HALFETİ: LIKE A MEDITERRANEAN CITY
When we reach Halfeti, it’s as if we’re in a coastal town on the Mediterranean. The boat waiting on the bank to take us on our Euphrates cruise rocks gently as if to confirm that notion. The boat leaves Halfeti and
we set out for Rumkale. On our right, the Halfeti houses in the winding streets form part of the landscape. Generally two, sometimes three-storey, all of these houses built of white cut stone are adorned with elaborate stencil work. Keeping one eye on them as he guides us, our captain explains: “The houses of Halfeti have bird’s nests on their roofs. Each one has a view of the Euphrates, and no house obstructs the view of the others. Each one has a garden where in the old days the black roses unique to this part of the world were grown. To cool off in the hot weather, wooden platforms known as ‘taht’ were brought up to the balconies and people spent the night under the stars…”
Some half an hour later Rumkale looms into view at the highest point among the steep rock cliffs. Founded by the Assyrian king Salmaneser III in 885 B.C., following its Greek, Assyrian, Arab, Byzantine, Sassanid, Umayyad and Abbasid period, in Ottoman times it was known in the 16th century as the Kale-i Zerrin or Golden Fortress.
As our boat plies the waters, the river too widens, as if to make way for the orange-yellow rock cliffs on either bank. Our last stop in this direction is the village of Beresul (Savaşan), submerged under the waters of the Birecik Dam reservoir. We notice some people greeting us from a few of the otherwise abandoned houses. The captain explains that a few families still persist in living here. On our return, I can’t resist dipping my hand into the Euphrates, even though I know it’s only the waters of a large dam reservoir…