Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

The Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum in Northern (Turkish) Cyprus houses many beautiful artefacts: especially pottery dating from 2300 BC till 475 years BC. It was a pleasure to walk through the two different exposition rooms. The icon part of the museum is disappointing; rather new (19th/20th century) and mostly bad quality. But I do recommend a visit to other parts!

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Next to Saint Barnabas’ grave lies a (former) monastery – the last monks left in 1977. Nowadays it is the residence of the Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum: the banner above this blog notices the opening in 2017 but I remember a visit in the ’90ies when both icons and archaeological artefacts were already exposed. Most probably a more formal status was given to this place to attract more attention and thus visitors.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

You can enter through the gate where you pay a small entrance fee and find the church of the monastery immediately on your right hand. It houses the Icon Museum but that is not an interesting place to visit. There are no valuable old icons and the quality of the icons is poor. It looks as if the Turkish-Cypriot government didn’t know what to do with the church and some icons found and decided to combine the two into a museum.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Just pass by the church to find yourself in the beautifully kept courtyard. The Archaeological Museum is housed in (several different) buildings that surround this courtyard. It is a simple museum, just showing objects as they are in showcases, with little signs for explanation in Turkish and English. The charm lies fully in the tranquillity of the place combined with the quality of the artefacts. This is not a modern, fancy museum, but a museum that you like if you like the unusual. Like in other blogs, I can only show here some highlights: there is much more to see. Some examples I liked:

Red polished double spouted bowl with plastic decoration, early bronze age, 2300 – 2075 BC, says the sign. Someone, living 4200 years earlier than us, decided to decorate a red pot with humans lying against or climbing up the sides of the bowl: how moving is that! What a brilliant artisan…

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

And then this pottery: how can I describe it? The sign says ‘white painted ware and red-on-red flask, early bronze age 1900 – 1625 BC’. The description does not do justice to the originality and variety in shapes. Endless is my admiration for the artisans who made this in a period when they had ‘nothing’ compared to the instruments and techniques we have.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Late bronze age pottery – 1450-1225 BC: amazing in its simplicity. Or is this late bronze age design? Amazing….

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

I adore the warrior in this chariot: although he seems to be too small for the size of the chariot, he looks proud and confident. This is just one of a collection of very special terracotta figurines in this museum, from the archaic period 750-600 BC.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Among a series of terracotta heads, also from the archaic period, my eye fell on this one because his eyes fell on me. A strong and in the same time quiet, confident expression. Very nice to see. I was walking out of the museum when I passed by this one and he stopped me 🙂

The Archaeological Museum is worth a visit, even though the Icon Museum is disappointing. You can combine it with a visit to Saint Barnabas’ grave at immediate walking distance, to the nearby Royal Tombs, or to the ancient city of Salamis.

You may also like these blogs:
Archaeological Museum Sanliurfa
Archaeological Museum Amman
Museum of Art and Archaeology Périgord
Icons in the Antiphonitis church

Saint Barnabas’ grave

Saint Barnabas' grave

Saint Barnabas’ grave lies on the northern (Turkish) side of Cyprus, in the cellar under a small chapel. Although this saint’s grave is a major ‘asset’ for the status of the Cypriot-Orthodox church, no signs of love or care can be found.

small Greek-Cypriot chapel
Saint Barnabas' grave

I expected to find a place with worship and deep veneration but the grave of Saint Barnabas bears hardly any signs of that. To my surprise, street dogs were walking in and out of the chapel. The grave cellar contains just a few cheep pictures and a candle here and there. Whoever saw the decorations and worshipping around the graves of for example Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint John can not believe his eyes in seeing the treatment of Saint Barnabas’ grave.

Saint Barnabas' grave
Saint Barnabas' grave

Saint Barnabas was an apostle who worked a lot with Saint Paul. He was the one who introduced Saint Paul who was converted only after having persecuted the Christians, to the apostles who still feared that man. Barnabas convinced them that Saint Paul’s conversion was truthful. Saint Paul and Barnabas traveled together from Antioch to Tarsus to Jerusalem, from Cyprus to Pamphilia. The couple spread early christianity every where, until they fell out and split. After that both went their own way.

