In an earlier post, I mentioned that I have sometimes drawn at the Gaziantep museum. The first time this happened was in the 2009 season, when I spent two days in the city accompanied by our Turkish conservator, Evren, acting as my translator, guide and minder.
Gaziantep is the bustling economic centre of southeastern Turkey and a sizeable metropolis. At its core is an ancient citadel and the old streets surrounding the kale (castle) are a tangled warren of shops and markets, cafes and kebab shops, restored caravanserai and historical bazaars. That first night in 2009 Evren led me through the winding laneways at dusk. I had been on the dig only a few weeks,still expecting to find the exotic Near East. Instead I had found hot, dusty, urban – and modern – Turkey and was feeling a little disillusioned. We pressed through the evening crowds, turned a corner to a narrow lane past a heavy wooden door and through an arched passage – into Ekim 29.
Ekim (October) 29 is the date of Turkish independence – and Evren tells me this spot was a renowned gathering place for poets, artists and revolutionaries back in the day. That night the stone-paved courtyard was alive with lanterns and candles and traditional live music. The tables and benches were covered in colourful textiles and the stone walls bedecked with Anatolian artifacts. Here was the Turkey I had imagined; I was enchanted. As I have learned in the years I’ve known her, Evren is especially adept at discovering the magical little corners of her country that delight me – and she loves to share them. The cafe was crowded that night and after a brief tour of the restored Anatolian rooms of the house, we didn’t stay – but the impression has been a lasting one.
Evren and I returned to Ekim 29 the next day for afternoon çay, but it’s been many years since. This past Saturday I was visiting Gaziantep and determined to try to find the cafe once again. Our wanderings took us into the right neighbourhood and I was fairly sure I would recognize the lane and – there it was! I was pleased to share this magical oasis with a new group of friends.