The Winds of Diyarbikir

Guest blogger Sheila Robertson takes us into a snapshot of the past.

I stand on a windy hill, watching dust whirl over the dun-colored soil. Two women in black chadors work in a field, gathering purple-flowered herbs, and an old man sits in the shade fingering his evil-eye beads. Wildflowers and thistles wave between large faced blocks of stone tumbled and strewn in ruin across a rocky knoll. My map says I am at Suayb City.

I toe through the sand-colored rubble and peer into a network of underground rooms. The cool, dank air draws upward from a few larger chambers that contain livestock cribs. The whisper of ancient languages curls up from the dark and the dust under my feet while sunlight plays over layers of more recent civilizations piled on top. A tumbled church. A crumbling mosque. My guidebook has brought me here. It says cuneiform tablets have been found nearby; that the caves are the site of very early civilization.

Today, this place is a few mud-brick houses on a wind-tracked rise. Around them the ruins and goat paths are filled with the laughter of ten Kurdish children competing for attention and leading me from tumbled lintel to toppled column. They point to exotic inscriptions and carved designs, and then scramble on excited to show me more. Black hair, black eyes and bright laughter. I wonder what blood runs in their veins; what tribes their ancestors belonged to. Mongols, Turks, Hittites. What conquering armies swept over this hill and what civilized histories deposited them at this point. A fluid thing, this dust owned by Tamurlane, Alexander the Great, Darius III, and Nebuchadnezzar.

The children offer me yellow wildflowers and I twist them into the girls’ hair. The boys jostle each other and want their pictures taken. I don’t understand Kurd, but they have learned enough English to wheedle. They are hoping the Americans will leave behind a few kurus, or if they are fortunate today, a lira.

Han el Ba'rur Caravansary

I bend to scoop a handful of the tan earth. My childhood Sunday School lessons inform me that Abraham lived a few hills away, in Harran. The prophet, Jethro, settled here and taught in these caves after The Flood.

In the dust I imagine camel caravans trekking this way trading in silk and spices and new ideas. In the wind I hear the clashes between Byzantines and Turks. The battles among followers of Yahweh, Allah, God and Sin, the ancient moon god who ruled these hills before the rest. Today, Allah owns the hearts in this land and Turkey controls their lives. In the Arab Spring there are rumblings from Diyarbikir and the dream of free Kurdistan rides the wind.

But for the moment, the children are laughing and the dust swirls around us and the wildflowers nod.

(Diyarbikir is the unofficial capital of the Kurds)

Sheila Robertson grew up in the west where she lives and enjoys the out-of-doors. She is a writer and photographer who loves to explore the world. Read more of Sheila’s blogging at and check out her photography at