In 46 AD Saint Barnabas returned to the city of Salamis in Cyprus, the Island where he was born. The Bible does not mention what happened to him after that but Christian tradition dating from the 3rd century already has it that he died as a martyr there in Salamis (c. 75 AD). His remains are buried in a small grave cellar under a chapel not far from that ancient city on the northern side of Cyprus. As said the chapel is open for everybody, even dogs. The interior contains nothing special. Just take the stairs to go down and see the coffin in the cellar.

simple church interior
stairs in the chapel to go down to the grave cellar

The fact that Cyprus ‘has’ Saint Barnabas is the main reason that the Cypriot-Orthodox church is an ‘independent’ church. Unlike what many people think, they do not belong to the Greek-Orthodox or similar orthodox churches. Of course they do have strong ties but the Cypriot-Orthodox church makes it’s own policies, can go it’s own way. This was particularly clear in the ’60s and ’70s when archbishop Makarios was president of Cyprus. Religion and politics intertwined and there was no way to stop Makarios in his policies to let Cyprus become one with Greece (‘enosis‘) and oppress the Turkish-Cypriot community.

cellar with coffin of Saint Barnabas

During 30 years it was not possible for Greek Cypriots to go to the North and for Turkish Cypriots to go to the South but there is again free access already since 2003. You’d expect an investment by Greek Cypriots to make Saint Barnabas’ grave a respectable place of veneration. Or have they gone beyond the point where that matters – how proud are the Greek Cypriots of a church that is still a major factor in blocking peace processes in north-south negotiations?

road to the chapel of Saint Barnabas
road to Saint Barnabas’ chapel

Anyway, I found it painful to see the status of Saint Barnabas’ grave. Whatever today’s politics are like, he lived in a different turbulent period and did his upmost to create something new and good he believed in. He suffered for that and deserves a better memorial.

You may also like these blogs:
Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum: the former Saint Barnabas Monastery where the last monks left in 1977.
Royal Tombs like Homer’s Iliad: not just the Royals Tombs but also the Cellarga necropolis lies here. Some graves excavated next to Saint Barnabas’ chapel seem to be part of that necropolis.

Dank aan de kiezers

heleboel kamelen die samen dicht tegen elkaar aan zitten

20 maart was de dag van de Provinciale Statenverkiezingen 2019: velen gingen naar de stembus, u en jij waarschijnlijk ook. Voor een stem op de VVD wil ik mijn dank uitspreken en in het bijzonder als ik op lijst 1, plaats 12 een voorkeursstem mocht krijgen: superdank!

25 maart kwamen de definitieve uitslagen van de verkiezingen: voor mij geen zetel nu. Wel het prachtige aantal van 2816 voorkeursstemmen: als het alleen aan de stemmen had gelegen, had ik nu in de Provinciale Staten gezeten. Voor een voorkeurszetel waren 5301 stemmen nodig, dus het was echt niet genoeg. Maar het grote aantal is wel opgevallen, dat haal je niet vaak op een plaats nummer 12. Daarmee wordt toch aangegeven dat er groot maatschappelijk draagvlak is voor mijn kandidatuur, zeker ook als je bedenkt dat de eerste 10 mensen op de lijst vanuit de VVD online-campagne actief ondersteund werden en degenen die lager stonden niet. Ik hoop dat er op een later moment kansen zijn om in te stromen en de visie waarop mijn kandidatuur rust in te kunnen brengen. Graag wil ik een ieder die hieraan heeft bijgedragen ontzettend danken voor het vertrouwen!

Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie op 20 maart!

stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie
Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie

Tijdens de campagne van de afgelopen weken heb ik veel mensen gesproken: op straat, bij mij thuis tijdens de huiskamerbijeenkomsten, online, bij debatten en andere events. Het is zo belangrijk dat mensen zich vertegenwoordigd voelen door iemand, ook in de provincie. Die persoon wil ik graag zijn.

De provincie Noord-Holland lijkt veraf te staan van bestuurlijk Amsterdam en vice versa. Ik wil de komende jaren werken aan verbinding want alleen zo verbeteren zaken als wonen, toerisme en bereikbaarheid. Ik ben de enige Amsterdamse vrouw op de VVD lijst, én een ondernemer die zich graag inzet voor doeners binnen en buiten Amsterdam.

