to manifest itself within the next twenty-four hours, telling me to wait or even dictating to me that I go to Harran first (today) , muster up a group for him myself and go tomorrow (of course, arriving back so late I'd be lucky enough to have no other option but to stay at his hotel again).

I gave up talking to him and wrote up notes til late, then woke up early this morning to sneak off to the tour. The office hours now start an hour after the second tour was supposed to leave - and having had breakfast nearby and waited for one-and-a-half hours it still hadn't opened by 9.30am, at which time I went to the bus station.

I got a bus to Atatürk Barajı (Ataturk Dam), saw as much as I could, including what must've been closer up a large carving of 'önce Vatan' in the land and inscription of 'ne mutlu Türküm diyene', 'how happy a thing it is to say I am a Turk' on the dam, both dwarfed by the DSİ (Devlet Su İşleri) [SHW (State Hydraulic Works)] branding.

I had tea with the bus driver and cafe staff, us trying to tell whether the English-speaking tourists in a tour group that arrived just after us were British or North American. We left and, talking one-to-one, I asked the bus driver about the harms caused by the dam, but he insisted that 'only good came from the dam, no bad'.

It's difficult to present these views without dismissing them out of hand, so clear are the harms, but perhaps for him and his family and friends it has been good, or perhaps the harms are not yet felt at a local level [or they have more pressing concerns that cultural heritage].

I got dropped off to catch the bus to Kahta; my driver tried to gte another 10YTL out of me (on top of the 3.50 I'd paid and additional 1 we'd agreed); my bus was about to leave, so we agreed upon a mutually dissatisfactory extra 3.50 and I was on my way.

It turned out the light was poor and tourists unforthcoming, so there were no more trips to Nemrut Dağı, so I went to see the rescued archaeology from the dam-affected sites at Adiyaman Museum (of which there was a lot).

After a casual enquiry about one set of artefacts (some Uruk bowls that seemed to have been deliberately deposited but were evidently empty), the guard/attendant asked me if I were an archaeologist and, when I confirmed that I was, asked if I wanted to talk to an archaeologist there.

... He was chatting with a non-archaeologist colleague. I tried to explain my work and we did talk about it briefly, the archaeologist noting that the dam-affected sites that were hit twenty years ago suffered and lost more than the recently-hit ones, that the recently-affected ones had been 'lucky'. When I asked if he thought Hasankeyf would be lucky, he smiled wryly and shrugged, 'I hope so'.

Mostly, however, they told me about picturesque archaeological sites I would enjoy visiting and would be able to promote to friends; indeed, in the end, I lost two hours being shown every tomb in an expansive, if admittedly impressive, Roman necropolis, Perre. I only got a few good photos, though, as every time I paused, the archaeologist's friend ragged me on to the next, inditinguishable plot.

He kept asking the meanings of indistinct features that hadn't been excavated, but found empty, devoid of evidence, so I couldn't give him any answers, at whih point he always shot back, 'but you're an archaeologist!'
I don't have time to give the example of his 2-D, hand-drawn, plan-section that I later made sense of, on site.
I just made the last bus back here, went through my usual routine, then tried to single out some variously damaged and destroyed minority cultural heritage sites that I may be able to visit, the remains of which may help me to identify the natural and human causes on Cypriot cultural heritage sites.

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