The days are starting to blur – is it Tuesday? No? Just Monday? What, Thursday already? Four weeks, right? Five?! Really?
Yup. The Zincirli slide has begun. At meals, we’re starting to talk about foods from home that we miss most. The breeze has dropped on successive mornings and the temperature is climbing. A glance across the tables at lunch shows a collection of weary faces and salt-stained t-shirts and the conversation lags. We’re past the half-way mark and heading downhill. The usual frantic push for the final goal hasn’t quite set in as yet though – because party time is up ahead!
In previous years our season has been scheduled to avoid the Muslim festival of Ramadan (Ramazan here in Turkey) but this season the holiday runs right through our dig. This is a time of fasting when observant Muslims do not take food or drink during daylight hours, making physical labour somewhat problematic. A survey of our workers last summer indicated that a substantial number would still be willing to work though, so the decision was taken to continue to dig through the festival.
From our perspective inside the compound, dig life isn’t too affected by Ramazan. Outside our walls, local coffee and kebab shops don’t operate during the day and you won’t see villagers openly consuming food or beverages. The fast will be broken in the evenings following sunset. In the wee hours – somewhere around 2:30 am – a group of drummers circulate in the dark streets to encourage everyone to rouse for a final meal before sunrise. I suppose it provides employ to the musicians who normally play for the Fevzi Paşa weekend weddings. When Ramazan began I despaired of ever sleeping through the nightly rat-a-tat-tatting let alone the extended morning call to prayer, but now I often wake with no idea if either happened in the night or no.
Ramazan, however, is nearly over. Thursday begins Şeker Bayramı – Sugar Festival – when the fast is broken and the nation of Turkey goes on a three day holiday – and so do we!
Tomorrow morning we start our mid-season break. A Bayram excursion to the east has been planned, most notably to visit Nemrut Dağ, an impressive archaeological site and national park. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back but here’s a preview. Our dig sponsors, the Neubauers, will be visiting us after Bayram, so celebrations will continue into the week. I promise pictures and maybe even some sketches. Meanwhile I’m leaving the computer behind and taking a break. I’ll be back Sunday.