Marash is like a captive one; there is no way to escape from those gigantic mountains surrounding it – almost double the height and width of Cordillera’s Sierra Madre. Along our way to Marash were old beautiful little towns, some were like a jewel that shines like a gold from afar.
We went directly to a dinner hosted by a group of young businessmen. As expected food were awesome – all my favorites on a table, kebab, ayran (yogurt drink), veggie salads and a lot more. A sudden moment when my friend asked one of the guys, “Do you know Yilmaz Bektaz?” He was clueless of Yilmaz, and he asked the group who were also curious about who was this infamous Yilmaz. They googled Yilmaz Bektaz, and they altogether giggled with laughter. As written in Turkish Wikipedia, Yilmaz Bektaz is a famous Turk in the Philippines, and that the first question from a Filipino to a Turk national is “do you know Yilmaz Bektaz?” Yilmaz should thank Ruffa for landing his name to Wikipedia.
Our host, a medical doctor brought us to his house. The newly built houses in Marash were mostly high-rise, and his was like a hotel suite room. For two nights, we stayed late because of the very interesting and funny discussions we had on what we do, where is the Philippines located and the first day he met his lovely wife. The couple can understand but cannot speak English, thank god their daughter who was 9 years old who spoke fluently joined us as the interpreter. We ended the nights with loud laughs and shared great memories.
Marash is an historical city that whenever you encounter a place called Germanikeia during the Roman and Byzantine ages in world literature is Marash today. The Ummayad Caliph Muawiyah of Islamic history and Alexander the Great of world history once ruled the city.
Marash was able to preserve the ancient town – its old adobe houses, the ancient walls, forts and markets were still regular sightings. And at the same time, they were able to reinvent the city in a modern stylish way. Marash is now filled with branded and local shops, decorated with inviting lights at night that make their new streets glamorous.
People from all over the world visit Marash for its delicious and unconventional ice cream or dondurma. They are selling it like a kebab on hooks, without melting. It is the ice cream that you bite, served in plate like a piece of cake.
But there was an intriguing thing that caught my attention. A distinctive leather summer shoes were items on sale like the Marash ice cream on every shop. It’s the Harry Potter shoes! I thought it was a joke. It’s a yemeni shoe that Armenians and Turks from the old days used to wear during summer. Shoes used in Harry Potter movies were yemeni and made in Gaziantep, a city near Marash.
The locals are amazing people. I was deeply touched with our host who showed us his utmost care. I am forever grateful to Dr Murat Ozdemir and to his family. Language has been never a barrier, they talked with sincerity and with all truthfulness, even for kids – there were random kids who told us to take care always and may we have all the strength and goodness in our travel and on everything we do. Man, their kids talked like grownups.
Some of the amazing photos are from my good friends Tani and Nash.