Een onderwerp waar de provincie niet over gaat maar dat in veel gesprekken werd genoemd: hard werken en weinig geld overhouden door de stijgende kosten van huur, zorgverzekering, boodschappen enz. Daar moet de VVD iets mee want werken moet juist worden beloond. Gelukkig zijn er al mensen opgestaan die met dit thema aan de slag willen. Vanuit de provincie ga ik daaraan bijdragen wat ik kan!

Zie hier mijn YouTube over mijn motivatie, inspiratie van mijn betovergrootvader!
Zie hier mijn YouTube ‘Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie’, met tevens beelden van de Spaarndammerbuurt waar ik woon.
Beide filmpjes heeft Martijn Koning bij Jinek met complimenten laten zien 🙂

Uitnodiging: welkom bij mijn huiskamerbijeenkomsten!

Op 10 en 17 maart organiseer ik twee huiskamerbijeenkomsten, met de Amsterdamse gemeenteraadsleden Hala Naoum Nehmé en Marianne Poot; je kunt er in alle rust praten over wat jou beweegt. Geef je nu op via deze link!


Hoe vaak kun je nou eens in alle rust spreken met mensen die in de politiek zitten? Meestal is het in drukke zaaltjes, aan de rand van vergaderingen, onder het oog van camera’s. Daarom organiseer ik twee huiskamerbijeenkomsten waarin je van gedachten kunt wisselen in een plezierige sfeer.
* op 10 maart: met Hala Naoum Nehmé – binnen en buiten de gemeenteraad hoor je haar over Wonen, een van de belangrijkste taken die zij vervult in de Amsterdamse politiek.
* op 17 maart: met Marianne Poot – al jaren bekend van Veiligheid, ze voert ook het woord over Schiphol en is de nieuwe fractievoorzitter van de Amsterdamse VVD.


De gesprekken worden begeleid door Laurent Staartjes, lid van de bestuurscommissie West. Zelf ben ik kandidaat voor de Provinciale Staten Noord-Holland, denk daarvoor aan onderwerpen als Mobiliteit, Wonen, Energietransitie, Klimaat, Cultuureducatie en Erfgoed en natuurlijk de provinciale belastingen (die zijn in Noord-Holland het laagst dankzij de VVD en wat ons betreft blijft dat zo).

Kortom, je krijgt op zo’n middag 3 voor de prijs van 1: stadsdeel, gemeenteraad en provincie! We beginnen om 15 uur en natuurlijk sluiten we af met een borrel.

Nieuwsgierig? Je bent van harte welkom, het maakt niet uit of je ervaring hebt in de politiek of zoiets gewoon een keer wilt meemaken. Je kunt alleen komen luisteren of juist je eigen mening naar voren brengen – we zijn nieuwsgierig naar wat jou beweegt. Geef je op via deze link.

Mensa Fonds veiling: doe mee!

david contori soto

Elk goed doel zoekt creatieve manieren om middelen te verwerven. Het Mensa Fonds heeft een benefietveiling, dit jaar op 5 april in Amsterdam. Iedereen is welkom (ook als je de kunst wilt afkijken… we delen graag onze geheimen).

mensa fonds koreaans eten

Mensa Fonds veiling is een plezier om mee te maken. Er zijn totaal verschillende kavels, aan het Mensa Fonds gedoneerd door mensen die het goede doel steunen: van boeken tot een heuse vliegtocht, van prachtige kunst zoals het aquarel hierboven tot een Koreaans etentje.
Het bedrag dat mensen bieden voor de kavels, komt 100% bij het Mensa Fonds terecht. Want de aanbieders doen het echt voor de goede zaak en vragen geen cent daarvoor. De locatie, restaurant I-Dock in Amsterdam (IJdok 4 aan de marinehaven, vlakbij het centraal station) stelt de ruimte als sponsor ter beschikking. Alle werk wordt door vrijwilligers gedaan. De sfeer tijdens de veiling is gezellig en soms spannend – je verveelt je zeker niet!

