On the morning of October 11th, I drove the 60 miles to the Durango airport for the start of the journey of a lifetime. I would be traveling to Ankara, Turkey, for Megalithomania’s Origins of Civilization trip. Our featured researchers were Andrew Collins and Hugh Newman. Some of you may remember me writing about this trip in 2016, but that trip was cancelled, and I had been waiting for another one to show up ever since. An extension to Lebanon was added, so all in all, I was away for 2 ½ weeks, went through 8 airports in total, and stayed in 8 different hotels.
We had 23 people for Turkey and 13 for Lebanon, including our leaders. Travelers included people from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Greece, South Africa and Australia. Quite a bunch! The trip was physically strenuous, tedious at times, exciting and mind boggling at others. In the Cappadocia region, visibility was poor because of a sand storm that had blown in from Syria and Iraq,
it rained on us at Gobekli Tepe, Mt. Nemrut for sunset was socked in with a very wet soaking fog,
and our first day at Baalbek, Lebanon was interrupted by strong winds that blew the dirt around, lightning with deafening thunder, torrential rains and snow on the mountain tops.
It is interesting that at most of the locations of the “highlights” of the trip, the weather did not cooperate. Hm!!! We persevered anyway, and had fun in spite of all of that.
Food was generally good, and accommodations ranged from average to luxurious. In Lebanon in particular, lunches were huge affairs with plate after plate of food arriving at our table. There was so much that I didn’t eat dinner those 4 nights that we were in that country. On our last night in Beirut, some of us went for a walk on the Corniche, which is a broad walkway right on the waterfront of the Mediterranean. What a pleasure.
Turkey is primarily a Muslim country, with varying degrees of adherence to that religion throughout, but the people are more European than Middle Eastern. Lebanon is a different story all together. It is 40% Christian, including a wide variety of Orthodox sects, Catholics, and Maronites, and 54% Muslim, with an even split between Sunnis and Shiites. The official language is Arabic, although French is also widely spoken. All stores take the US dollar in cash, and all credit card charges are in US dollars, too.
There were a few Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, but many more in Lebanon. The refugees do day labor work to earn money, and there is also a lot of outside aid coming in for them. We did find out that any uneaten food from those sumptuous lunch buffets went to the camps. I was happy to know that it was not wasted.
There were cats everywhere,
On our last full day in Lebanon, we were in an area that started out as an Armenian refugee camp, and turned into a town since the Armenians that escaped the genocide chose to stay. At that location, we were less than a mile from the border with Syria, which was at the top of the ridge in the background of this photo,
and about 40 miles from Damascus. Military check points were everywhere!
The surprise with Turkey was the predominance of large apartment buildings in every city and most towns. There was no such thing as a suburb, and the only single family homes that we saw were out in the country.
So on to the trip. I am not going to describe every location that we visited, and there were quite a few, but only the most significant ones. We were in the cradle of civilization, and the area where wheat was first domesticated when those hunter gatherers turned to agriculture. Our focus was on sites that went back many thousands of years, with Gobekli Tepe being perhaps the oldest at 12,000 years. Many sites contained megalithic stones. At those places, more questions than answers came up. Who carved them, and how did they move them? Stay tuned for this grand adventure!