Postcard from... Turkey


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The Independent Online

The coach journey from Diyarbakir to Erbil is an arduous one on the best of days. It takes around 12 hours to travel between the two Kurdish cities in Turkey and Iraq, with regular stops for tea and a lengthy wait on the border.

But when a storm called Alexa blanketed most of the Middle East in snow last week, our journey became an Odyssey.

The trip was to take us through Kurdistan — a state that doesn’t exist on official maps but which is very much alive in the hearts and minds of Kurds across the region.

When we set out in the morning from Diyarbakir, a light snow had settled on the streets. We rambled on at a snail’s pace past the Assyrian town of Midyat, at which point the roads began to disappear under a thick blanket of white. A short while later, when we had reached the summit of a mountainous stretch of road, our crawling convoy ground to a halt. Snow had blocked the sliver of the road that was still visible, and there was no way out.

We stayed there for the night as the snow piled up around us. The only food we had was small cakes — three of which we ate during the chilly 24 hours we spent on the coach.

At around 5am, with the sound of other men snoring denying us any chance of sleep, a snowplow stormed past us. Our engine spluttered into action and we set off in pursuit. A few hundred yards down the road we found our rescuer stuck in a ditch. It would be another eight hours before the army came and took us down the mountain.