mensa fonds antieke lamp

De opbrengsten van de veiling zorgen ervoor dat het Mensa Fonds zijn werk kan blijven doen: denk aan de jaarlijkse Awards uitreiking waar het Mensa Fonds prijzen uitreikt aan mensen die bijzondere prestaties hebben geleverd als of voor hoogbegaafden. Het Mensa Fonds wil dat hoogbegaafd talent beter benut wordt; daar profiteert de hele samenleving van. Documentaires en boeken worden ondersteund zodat er meer inzicht in hoogbegaafdheid ontstaat en steeds meer mensen weten hoe ze ermee om kunnen gaan. Lees meer over de lopende projecten en de plannen waaraan gewerkt wordt in het meerjarenbeleidsplan op de site. Maar boven alles zou ik zeggen: kom gewoon langs, dat is de beste kennismaking!

mensa fonds vliegtocht

Vrijdagavond 5 april vanaf 19 uur (duur 1 à 1,5 uur)

Restaurant I-Dock, IJdok 4, Amsterdam (nabij CS).

Aanmelden via Toegang gratis.

Niet komen maar wel bieden? Dat kan! Lees hoe en wat in de FAQ op de website.

Lees meer over de Mensa Fonds Awards in deze blog, en over de oprichting van het Mensa Fonds in 2013 in deze blog.

Huis van Hilde – Hilde’s House

Huis van Hilde

Huis van Hilde, in english Hilde’s House, ‘is home to a spectacular exhibition of the archaeology and human history of Noord-Holland’: thus the introduction of the museum website. Nothing in these words is exagerated. Huis van Hilde is a fascinating museum where old findings are combined with new technologies in a way I didn’t see before in archaeological museums. That makes your visit a high quality experience!

Heavy fighting of the people of Holland with the people of Westfrisia in 1297 has left traces in bones that were found in the medieval village of Vronen, close to actual Alkmaar. They prove that the fighting was not just about winning but also about setting an example, learning the Westfrisians a lesson once and for all. Traces of stabbing with swords show the cruelties committed.

Huis van Hilde - slag bij Vronen

That history is the first thing you see when you enter the museum part of Huis van Hilde. It is intriguing to learn that in the 13th century there were both women and men in the fight. Every artefact shown in Huis van Hilde can easily be looked up in the tablets: this really opens a complete collection without being boring (if you’re not interested, you just don’t look into it).

huis van hilde

Screens on the walls show videos with more historic background or archaeological research. Findings of skeletons are used to bring people back to life, like the Archaeological Museum of Haarlem had done. The skeleton on the left here belonged to a man from the stone age (2500BC). The picture below shows the man as he must have looked in real life.

huis van hilde man uit steentijd

Models of farms show how people lived during different ages. And so on. Huis van Hilde is a very rich museum and very capable too: they know how to show you their treasures.
Languages used are Dutch, English and German; the tablets are Dutch only but very clear, you might be able to understand stuff.
I can only show some of the artefacts I liked here: there is a lot more to see. Artefacts I liked:

Two wooden canoes
Found in the soil of Noord-Holland.

On top is a canoe from Uitgeest 600 BC

Below is a canoe from the Wieringermeer polder 3300 BC.

huis van hilde sacrifice and ritual

Sacrifice and ritual
Very interesting objects found in a sacrificial site at Velserbroek.
During ages, starting at Iron Age, people threw objects in the bog such as jewelry, human bones, coins and pots.
The presence of animal skulls – horses and dogs – and spearheads indicate worship of the Germanic god Wodan.

Huis van Hilde - flutes

Amazing to find a flute and a pan flute in the vitrines. The flute was found in Broek op Langedijk. It was made out of the ulnar of a crane. Information in the tablet says that flutes in this part of Europe go back to 36.000 years, but this one is from 0-300AD. The pan flute is made out of boxwood. Only 4 pan flutes were found in Europe and this one from Uitgeest is in the best condition. It was probably imported from the Mediterranean 150-250AD.

A simple beauty, this bell from 450 – 750 AD
huis van hilde - boot
Women’s boot, goat leather, 13nd century
Two great sarcophagi 1100-1200 AD from a city lost in the water – and the story of their finding and lifting from the water on video
huis van hilde dagger
And what about this stone dagger

How to get there
Huis van Hilde in the village of Castricum has easy access. Officially coming by car is not encouraged but you can find enough parking spots at walking distance from the museum. Coming by train is indeed very easy: Huis van Hilde lies right next to the trainstation of Castricum. From Amsterdam Central Station, a train leaves every 20 minutes; traveling time is 25 minutes (from Alkmaar, trains also leave every 20 minutes and traveling time is 10 minutes).

