I remember every place I set up camp 16 years ago when I cycled from Ankara to Antalya via Kayseri and Cappadocia on my New Zealand to Cairo trip. Most camps where pitched on the backside of a restaurant since Turkish food easily belong to the best and tastiest on the globe. It was a really demanding crossing because the headwinds were so tough so I couldn´t move more than 5-6 km:s per hour. It took ages to get to Antalya. This time it was easier. I took the bus, invited by the Cappadocian Tourist Organisation, to asses its possibilities to draw more tourists world wide. All arranged as usual by one of my best friends, Dogan Tilic, one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. And I met him 16 years ago not far from the Black Sea Cost.
First early in the morning when I started my climb up a very long steep hill. he and his extended family went to the beach and on the way back, they passed me once again, still climbing, but the car was full, 10 people in a small WW Bubble, so they couldn´t stop. They were all hungry. However when I reached the top, they passed me once again on the way down and stopped. It was the first time I met Dogan. His mother had taken pity on me and wanted to feed and rest me for a few days in a summer house they had. And ever since that day we have been in regular contact and I have been several times to Turkey, lecturing at different Universities, even writing articles for Birgun. Dogan is today one of Turkeys most influential journalists. But, most of all, he is a genuinely good human being. He has been in prison, tortured for his political views, during the 70´s, but his life is still plagued by laughter and joy and not bitterness, he is uncorruptible in every way and he is a story teller in the Yasar Kemal tradition. And the most amazing things happen every time we meet!
After leaving Oman with sadness, it was great to end up in Turkey with Dogan and his family in Ankara. There are such an inspirational couple, he and his great wife Helga and they have such a healthy perspective on everything. Plus, of course, Dogan have an eastern touch to everything he says and agrees with the quote of the Arab World:
“In the East, if you have patience, everything will eventually come true.”
Life does becomes easier to a certain degree if one thinks like this…..but, one thing is for sure, Turkey is in many ways the perfect bridge between the West and Arab East and that was one of the reasons we came here. The other to lecture and be part of a big conference on tourism in Antalya with journalist from all over the world. And, surprisingly enough, the news of the Expedition Arabia had spread to Turkey and I have spent a fair amount of time getting interviewed by media all over the place and what thrills me with Turkey, is also that they, compared to many Muslim states, genuinely listen to what you have to say and are ready to discuss Islam at length without getting stuck into set phrases and beliefs. This is another reason Turkey is perfect for the cultural bridge. If the expedition ever will happen….
I have received hundreds of emails from people all over the world which thinks it is a pity the expedition is off. I appreciate that a lot. Even though I have abandoned the Expedition until things happen, who knows if they will, I will still keep working on keeping the project alive and continue to do research. And this area of the world, just ain´t easy. Another Swede, Christian Bodegren, just gave up his dream. He feels like a failure, I told him not to. He has at least put his dream in motion, most people never do. One always tries to find faults about oneself when things doesn´t go the way as expected. Same here. But not this time. I have really done my best. Another friend, Paula Constant, tried to do Christians trip the other way around and failed, thought it was not due to that she was a woman. Paula, it is just this part of the world. It is difficult and complicated with a lot of red tape. And that is why so many people have problems understanding this part of the world, when it closes borders and complicates unnecessarily for nothing to gain. Building borders, not bridges, doesn´t make a better world.
I will write a long article about Cappadocia next week after the conference, but I just want to say that I met some great people there and one of Turkish best known photograpers, Baris Koca, joined us and made the visit even more pleasant. Most surprising of all, was that I was made Honorary Ambassador for Cappadocia (in a light hearted mood of course!)! And that is an extra-ordinary honor, true or not true, and let me just say, i will do my best to high light this extra-ordinary place to the rest of the world. So do see this slide show from the visit! 5 of the pictures belong to Baris.