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The first time I interacted with Islamic culture, dealing with gender gap and religious beliefs.

Sanliurfa: A Mesopotamian Experience

TURKEY | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [155] | Scholarship Entry

Sanliurfa, a Mesopotamian city, formerly known as Edessa, lies forty kilometers away from the Syrian border, and is known for its Kurdish majority and Islamic fundamentalism. My hotel, Ur Edessa Konuk-Evi, lies into the narrow reddish streets, not far away from the hustling center with its holly tubby fish, flocking inside the Abraham Pool.
Inside, Mehmet Bey, the master chief with his bald head and golden tooth, is holding an aluminium basin just above his head, which he sometimes places down, kneeling in front of it, to honor his guests. The Kurdish drums and bagpipes, accompany the locals sitting on fuchsia carpets, bare footed, eating spicy food by hand. Men jump from front to back holding white and red handkerchiefs; women dance with arms wide opened, pointing to the sky.
On the streets, I am under the protection of a sensitive, almond-eyed woman named Bedryie. She is quick to dismiss the predatory looks of men enjoying their afternoons outside, on their petite chairs, wearing Arabic hats and Turkish pants. I am more fearful of the inquisitive ones coming from camera-shy women. I am compelled by their purple scarves, as they walk fast and with purpose, fully-covered in buttoned-up brown or skin-like local garbs.
One time, Bedryie loses sight of me, and she calls my name loud and clear. Later she says in a broken English: " I am a Turkish woman, I do not leave a guest alone. Woman here is not allowed to walk un-accompanied". She later sighs: "I miss my mom. I married one month ago, it was an arranged marriage. Now I need to honor my home." Later I am invited to the Yeni Mevlid-i Halil Mosque, for prayer. A scarf is placed on my head with precision by a local man. Some women burst into crying: " You are normally beautiful", they say, "but with the scarf, you are the most beautiful".
Ausman, the only woman entrepreneur in Sanliurfa, owns a guest-house after winning it at an auction, where she initially was forced to withdraw by men. She managed to transform it into a five star middle eastern experience: "Every town has its own mad man; I am the mad person of Urfa", she said, after pressing a remote control to remove the ceiling and allowing for day-light and pairs of dove to venture in. I noticed that one of her eyes had a pinkish glow. "Yes, it was my jealous husband", she replies to my non-verbal question. "That's why I kept the ceiling on". Somehow, I think the change will come from within, when both parties will be willing to listen.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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