Huis van Hilde
huis van hilde depot figures
The depot in figures: impressive!

You may like other blogs I wrote about archaeological museums:

Archaeological Museum Haarlem
Archaeological Museum Amman
Archaeological Museum Gaziantep
Archaeological Museum Şanlıurfa
Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord

Shoplifters: movie about purity


Shoplifters is a movie about purity of characters and personalities. I didn’t know I like Japanese movies but now I know. Shoplifters is a wonderful work of art. If you do not know whether you like Japanese movies, go there – because you do like them. You certainly like Shoplifters.

Shoplifters starts with the ‘finding’ of a little girl, a 4 or 5 year old kid that is suffering from violence in her family. She is happy to go with her finders and live in their place. It is an environment of love and respect. In her new family, people are careful in handling each other’s feelings. Her new grandmother takes care of her food and clothing. A boy, maybe 8 or 10 years old, is there to do games with her, to show her around in her new world and indeed… to teach her how to work in shoplifting.

Nobody in the little girl’s new family is really family – as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that every family member has its own history – and its own grief and failure. Very strong in this movie are the images shown: feelings are not explained but filmed. The emotion derives from what you see. With shortcoming and weakness comes nevertheless a transcendent purity. The characters are not perfect but very honest and absolutely fair in their behaviour; much more than in the world of the average.

When the movie ends, it is the little girl that pays the price. The officials find her and bring her back to her original family, where she was treated badly. She is unhappy and very lonely in the end of the movie. She pays the price of the general myth that a girl needs her mother and that she is best off in her ‘own’ family, much better than in a family of shoplifters. Japanese society is ruthless towards kids in order to uphold the myth of nice families who are the cornerstone of society. It has a certain, idealist, perception of a family and is blind towards the true meaning families can have. Is that only Japanese society or also yours?

Go see this movie. It is something completely else. Uncomparable to other movies. A combination of art, beauty, emotion, societal relevance, love and excellent story-telling.

You may also like the blogs about these movies:
Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice

Panagia Tochniou Monastery – Northern Cyprus Heritage (23)

panagia toxniou

Panagia Tochniou Monastery or in Turkish, the Bulușa Manastırı lies in a beautiful spot of the Kyrenia mountains in Northern Cyprus. A high Cypress Tree that is 500 years old serves as a wishing tree. The place is deserted and peaceful when I arrive there.

panagia toxniou

Panagia Tochniou Monastery is in a better state than I expected when the locals of the village Agıllar (in Greek: Mandres) showed me the way, complaining that heritage is left abandoned and that nobody takes care of it. Panagia Tochniou Monastery lies at only 3 kilometers distance of Agıllar; follow the tarmac, you do not need to go over unpaved roads even if your map tells you so. The first 2,5 kilometers you think you will end up in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see.

panagia toxniou

Then suddenly a great view opens in front of you: tree, monastery, fields and the Troodos mountains far away. The Cypress Tree is said to be 500 years old and 15 or 18 meters high. It was bigger once upon a time but it was struck by lightning and is now hanging over like the tower of Pisa.
The tree is full of little papers and cloths symbolizing visitor’s wishes: may they all become true!
Large iron rods protect the tree from falling: a merciful act accomplished by English inhabitants, a local in Agıllar told me.

panagia toxniou
panagia toxniou

The church of the
Panagia Tochniou Monastery is not in a too bad shape. I have seen a lot worse in Northern Cyprus (for example Antiphonitis, Sourp Magar, Agios Pandeleimon).
Panagia Tochniou dates from the 12th or 13th century: Find more details about that and a recent restauration here.

panagia toxniou

Inside, some traces of frescoes can be found in the dome and in arches. The tomb in the north wall seems to be the founder’s tomb.

panagia toxniou

In front of the church is a courtyard with buildings around it. On one side they are intact. You can enter the rooms that are empty. The view from the windows is spectacular. How on earth did they find this kind of spots in the middle ages to build their monasteries? Well done, for sure!

