It was the first day of July. It was the day I arrived in an old city in the southeastern region of Turkey. Everyone had warned me back in Istanbul about it. Don’t go in the summer especially in July and August they would tell me. The city was called Batman. I defied all those who told me no. I was in Batman and I wouldn’t and couldn’t admit it. But, yes, that morning I set foot in the city, the weather was extreme. It was worse than any heat wave I had experienced. That morning, it hit 108 degrees fahrenheit.
I arrived at the hotel at 6 a.m. from Istanbul, just a mere 2-hour flight. After showering and sleeping for a few hours, I descended for my first and main destination, HASANKEYF. The town name itself was luminous and mysterious sounding. Though I was not an archaeology expert, I knew what beauty and splendor was and its resting places was in Hasankeyf, an ancient town 30 minutes from Batman. Soon the Turkish government would construct a dam in this area and transfer the ruins to another. I had to see the magnificence of this place in its original setting before I left Turkey.
At 9 a.m. I headed out from my very comfortable hotel. As my feet touched the first steps outside my hotel’s front door, I felt the enormous sun opening its arms in wide embrace and generously giving away its loving rays. I wanted to be free from it, but the sun would only capture me again and again as I tried to hide. Perhaps I hadn’t noticed the temperature as much in the wee hours of the morning upon my arrival. Maybe I was still groggy having left for the airport that morning at 2 a.m.
Batman was busy. It was an ambitious city which, at first glance, disguised itself as small town. It jumped and danced around to its favorite song like the bustling boomtown that it was. I looked at the locals strutting around in the middle of downtown as if it were any other ordinary day. In their perspective, of course, it was another ordinary day. To me, the guest, the solo traveler in their neck of the woods, it was more than extraordinary. I was star struck indeed looking at ordinary people.
My eyes followed them around while I stood waiting to cross the street. The tea cafes were packed that morning as if the crowds of men were celebrating a holiday. The men sat comfortably outside the cafes under old, dusty terrace covers. They were already enjoying their cigarettes as they drank their morning tea, engaged in lively conversations. As I heard layers upon layers of conversations cohesively orchestrated, I wondered what they might have been so excited about this early in the morning. What were they so impassioned to talk about? The high clinking sound of their tea glasses as the men stirred their sugar mixed well with their deep voices.
Workers headed to their jobs. The tempermental sun and its powerful rays were daily accessories in the same way that tea and sugar were to the culture. It seemed almost every city or town I visited in Turkey, no matter how big or small, had a buzz. With no exception, Batman had a buzz.
Slowly and awkwardly I followed the shaded path the tall buildings provided me. In this heat, a minute seemed like an hour. I wondered if I had ever tolerated such discomfort. Miami or Cambodia, perhaps? But Cambodia sounded like a pleasant walk in the park as I crowned Batman the new winner.