Here we go on another of those ‘Tardis’ time trips; this time back to the year 2003 of the Modern Era (as we have to say now). J and I were touring around the east of Turkey with our kaymakam ‘son’ and his very new and very delightful wife.
Now, being a kaymakam is a lonely old job because, mostly, people only want to know them for what they can get out of them, and the others, who aren’t trying to extract favours, generally hold them in awe – a hangover from Ottoman times. This has created a Freemason-like fraternity with fellow kaymakams which necessitates plan-ahead phone calls and stops to socialise in every town along the route. It also results in very protracted journeys!
So it was that, later than we had expected, we were sitting in the rather imposing office of the kaymakam of Doğubayazıt in Ağrı Province sipping tea and making polite conversation. Ağrı, way over in the east of Turkey, is home to Mount Ararat, the supposed remains of Noah’sArk, the principle border crossing with Iran, a superb bazaar and the magnificent İshakpaşa Sarayı (Palace). Joining us in the sipping was a goggle-eyed Jandarma commander and a scantily clad, over-made up and very big-breasted actress and her hippy-looking Turkish ‘minder’. She was dressed (I remember vividly) in black leggings and a day-glow pink top with ‘Love Me’ emblazoned across her rippling undulations. We saw her later causing traffic pile-ups as she wandered about town; this is, after all, a rather conservative part of the country where most of the women we saw were clad from head to ground in black or brown chaddars/chadors – but that is a story for another time!
The kindly kaymakam had enquired about our plans and our mode of transport (my trusty Doblo) and had hurrumphed at its short-comings in such terrain. ‘This is an important town with much diplomatic comings and goings’ he informed us. ‘I have several 4x4s why don’t you use one of those? In fact, you might as well have my driver as well, he knows the way around.’
So, there we were, travelling up to the iconic site of İshakpaşa Sarayı in a huge Shogun type 4×4 (like the picture) complete with blue flashing lights. We made a very grand and very self-consious arrival! A group of tourists stepped back as the guardian and his staff lined up to greet these so-obviously important visitors – J and I felt like total frauds and total prats!
Our ‘son’ was grinning from ear to ear, enjoying every bit of our discomfiture! Over time we have learned to go-with-the-flow, as we keep our ‘respect for everybody’ head firmly on our shoulders; back then we were still struggling to deal with such situations.
The undeniable bonus of having ‘connections’ is that J and I have seen and been to places that we otherwise might have missed. At İshakpaşa we were given a personal tour by the principal guardian who was extremely knowledgable. We were also taken to parts of the site that were closed to the public whilst renovations were being undertaken. Completed in 1784, it is the last of the great Ottoman administrative outposts from the so-called ‘Lale Devri’ period to be constructed. It is, without doubt, a true gem and a very important and distinguished architectural relic of its period. All-in-all, an impressive place!
Once again my scanner has done its bit by converting my old 35mm pics into digital format – here are some impressions from this ‘must-see’ site in the beautiful, historic and culturally very rich east of Turkey.
Alan in Okçular