Alternate black and white stones lined the windows of the Kurtulus Camii mosque in Gazientep. This was the most noticeable architectural feature I saw as I walked around the outer wall. I eventually found an open gate and walked through. There was a good view of the minaret in the late evening sun and I took a couple of pictures. As I looked at some further possible images through the viewfinder I gradually became aware of someone watching me. A man wearing a woolly hat and yellow Wellington boots smiled at me and said some words while pointing at a set of keys. I shook my head as I didn’t want to go inside. The man smiled as did his companion who had materialized from behind a door. They were both very friendly, smiling and muttering pleasant sounding words as I waved them goodbye.
I walked 300 metres to a local café “Kadir Usta” which specialized in kebaps and lahmacon the local thin baked pizza which is eaten rolled-up by the locals. The place was filling up quickly with locals, always a good sign from my point of view. I walked in and held up 1 finger to the waiter to indicate I was on my own. He indicated all the available tables which were set for four people. I sat down and asked for a menu.
I decided to have a Beyran soup, a local meat soup with rice, chili peppers, and garlic. For main course I wanted an Ali Nazir kebap made with meat, yoghourt, and aubergines. I was then brought a large freshly baked flatbread, a mixed salad, a parsley salad with lemon – to counteract the garlic – and a small bottle of water. All these were provided free of charge.
More locals came in including a woman who sat on her own and looked as though she was waiting for someone else who never came.
The soup arrived in a metal bowl. The meat was lean and contained little fat. The chili stained parts of the bowl and the overall taste was of meat and garlic combined.
A family of father, daughter, and two older brothers sat down at the table nearest to me and while the brothers visited the toilet the father took his daughter to the display counter by the door so she could see what was available to eat.
A man wearing a grey chelaba and his two friends came in and sat in the corner. They were closely followed by a young couple. The male had a phone pressed against his ear and he smiled occasionally without appearing to talk; his female companion wore modern, western clothing.
My kebap arrived – 15 meatballs cooked on a skewer had been placed on a bed of yoghourt, which covered the cooked aubergines. The meat was well-cooked and I scooped up the yoghourt and meat with the second flatbread that had just arrived. Again this was free bread.
All around people were tucking into their salads, pides, and kebaps with gusto. No beer or alcohol was available so people were drinking water and/or fruit juice. I asked for some Turkish tea to finish off the meal and this arrived with half-a-dozen sugar lumps.
I asked for the bill “hesap” and was brought it right away along with some cloves for my garlic breath. The amount was 22.5 lira, less that I was expecting given that on the menu the soup was 9 lira and the kebap had been 15. I put 25 on the plate and handed the amount directly to my waiter as the bread delivery boy was eyeing the change greedily.
Julian has written articles on Middle Eastern and European architecture for the US magazine Skipping Stones. He has written travel articles that were published in The Toronto Globe and Mail, Fate Magazine, National Catholic Register, and Northwest Travel. Julian has also written articles for the In The Know Traveler, Go Nomad, InTravelmag, and Go World Travel websites. He has also taken many photographs that have appeared in travel guides by National Geographic, Thomas Cook and The Rough Guides. Examples of his work can be found at http://www.photographersdirect.com/sellers/details.asp?portfolio=13734