So pleasant in fact, I’ll drink the yogurty salt-water

The wikitravel page for Diyarbakir says “(Diyarbakir is) not clean (tons of rubbish on the road) and the state of poorness is extreme. Noearly all the childrens play with toy guns and will very probably shoot at you with plastic bullets. It’s not a pleasant walk.”

Diyarbakir streets 2Within a few minutes of leaving my hotel to explore the old town, I am surrounded by about 10 children, giggling, shouting “Hello!” and “Photo photo!” The brave ones pose for a photo, and when I show it to them they run away giggling, exactly like they did in Nepal, South Africa, and Ecuador. A couple more sort of drift into the space the photo was taken and take up awkward poses, but are too shy to ask directly.


I feel an American’s uncomfortable feeling when taking more than a picture or two of children, so I drift away, saying “goodbye” and hearing it back en masse. A couple are particularly determined, and a minute later when I stop to take a picture of tiles outside a window, two tiny faces from before appear in the window.

I am about to take their picture when a male voice says something stern inside, and their faces vanish. I hear their giggling receding into the building.


Sometimes they change their mind at the last minute to be in or out.

Sometimes they change their mind at the last minute to be in or out.

No plastic bullets. Yes, tons of rubbish everywhere, but nevertheless, it is a pleasant walk.

I walk all afternoon, and spend a couple hours in a strip of park in the afternoon shade of the ancient city walls. The park belongs to all ages, with young boys riding bikes, young girls jumping rope, teenage boys lurking around in awkward eagerness, grown men playing backgammon and drinking cai, and old women keeping an eye on the littlest ones.


I have been gorging myself on Turkish breakfasts, but around 5:00 PM I’m ready for some more food, and my first day in Diyarbakir I stopped by a street cart parked under a gate of the city wall, spewing smoke and looking tasty. Gotta love street meat.

Diyarbakir streetfoodThe guys grilling the beasts were goofballs, and we had a good conversation despite the not knowing a single word in each other’s languages. Well, a single word each. “Spas” is “Thank you” in Kurdish, and the younger griller knew “chicken”, or rather, “cheek-un.”

That wrap of (I’m assuming) lamb was delicious, and even the ayran, a salty yogurt drink that disgusted K and I in Istanbul, was perfect as the day’s light wound down.


(FYI, I’m guessing the recipe for ayran is: mix a bunch of sour cream into some ocean water. Let sit until it’s nice and tepid. Drink without gagging. Or in that time and place, drink with delight.)