panagia toxniou

There is not a lot left from the other buildings around the courtyard of Panagia Tochniou but a look around is interesting. I saw several different marble pillars that are certainly not medieval. Most probably they took them from the ruins of nearby Salamis, an ancient city that thrived for over 1200 years until it was destroyed by the Arabs in the 7th century.

panagia toxniou

On a visit in 2012, a reporter from the local newspaper described the place as a total mess (you can read it here in Turkish, quite funny) where nobody ever picks up the garbage, but when I visited Panagia Tochniou Monastery (December 2018) it was clean. And peaceful, most of all. A beautiful place.

Find the Panagia Tochniou Monastery on facebook:Üstü-Buluşa-Manastırı/312056435663223

Agios Mamas Agıllar – Northern Cyprus Heritage (22)

Agios Mamas Agıllar

Agios Mamas Agıllar lies in a small village of just a few hundred inhabitants, called Agıllar in Turkish and in Greek: Mandres. Nobody looks after the church. In the village, there are tensions between Turkish Cypriots and Turcs. My visit was more interesting for the meeting with the locals than for the church Agios Mamas Agıllar.

agios mamas church

Agios Mamas Agıllar is an abandoned church taken over by the pigeons after being used as a mosque for many years. It took me quite some time to find the name of this church and now that I have the name, I still haven’t got a clue how old it is. Feel free to comment below if you have information about this church, that would be interesting.

agios mamas Agıllar

I met a local who felt uneasy about the state of the church: ‘our municipality should care more but they do nothing’. I wondered, is it not the Greek-Cypriot religious authority that is responsible here? But he was sure, ‘no, for general maintenance the municipality is responsible’. Well, in that case they surely lack in task execution…

Agıos Mamas Agıllar

The only thing about the church that struck me was the fact that it still has a clock. Usually clocks are removed as soon as churches are turned into mosques. Maybe they did remove the Agios Mamas clock but kept it in a safe place and put it back when they did no longer use Agios Mamas Agıllar as a mosque.

agios mamas Agıllar

Agios Mamas Agıllar was maybe not that interesting for a simple tourist like me but the meeting with the locals was. A conversation that started in the streets of Agıllar soon ended in the local cafe La Marina, a century old house that had the traditional shape many houses had before they were broken down by the Turcs who came to live here. Indeed it is a beautiful place with nice arches and a wooden roof. Tea and cakes were offered by the Turkish-Cypriot inhabitants.


They told about the existing tensions between themselves as Cypriots and the mainland Turcs who had come to live in Agıllar and now form the majority. One of the Turkish Cypriots worked in the Greek South where he tried to learn Greek and his colleagues Turkish because they have a deep Cypriot desire to understand each other and share a common culture again.

Agıllar local cafe

Almost by accident I find out that there must be an old monastery nearby, nowadays called the Bulușa Manastırı, the Bulușa monastery. Again it took some time to find the real name that appeared to be the Panagia Tochniou Monastery. A local explains that it is abandoned just like the church. That makes him angry. Next to the monastery stands an old and precious tree that might be falling down. Who takes care of the tree? Not the Turkish Cypriots, nor the Greek Cypriots. They are worthless and do nothing for preservation. It is the English who safeguard the tree. Isn’t that a shame?! I do not know how to answer to this tirade of a Turkish Cypriot and nod silently. Whether I talk with Greek or with Turkish Cypriots: it always seems to be someone else’s responsability…
I must see this monastery for myself, that is clear. The goodbye is with warm greetings and an invitation to come again. Plus indications for the road to the monastery that is a few kilometers off the road.

Agıllar, just a few hundred inhabitants with a Turkish Cypriot minority compared to Turkish mainlanders. Warm hearted and visionary in different aspects of the word: worth your visit, especially if you speak enough Turkish to exchange ideas on a profound level with the locals.

You may also like these blogs about abandoned churches in Northern Cyprus: > church with the same name as this blog but in Bahceli

Cats in Șanlıurfa

Cats in Șanlıurfa

Cats in Șanlıurfa do not have a real good or a real bad life. It depends a bit where they are, whom they meet and what the weather is like. I saw happy and unhappy cats, and locals who were nice to them or unpleasant. Following my statement that the way people deal with cats says something about their level of development, I’d say Șanlıurfa is somewhere ‘average’ compared to Turkish levels.

