Holy Land, Holy Market

by Alaa Eddine Sagid

At the southern edge of the Anatolian plateau lies Sanliurfa, a city shrouded in mysticism and history

Famed among Muslims as the place where prophet Abraham´s faith was trialed by powerful Assyrian king Nimrud, it contains a vast holy complex wıth tombs and mosques that attracts scores of pilgrims from around the whole middle east.

From the old past days when it was also a major stop on the sılk road, the city emerged as an important trade spot for all the ethnicitites of the region who wıll flock to trade their goods and make a living Today the local bazaar is teeming with lıfe and buzzes like a beehive especially each Friday when the author got the chance to stop by.

Approaching the sacred shrine after midday prayers, you get swarmed by an uninterrupted flow of men and women resuming their terrestrial life after the sacred break.

You get the feel that the place is as multicultural as it can get:

-Kurdish patriarchs with large oriental pants : Salwar

-Arab women clad in black thchaddors and men with keffıehs

-Kurdish women with colourful scarves and facial tattooes

-Modern-Istanbul-fashioned Turkish ladies with scarves and ankle long coats…

They all head to the huge bazaars. Shop till you drop!!
Here you can fınd whatever you want: dried nuts and veggies, clothes, homeware….and jewelry!!

Nowhere else had i seen such an offering, literally hundreds of shops of precious glitters!!

They mainly cater for the local crowd but also pilgrims and obviously all the nearby countryside dwellers

Gold is king here and it seems as if all the shops are selling the same models:

-A very distinctive large multi-chained necklace with a central pendant in the shape of a stylish bow tie

-Very large flat chains bracelets with a wide etched clasp, sometimes comes with a flat woven gold mesh

-Zillions of earrings in different forms

-Wired bracelets and other large one with simple etching
it seems as if in this remote corner of turkey, local trends are still catching up with the late ottoman fashion……extinct almost a century ago. And while ın larger urbanized parts of western turkey women prefer largely pure contemporary forms, here ladies are still sticking to the tradition,
But like elsewhere in the World, mechanic processing is the norm and hand made jewels are a rarity.
İt should be noted that beside the zillions gold shops do exist less than a dozen other specialising ın silver jewelry, obviously of modern usage and features and mainly geared towards men for silver rings and young girls for day to day use, but they almost all offer a decent number of different silver belts too bold and large to remain unnoticeable and indeed a couple of countryside Kurdish women are still to be seen wearing such ornaments and thus bring us to the conclusion that these belt could be the last remainder of what was a rich ethnic jewelry local tradition. Unfortunately a tradition in decline and obviously since long ago, for one of the common models for sale is exactly similar to old ottoman filigree belts, on the other hand  the second most widely available model is already incorporating modernish features such as naive hearts appliques on large round links.
Another very noticeable fact is that a number of women also wear nose rings compliant wıth the old Indo Persian  traditions visible in the Indian subcontinent and among Middle Eastern Bedouins. The only downturn to this beautiful visual effect is that these little jewels are also mechanically processed
Turkısh men while not famous for their adornment profusion,  are world champions when it comes to rosaries and kombolois which they start carrying from a very early age as an elegant accessory be it in the dandyest way for the young guys to a nearly sacred level for the elders…..both would constantly keep playing with them!!
One shop nested deep in the bazaar stands out for the uniqueness of its merchandise on offer: İts an Arab owned shop and sells almost only old silver jewelry: bracelets, headdresses, breast and neck pieces, shoulder and back adornments and various loose pendants, beads and boxes
The shop was void of customers unlike it’s neighbours and the seller while heartily accepting me taking pictures refuses to indulge in any business trade readily labeling his stuff as OSMANLI ( I.E  OTTOMAN) and ANTIK!!!
By then i knew the asking price would be huge and the bargaining possibilities limited. I gave up the task once i heard that the price per gram can reach 10 Turkısh liras, the equivalent of  5 Us$
İ don’t have that much spare room in my rucksack anyway! and left after thanking the seller while refraining from revising the origin of his ware, ottoman it was not but Bedouin and Kurdish and the odd nielloed Caucasian pieces that sneaked its way to the desert….Like elsewhere improving and even creating a false provenance are common sellers’s storytelling mainly to hide a thorough knowledge of the pieces on offer!!
For the true ethnic jewelry and adornment lover, SANLIURFA should be a compulsory stop in any middle eastern journey for here the traditions are still alive and to be seen in the heart of an ever changing world.

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