Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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Mind you, Turkey tends to get lumped in with Europe more than the Middle East these days, so maybe that explains its look of verdant prosperity. Any European ambitions that Turkey has appear more political than cultural; apart from the German cars and Roman script, this part of Turkey feels very Middle Eastern.
Turkey had a bit of an economic crisis a few years ago but Europe, aware of Turkey's strategic importance, helped bail them out and its economy could now almost be described as thriving. This is reflected in the price of everything. A big bottle of water costs 50 percent more than it did in Egypt or Syria and a bus ride that would have cost $5 in Syria costs $25 here - even with a phoney student discount.
Our first stop is Sanliurfa, a recommendation from our fellow Jordan travellers Hamish and George. The town's main tourist attraction is nearby Mount Nemrut, atop which are a bunch of statue heads. Somewhat like Stonehenge, no one is sure how these large monuments made it to the top of the mountain. At $30 for a tour to the top, however, we aren't really that interested. Fortunately the town is very attractive in itself, with a beautiful central park, fountains and picnic tables that surround a nice mosque and are overlooked by a sturdy citadel.
"Bush makes war there only for religion!" Aziz shouts as a little vein appears on his forehead. "He wants the whole world to be Christian. I know these things. I read a lot."
"Are you sure that oil has nothing to do with it?"
"Oil? Why oil? If Bush wants oil he can invade Norway. Or Canada. Bus doesn't like Muslims. He said that all Muslims are terrorists. But if he tries any shit with Turkey we will give him a good war. In Iraq he pays Iraqi people to give up. Here that will not happen. We have 70 million people here and we will fight. He will get good war from us."
We ask Aziz his opinion on western lifestyles, given that Turkey is becoming more and more influenced by Europe.
"Too much what?"
"Sek-is. You know . . ." and then he makes this full-body thrusting gesture that clears things up for us. "Western people have sek-is with many people before marriage. In our culture, no. If you have sek-is with many people, you become like this." He illustrates what he means by squashing a piece of watermelon into many little pieces.
"How is that different from a Muslim man being allowed to have three wives?"
"Koran says so."
"How is that fair?"
"Is in the Koran."
This is why it is so difficult to reason with religious people about religion. You throw an obvious inconsistency at them and they simply respond by referring you to their holy book, or claiming that God works in mysterious ways.
- Why do some women have to cover their heads?
- Because it is in the Koran.
- But what is the reason it is in the Koran?
- We do not question the Koran.
How can anyone still believe that God created the earth in the face of so much evidence supporting the Big Bang theory or that the first man and woman just appeared one day when there is such proof of evolution? All of the world's major religions are so inflexible and I can't understand how people still believe the words of books written thousands of years ago without questioning or revising them.
To get Aziz's vein popping a bit more, Jane broaches the subject of homosexuality.
"What would you do if your son fell in love with another man?" she asks.
"Man have sek-is with another man? Very bad! First of all I would cut his throat with a knife!" Aziz says loudly, making a throat-cutting gesture for the sake of clarity. "Then I would shoot him with a gun!" he continues, with a comical Three Amigos-type gun-in-each hand motion. As if to emphasise the point, he adds "and he would no longer be my son."