Cats in Șanlıurfa
Cat high on the wall in the Fırfırlı Cami
cat cleaning itself on the grave of a holy man
cat cleaning itself on the grave of a holy man

cats in sanliurfa
Tourist loving cat…

Cats in Șanlıurfa are not difficult to spot. Especially in tourist places like the parc around the Balıklıgöl close to Abraham’s cave and the Mevlid-i Halil Mosque cats are very present. Although no one will give them fish as the thousands of carpers in the Balıklıgöl are holy, the parc with it’s many visitors must be a great place to find food. However, the cats in this parc were merely unhappy as it was raining a lot when I visited. Some cats were totally soaked and moreover dirty.

Cat in Balıklıgöl parc at night
Cat in Balıklıgöl parc at night

They had difficulty to cope with the circumstances, even though they got some help for food.
Most people leave the cats alone. They do not pay any particular attention to them and they do not bother them. A negative exception I saw was in the Grand Bazaar where a cat was begging and the two owners of a shop wanted to kick the cat. The good news is that they are aware kicking is a no-go.

Cats in Șanlıurfa
Museum cat Keto

Their feet were already ‘hanging in the sky’ when they noticed me watching them. The feet stayed for a moment up where they were, then they stood on two legs again, grinsing in my direction. Without awareness of considerate animal treatment, they would have continued their initial movement and kicked the poor cat. The cat learned his lesson and escaped quickly between the stalls of the bazaar. A positive exception I saw was in the Freedom Museum and Müslüm Gürses Museum where the museum guard had a warm relation with Keto, a true museum cat.

Finally three more pictures of cats in notable places:

cats in Șanlıurfa
Cat in the Kale/Castle of Șanlıurfa, given a special blanket and spinning
Cats in Șanlıurfa
Cats in a high and safe place in Ulu Cami courtyard
Cats in Șanlıurfa
Cat, relaxed in Ulu Cami courtyard

Find out how it works elsewhere. Read here about cats in:

Traveling in Şanlıurfa

Traveling in Şanlıurfa

Traveling in Şanlıurfa is a great idea but not easy. Here I give you some tips. Do not worry about food or pickpockets. Buses and taxis make your transport easy if you do not want to walk. Your problems are different in this conservative area and mainly concern ‘the rules’ and personal safety.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa

Conservatism and safety
Traveling in Şanlıurfa is traveling in a conservative place. The general norm here is orthodox Islam and it is known that radical elements are also here. Be aware that the center of the ISIS-calliphate was next to the province of Şanlıurfa (so-called capital Raqqa only 70 kilometers away). A friend of mine who visited 2 months before me noticed quite some Dutch license plates on cars (‘Syrië-gangers’), radicals who had fought in Syria and passed the border to be more safe in Turkey as they were loosing the fight in Syria. I myself didn’t see them by the way. However, conservatism can be felt in many aspects.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa

I got loads of questions as a woman traveling alone. Locals can get quite irritated because they feel you cross the line – you break the rules just by doing so. On the other hand, comments can be tackled with friendliness and compliments; locals are sensitive to that. Be aware that you can not change the world. Do not go into discussions you can’t win and that might bring you into safety problems. Confirm what is OK in the culture to support your safety.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa

For example I was in a dolmuș-bus and after the other passengers had left, the driver started to criticize me for traveling alone as a woman, and how that problem should be solved now. I responded that there was no problem because Turkish hospitality is unbelievably wonderful and that everybody is willing to help me as a guest. He immediately confirmed my view, yes, Turkish hospitality was beyond what any country had to offer (Turkish nationalism is always strong 😊). Then he frowned, I think he understood that after his praise of Turkish hospitality, he couldn’t go back to the subject of me-alone being a problem.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa
No bikes at all in Şanlıurfa. However notice this bike-storage stuff: there must be plans for bikes, somehow, some day.

