Straight from the Book of Marvels

Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels was the first Christmas present book I ever read cover to cover. Maybe ten times. In it were magical terms like Fertile Crescent and Silk Road. Grainy black and white photos gave the text a decidedly antique, archeological flavor. Halliburton’s adventures seemed so altogether exotic that both the places he described and the narrative itself must have been thousands of years old. I’ve just now learned that Halliburton was lost at sea in 1939 and that the various incarnations of the several books of marvels were published by 1941, just three years before I was born.

This weekend, having visited Mardin, Midyat, and Hasankeyf. I’ve now walked in the Fertile Crescent, tossed pebbles into the Tigris while a not-too-distant wedding party fired automatic weapons into the ancient air, been introduced to third century churches where services are still held in Aramaic, crossed the Silk Road. Words like Tigris and Fertile Crescent are constantly capitalized in my imagination. They are bucket list words. They are antique and holy even before our feet touch the dust; they are not drowned out by the Turkish fighter planes, rockets at the ready on the wingtips, that roar off towards Syria as we deplane at the Diyarbakir airport. Consequently, I mean to take a little time before I try to write about Mardin. Instead, I’ll introduce you by way of photographs.

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