Anatolia over the Rainbow

Every morning the sun pours a cascade of orange light over the horizon. As the curtain of darkness is swept away, birds, trees, people, and landscapes reveal their colors in the warm sunshine.

In Anatolia, land of light, all the joy of life bursts forth in color. On the shores of Beysehir Lake, kingfishers perch on the wooden fences preening their gleaming blue wings.

Far to the east, on one of the hills overlooking Hakkari, rainbow-colored bee-eaters hungrily wait for the bees to emerge from their hives. As the sun rises higher in the sky, the women of Azdavay wrap sashes around their colorful clothes and set out for the market.

Girls in the villages of Tokat prepare for a wedding, carefully inspecting their clothes of seven colors for any seams or tears that need stitching. History knows better than we how the people of Anatolia have woven the flowers that carpet the meadows in spring into first their hearts and then their clothes.

Following rain, a rainbow enhances the festive scene. At Antakya or Olympos, it is no surprise to see two rainbows side by side. While the rain pours down on the thirsty soil of the Mediterranean shore, in Nazilli, camels adorned with colorful tassels and beads foam at the mouth as they await their turn in the camel wrestling tournament.

Meanwhile, in Karapinar in Konya province, the carpet weavers are already seated at their looms, creating rainbows from the many-hued strands of wool. In autumn, the seven lakes at Yedigoller are bedecked in seven colors as the leaves change from green to yellow, orange, red, scarlet, and crimson, mingling with the blue water in a reflected pattern. Similar images can be seen throughout Turkey’s forests from the Kackar to the Kure mountains.

When winter buries the ground beneath white snow, the young girls of Ardahan gather around the stove to sew rag dolls known as damal in traditional costumes. In Kastamonu, Goreme, and Safranbolu, similar dolls worked on winter nights are admired in the bright light of the following morning.

When the religious bayrams or feast days fall in winter, children dressed in colorful new clothes leave their footprints in the snow as they go from house to house visiting the neighbors. If they fall in spring, the ceremonial visits being over, they climb the nearest hill to fly their colorful kites.

In Edirne, the old-fashioned carts are painted in bright colors with pictures of partridges, poppies, and mosques. On the island of Gokceada, the donkeys’ saddles are covered by a patchwork cloth known as kurela, an old Greek custom.

At annual festivals held on the high pastures in the mountains above Trabzon, the cows’ horns are adorned with colored beads and tassels, and in Soma, the brightly painted ceilings of the mosques glow in memory of the artists of past centuries.

In summer, the carpet sellers of Kekova hang their wares outside their shops early in the morning, against the background of the turquoise Mediterranean. In Cappadocia, before the moon has faded from the sky, a brightly colored balloon ascends, awakening the pigeons.

In the old walled quarter of Amasra, Zulfiye Hanim waters her colorful flowers, which grow in pots made of old boots with colorful socks stretched over them, old shoes, leaking kettles, and anything else that her imagination can put to fair use!

While all this is going on, I sit down in a village coffeehouse, and as I sip, my tea takes from my pocket a piece of paper.

On it is a poem by Ferit Edgu describing the colors of the human heart mingled with those of the world: ‘Please take my photograph pleaded a small child in the marketplace. / Make it an awe-inspiring one.

I took it. / Take my photograph too, said an old man, / With the mosque behind me. / I took one. / A tired packhorse did not ask me to take its photograph. / But I did. / Women were chatting together in the meadow. / When they saw me, they began to laugh.

When they saw me take a photograph they called out,/ Don’t forget to send us a copy. /I sent it. / A fisherman coming into harbor called out, / No fish today, but at least take my photograph. / I took it./ A wrestler said, what is the point of photographing me in ordinary clothes?

Wait until I am on the wrestling field. / I took one photo but left the rest for others. / Auntie, he is taking your photograph, shouted a child. / The woman turned to me and said, Son, what is the point of taking my photograph? / Take that excellent plane tree, she said, pointing./ I took it. /

Both the older woman and the fantastic plane tree. / Her eyes gazing into the far distance. / The fallen leaves of the tree. Later, I was photographing a woman in the market selling herbs and flowers that she had gathered from the mountains, meadows, and woods.

When she noticed me, she picked up a bunch of wildflowers and posed for me, saying, / Take it, my dear, but let it be in color because my world is very colorful.’

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