Monday, June 18, 2007

Turkish Delight

Hey party people!

Well, for my first blog post (actually my first use of a blog ever!) I should probably introduce myself. My name is Keegan de Lancie, a senior at UNC from Los Angeles, and an Arabic dork along with everyone else on this site. I lived in Egypt two years ago now, and I'm currently traveling from Istanbul to Cairo chasing the legacy of the Crusades. I'm visiting historical sites and interviewing academics, but I'm also talking to people I meet along the way, your everyday average Jameel who runs the kebab shop underneath the Crusader fortress. I want to know how people approach religious violence today - whether the legacy of the Crusades is as pervasive and gripping as we hear, or just empty political rhetoric.

I will try to post my progress as often as I can, but I am subject to the whims of chance in the internet cafes I come across. Some are speedy - some are just a step above an old man yelling into a rusty can on a string.

With all of that said, our progress in Turkey has been, well, progressing. We've visited Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara, Göreme, Şanlıurfa, and Antakya, and have found ourselves feeling progressively more foreign the further east we travel. The coastal cities, even as far as Ankara, have a distinctly European feel. Tourists receive no more than a look or two, provided you don't show any interest in a carpet. English is often the second language, and people dress like a cross between a 70's pop star and the entire population of Italy (though considerably less lecherous). However, as we crossed the Euphrates towards Urfa, we suddenly felt like we were back in the Arab Middle East we know and love. Traffic inexplicably went crazy, men fit their entire family and pets on to a 2-stroke motorcycle, and syrupy-sweet baklava became a semi-official currency. We were surprised to find that Hammer pants are still very much in fashion in this part of the world, and even got a number of tobacco merchants to shout "Hammer time!" with us and shuffle around. "Makes me say, Oh mah lawd! Ohhh Ohhh!"

We could also finally communicate in Arabic, albeit in a crazy half-Iraqi, half-Syrian, half-freaking-Martian dialect that threw me for a loop. Zein. Shnoo. Moo. What? Speak Egyptian!

Our travels have been peppered with spontaneous friends-for-life and hospitality that defies explanation. We had been given contact numbers for people along the way, but in typical Crusades-trip fashion we neglected to write down where we'd received the contact information from. Here in Antakya for instance, we're being shown around and treated to lunch by a group of people from a local high school. We have no idea how we know them, especially considering that they speak nearly no English and only a slight bit of Arabic. Only in the Middle East would I ever jump into the car of someone I'd just met on the street, communicated with using a poorly articulated mixture of 4 languages, and be still left not really knowing who they were.

I'm off to Syria tomorrow, inshallah. Word on the street is that they're really keen on a group of twenty-something American men wandering around their country, interviewing people on camera about religious violence and politics. We've been trying to get official permission to do the filming, but after talking to multiple ministries it appears that Syrian bureaucrats went to the same schools of administration as Egyptians. Maybe it's something in the tea...

Peace and blessings be upon all ya'll. Ma'a salaama until the Sham!



Matt said...

Welcome Keegan! Keep the posts coming when you can and good luck in the movie biz. You all have a place to stay when you come to Cairo. That is, at least, if I get to help with the movie.

sam said...

I think you need to find some way to fit Hammer Time into the documentary...good luck in Syria!

Pupgirl65 said...

Um hi. Uh I don't think you really come on here anymore but im commenting none the less. I've seen you in an episode of Star Trek Voyager and I just wanted to say im very fond of your acting skill! I hope to see you in more productions soon!