Conservatism means people want to play by the rules, and they do not think about the meaning of rules. They can not discuss them. For example at Göbeklitepe I first went up the hill with my ticket to see the temples but I came down because the weather was very bad. I entered the building downstairs for a coffee and audiovisual show. After an hour, I decided to try again and they wanted me to buy another ticket because I went up already. Note that all were shivering, and they knew I did not go on the temple hill itself. The keyword here is patience. Arguing doesn’t work because the basis of the rules is not argumental for them. Just stand there, telling that you already bought a ticket and wait. They started to discuss among themselves about my problem and it ended so that one guy came out, waved to me and let me go to the road up the hill again. Some others watched, maybe unhappily because the rules were broken but without further resistence. You will find yourself in situations like that. Keep smiling (not too much because you are a woman in a men’s land), wait and let others solve the problem. A key problem in islamic conservatism is the lack of critical reflexion. Do not think that a simple visitor can change that. Just find a way to travel with it when traveling in Şanlıurfa.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa
Most cars in Şanlıurfa are white!

It is unusual for women to be on the street after sunset, unless accompanied by men. For safety in general: if you are not used to travel in risky, unsafe areas, do not go to Şanlıurfa on your own. There are group journeys, although not many because companies can not always deal with the risks of this region either. Be vigilant: personal safety is your main concern here, 24/7. Certainly do not go to places outside Şanlıurfa city or Göbeklitepe site without anybody knowing that you go there and without knowing who is your protection on the spot when problems occur. Generally speaking in places like Harran and Sogmatar you are unprotected unless you organize it and speak the language (Turkish or Arab).

Traveling in Şanlıurfa
Traveling in Şanlıurfa

Concerning robberies and the like, you are very safe traveling in Şanlıurfa. Look at the jewellers: they all have their door widely opened to the public, during day time and even after sunset. ‘We all know each other here’, a local told me. Anyway stealing is considered as a very bad thing. If you have to pay something, you could give your wallet to the person you have to pay to – and it will be dealt with correctly. Nobody grabs your bag in the street. As a woman, I was maybe judged a lot but I was not at all harassed, not one single time. Anybody you ask help from, will help you. First of all Turcs love to help someone out, second they have a culture where everybody is used to ask little services, third you are a guest and hospitality is key, also in Şanlıurfa.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa
shopping center decorated for holiday season

Question number one they ask you is: do you have children? This question will come to you at least ten times a day, from the hotel reception to the bakery, from the cashier at the restaurant to the woman that helps you find your way in a mosque. Not having children here means your life was useless (and that maybe you are useless, too). Either talk about your children, real or phantasy, or give ‘kismet’ = ‘fate, destiny’ as a reason for not having them, they will stop asking. Unless you like long and uneasy discussions, of course.

Traveling in Şanlıurfa
excellent skating rink but no skaters in Şanlıurfa shopping center. however, the food court was full…

Question number two they ask you is: are you married? Not being married also means missing out the meaning of life. This is one of the regions in Turkey where girls are married at the age of 14 or where a position as second wife is accepted, rather than risking a life as an unmarried person. Question number three is: what is your name? Three identical questions asked all the time and in that order. The good news is: you can be prepared 🙂

Traveling in Şanlıurfa

Food and drinks
Food and drinks are excellent. Go to the local restaurants and eat a great meal for just a few euros. Men have their own room, usually downstairs. Some restaurants have a place upstairs for mixed groups or women and children. It took me days to find a women-friendly restaurant – in western terms. Finally, unexpectedly, in the banking district I found an open restaurant where women walked in as much as men, some of them veiled, others unveiled. It didn’t matter there and that is rare to find in Şanlıurfa. But it exists!

Traveling in Şanlıurfa
Air is not always clean. Some say, because many locals use wood to warm the house.

Alcool and drugs
There is no alcool in average public places in Şanlıurfa for religious reasons. Don’t be the troublesome tourist to push for it. This is not about your safety but your waiter´s and it’s serious. Strange enough there are drugs in Şanlıurfa, at least soft drugs and maybe more, and availability might not be difficult. One local showed me a photograph of himself in front of what I’d call a cannabis tree (!) in his own garden. Also, after sunset in darker places, there is some illegal activity. Not recommended and be careful – there is no forgiveness for foreigners.

Feel free to approach me if you will be traveling in Şanlıurfa! I enjoyed it and wish you an equally good or even better trip.