Table of Contents
From the Tigris and Euphrates to the Bosphorus
I spent almost two weeks traveling Upper Mesopotamia, the heartland of Northern Kurdistan. It was an amazing experience, but it was not the end of my road trip. There was one more place to go. The destination could not have been more different–yet more of the same at the same time: Istanbul.
This was not my first visit to Istanbul, so I decided to skip major historic landmarks. Instead, I spent a lot of time at Istiklal Avenue, the city’s main street. It didn’t take long before I found myself in a Kurdish crowd… and than in another… and another…
Kurds are everywhere in Istanbul. I might have left Kurdistan, but I arrived in the world’s largest Kurdish city! There are between four and six million Kurds in Istanbul – over a third of the city’s population is Kurdish!
Sometimes, the city felt more Kurdish than some of the areas I visited in Kurdistan because of strong Kurdish-cultural presence in Istanbul.
Many Kurds living in Istanbul today are victims of Turkey’s forced assimilation and depopulation policies of the country’s Kurdish region. Despite the hardships they have faced and continue to face, many Kurds in Istanbul and other cities in Western Turkey have worked themselves up, owning a relatively large percentage of the country’s tourism sector. Kurds are also eager to help each other out, so there is a strong community presence.
I spent most of my time strolling around the boulevard, listening to street performers, watching people. Many Kurdish songs were heard, and some of them very fitting, such as “Yan Mirin, Yan Diyarbekir” (“Either Death or Diyarbakir”).
The song is about Amed (Diyarbakir), the capital of Kurdistan and my road trip’s first destination. The translation may sound extreme, but it’s a loaded song, and its extreme popularity is a reflection of the Kurds’ inextinguishable desire for independence and freedom.
The clip below is en excerpt of the song “Yan Mirin, Yan Diyarbakir” performed by Group Bakur on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street.
Road Trip Cities
I want to close off with a video showcasing the cities and places visited during my road trip. This video captures the antiquity and unique character of Kurdistan in a different way, perhaps better than my blog posts and photos – even though this video is less personal. I especially recommend watching it if you are interested in archaeology and architecture.
DESTINATIONS (Kurdish Name / International Name):
[00:00] – Amed / Diyarbakir, Kurdistan
[02:24] – Heskîf / Hasankeyf, Kurdistan
[03:20] – Mêrdîn / Mardin, Kurdistan
[04:18] – Deyrulzafaran Monastery, Kurdistan
[04:44] – The Ancient City of Dara, Kurdistan
[05:01] – Riha / Urfa, Kurdistan
[05:50] – Girê Mirazan / Göbekli Tepe, Kurdistan
[06:00] – Xelfetî / Halfeti, Kurdistan
KURDISH MUSIC IN THIS CLIP:
- Raghs-e Atash (Dance of Fire) by Ardeshir Kamkar
- Dera Sorê (The Red Church) by Koma Dengê Azadî
The compilation above was made from parts of a one-hour video I created for my KURDISH HERITAGE project. The video is a comprehensive introduction to all of Kurdistan’s different regions.
Kurdistan is considered the Cradle of Civilization. All of human civilization’s “firsts”, such as the advent of agriculture, scripture, and the first villages originated from what is today known as Kurdistan. Kurdistan is unfortunately (and undeservedly) little known.
Kurdistan has unique and well-preserved cultures, a plethora of native and still widely practiced religions and sects, and ancient monuments that dwarfs the Great Pyramids of Giza in their age. However, few eyes have seen these monuments. Not in the least because over 50,000 (!) ancient archaeological sites remain unexcavated. This video is, in essence, just a quick history lesson.
The video comes with explanatory subtitles. In addition, I am sure you will appreciate the authentic Kurdish music that accompanies every second.
The full-length video is embedded below, but you can also view it on my YouTube channel by following this link:
KURDISTAN: Ground Zero of History – Kurdish Cities and Historic Sites.
I hope you enjoyed my Mesopotamia Travelogue.
Thank you for reading and watching.
Road Trip Destinations & Route
|City, Town or Village||Istanbul|
|Year(s) Visited||2010, 2017, 2019|