Ayranci and Danali, Batman, Turkey.

To find the villages of Ayranci and Danali, access Google Maps and in the search engine type “Batman, Turkey”. From the centre of Batman go slightly north of east for about 15 kms and you will find the small town of Besiri. Ayranci is about 5 kms south-west of Besiri and Danali is about 1.5 kms west of Ayranci. A road from Danali leads west toward Batman, so, if using a mixture of public transport, walking and hitching to undertake the visits, a round trip can be done through scenery that is frequently very attractive.

My plan for the day was to visit the village of Ayranci to see the ruins of Mor Kyriakos, a large Syriac Orthodox monastery, before returning to Batman via the village of Danali, but the excursion took less time than I had expected. As a result, I was able to squeeze in a 2.5 hour trip to Hasankeyf (Hasankeyf is not featured in a post because, as one of eastern Turkey’s most iconic destinations, it is widely known. This said, visit Hasankeyf as soon as you can because parts of the extensive site are once again threatened by plans to construct a dam along the River Tigris).

At the minibus garaj in Batman everyone said that the best way to Ayranci is via the small town of Besiri, so I boarded the first departure for Kurtalan. The short journey was a delight because, near the village of Ormegoze, the road ascends into the hills and, with Besiri below, you secure extensive views to the east and the north. One passenger pointed to a distant village and said, “That is where my family live.” The man got off the minibus with me and another male passenger, so we entered Besiri together. They led me toward Belediye Caddesi, a pretty tree-lined street with small shops, offices, tea houses, lokantas and bakeries constituting the town’s commercial core (but there was very little activity, no doubt because it was Ramadan and the temperature was rapidly rising as midday approached).

I was pointed in the right direction for Ayranci, then we said farewell. I made a right turn along Camii Caddesi before confirming directions with two elderly men. Very soon, a dirt road ascended into the hills south-west of Besiri. After about forty-five minutes the road crossed a small plateau with tall communications’ aerials and a few military installations, the latter deserted because the ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers Party was holding. The tall aerials and military installations looked incongruous in the dry and barren surroundings. A little later I arrived at the lip of the plateau and, below, saw the village of Ayranci. The road was still a dirt road and it descended the steep hillside with three or four hairpin bends. To my right I could see Danali and, directly ahead about 3 kms away, another village. In Ayranci itself I saw a modern mosque, lots of old stone houses, some modern concrete and breeze block houses and the ruins of Mor Kyriakos.

Ayranci lies directly below the steep hillside that I had just walked down, and I was struck immediately by how vulnerable the houses must be to falling rocks. In fact, rocks of all sizes are scattered on the pasture between the hillside and the village and among the houses themselves. A honey-coloured stone has been used to build a majority of the old houses, most of which are spread over two floors. Traditionally, ground floors have been used to shelter livestock at night or to store food for human or animal consumption; some ground floors are still used for these purposes. Living quarters for humans are above the ground floor. Most houses have flat roofs and rubble walls, and squares and rectangles invariably greet the eye. Dressed and carved stone is very rare. Modern houses are the usual concrete and breeze block structures of no architectural merit. Because every house benefits from electricity, satellite dishes are common. The family in one old stone house had bought a new fridge freezer. The fridge freezer was delivered by two large men who had driven it on the back of their open-topped lorry. The lorry had come from a distribution depot in Batman along a dirt road from Danali.

The ruined monastery lies inside a circuit of linked wire fence and behind a padlocked metal gate leading through the main entrance. This meant I could not access the interior, but, in a perverse way, I was reassured by what I found. The monastery has obviously been identified as worthy of preservation, hence the security arrangements. Even without accessing the interior (various structures, including the bulky church itself, are arranged around a large courtyard. The roof of the church appears to be intact, although damaged),  by peering through the fence along the north edge of the site I could tell that this was an important survival from the past. Moreover, the south facade of the monastery presents a quite stunning sight. Here is a long, tall curtain of wall crowned by cavities that were once windows, and the wall is pierced with a very pretty, slightly bow-shaped main entrance enlivened by some intricately carved stone. Just below the arch is a large inscribed panel written in Aramaic.

I called at the mosque for some water. After drinking four cups and filling my bottle, I set off for Danali by crossing some undulating fields. Danali lies about 1.5 kms from Ayranci and I used the minaret of the large new mosque to ensure I was heading in the correct direction.

Danali has a few old stone houses and the ruin of what was described to me as a house, but the ruined “house” is so large that it could have once belonged to a monastic complex (later, someone said that a ruined church exists in the village).

N.B. Here is some useful background information for teachers (and, indeed, others) who may wish to use the post for educational purposes.

The monastery featured in the photos below belonged to the Syriac Orthodox Church, a church which in the old days used to be misleadingly called “monophysite”. The churches most often deemed “monophysite” (Christ has one nature, the divine) are the Armenian Apostolic, the Coptic, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox churches. These churches are distinct from the “dyophysite/diaphysite” churches (the Protestant, the Roman Catholic and the “mainstream” Orthodox churches such as the Greek, the Russian and the Serbian Orthodox churches) which subscribe to the idea that Christ has two natures, the divine and the human.

However, the Armenian Apostolic, the Coptic, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox churches are better described as “miaphysite”. The “miaphysite” doctrine derives from Cyril of Alexandria who described Christ as being of one incarnate nature in whom both the divine and the human are united. While the prefix “mono” refers to a singular one, the prefix “mia” refers to a compound one.

The “dyophysite/diaphysite” concept of Jesus can be equated to a glass containing oil and water (the two natures, the divine and the human, are present in Jesus, but do not mix), while the “miaphysite” concept of Jesus can be equated to a glass containing wine and water (the two natures, the divine and the human, mix).

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