The clicking of prayer beads, round and round in the fingers of the old men, lends a soft background beat to the heartfelt songs of their Kurdish history. One by one the men take their turn in this centuries’ old routine, singing the past as the others listen quietly, occasionally mouthing the words or letting out a call in support.
Diyabakir is the heart of the Kurdish homeland in Turkey and our last stop in South East Turkey. On a hilltop in town, there is an army base. Military helicopters fly overhead more than once as we have our stunning breakfast of mezze pieces upstairs in an old caravanserai. The meal goes straight into our top ten meals of all time.
The Turkish tourists are back here now too. But somehow you can still feel the underlying tension… bored young guys with sticks hang behind old city walls waiting (supposedly) to hassle tourists and friendly locals wave us back to the main streets. Police stand in groups chatting and watching on corners.
The old town is almost completely enclosed by basalt walls nearly 6 kilometres long, the current version apparently dating from AD 330-500.
Kids scamper up to us asking for “money, money” as we explore the ramparts with views over the Tigris River valley. They show surprise when we are not from Istanbul.
A boy on a colourfully decorated horse gallops past almost knocking us over and others just want to practice their English.
The walls and gates, narrow streets, old mosques and Armenian churches make fun places to wander.
We sit quietly listening to the songs, privileged to be invited in.
Someone brings the singing men throat-soothing tea.