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Ancient Winemaking Makes Resurgence...

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Ancient Winemaking Makes Resurgence...

Oct-30-2010 at 03:02 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)


A winery dating back to the third century,carved into a cave in Urgup in central Anatolia, Turkey (File Photo: AFP)

Ancient Winemaking Makes Resurgence in Southeast Turkey
Dorian Jones | Midyat, Southeast Turkey | October 28, 2010

Southeast Turkey is home to one of the oldest Christian civilizations in the world - the Assyrians who were among the first to convert to Christianity. Among their ancient traditions is making wine, in a way that has changed little since the time of the Roman Empire. But the region they live in is at the center of a bloody conflict between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state, and most fled the region to Europe and the U.S. But in the town of Midyat in southeast Turkey a few people are keeping the winemaking tradition alive.

Tradition

Assyrian Christian Yusuk Uluisik is crushing grapes by hand - a ritual that has not changed for centuries.

"From our fathers and grandfathers, all the way back to the time of the Jesus, we are making wine in the same way. My family has been making wine here and drinking it for centuries," he explained. "Every year they produce two to three small barrels and put them indoors until they are ready. Then we drink two to three glasses with oily food."

Gradually the juice of the grapes pours out of the bottom of a stone pot and trickles down a stone trench where it is collected and then stored in large plastic containers to ferment.

Once he was one of hundreds of families making wine but now he is just one of a few left. Most departed to escape fighting between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state during the 1980's and 90's.

"In the past there was little demand, he noted. "Maybe a few bottles at Christmas, to a few Christian families that were left. As everyone else had gone abroad to escape the fighting and for a better life. But in the last five years there has been some kind of revival. There are many tourists visiting and we can't produce enough to meet the demand."

More tourists

The growing number of tourists visiting this ancient part of Turkey is a testament to the return of peace and growing prosperity.

"Assyrians used to live here. They used to make their prayers everything. As you can see the windows look to east," said Kaya Gulersan, the manager of a boutique hotel. "In the belief of Assyrians, the day of reincarnation, Jesus Christ rises from the east. And that's why in a cemetery of the Assyrians they, have been buried sitting down not lying, therefore waiting for the day to come to greet Jesus."

The luxurious hotel opened a year ago. It is has been renovated into a grand Assyrian-style building, a reminder of past prosperity of Assyrian Christians which once made more up than 80 percent of the town's population.

Drinking a glass of locally-produced wine with Gulersan he explains the opportunity to discover one of Christianity's oldest communities is drawing people from around world and providing a small boom for wine makers like Yusuf.

"They come here to see the churches," he explained. "There is one here called Mor Gabria which is 1,600 years old. A few weeks ago I had 60 orthodox Greeks who feasted her. Next week some Italians. We have visitors from all nations. About two weeks we had a family, he left 25 to 26 years ago. He brought his family. He showed his children where he was born. They are returning more and more and there is a village here. Assyrian origin Swiss citizens, they are are building their own town here."

The town Gulersan is referring to is Kafkoy, about 40 kilometers away from Midyat.

Back to motherland

Kafkoy is a hive of activity. Abandoned in the 1990's by its inhabitants at the height of the conflict between the state and the PKK, it still shows the scars of that conflict. But five years ago, a few Assyrian families returned from Switzerland to bring the town back to life.

Yakup Demir was one of the first to come back.

"It was always in our mind to return back. We are people of this land. We are the oldest people of this land," he said. "We have been here almost 5,000 years. This is our land our motherland we belong here he said. But, he says, the situation here didn't allow us to stay here or even visit. But the world is changing, Turkey is changing and even people around here are changing so we decided to return.

Warm memories

Walking around newly built houses of the growing community Demir explains memories of wine making remain strong along with plans to bring back the tradition.

He says you can see, all around are grape vines, they are all overgrown now, but this region is famous for the quality of grapes. He said he can remember as a child here making wine, the whole village would come together to make wine every year. He says we even made spirits with the grape seeds. But now we are planning to build a proper vineyard.

As we walk through the village, we come across two Assyrian Christian visitors from Europe. They are arguing about whether it is the right time to move back.

Although the region here is at peace, fears remain of a return to a full scale conflict between the Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state as peace efforts falter. But, Demir says he is an optimist, proudly pointing to their rebuilt village, as his vindication, adding that he hopes in the near future this region will be famous more for its wine than conflict.

Find this article at:
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Ancient-Winemaking-Has-Resurgence-in-Southeast-Turkey-106079884.html

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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