Forgotten Silk Road village now popular

Forgotten Silk Road village now popular

Wilco van HERPEN Hürriyet Daily News
Forgotten Silk Road village now popular

In the old times, every entrance door of Kemaliye’s houses used to have two doorknockers: One small and one big.

If you arrive in Kemaliye late at night, and if you spend the night a little way outside of the village, then be prepared for an unpleasant surprise… It happened to me. I took the 9 a.m. flight and arrived at around 10 a.m. in Malatya. A car brought me to the place where I was to stay and I went straight to bed.

The next morning; breakfast: At 8 a.m. in the morning breakfast was ready. People rave about having breakfast in Bolu, Adapazarı, Van, Istanbul, or Kirazlıköy (near Kuşadası), but here in Kemaliye they serve a darn good breakfast as well. The center of Kemaliye was about five kilometers away from the pension where I stayed, so once I had finished breakfast I took my bag and started walking. The view from the pension was stunning; in a super green valley down at the bottom there was a tiny blue stream (the Fırat river, actually not that small after all) and then trees, hundreds - maybe even thousands - of trees. With no factories polluting the air, I sniffed the clean air and filled my lungs. It was a beautiful place.

Horrible apartments

I slowly walked toward the center of Kemaliye and then… there it was. On the riverbank stood a couple of horrible apartments, accompanied by a big sign saying these were TOKİ apartments. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against new buildings. But you should know that when someone wants to restore his house, this person is obliged to stick to the - very strict - rules. The idea is to conserve the authentic Turkey and its buildings. But here, situated in such a beautiful location, I saw such horrible apartments.

After this first, and fortunately last, disappointment, I walked on and finally arrived in the village. In the village a path made of natural stones slowly leads up the mountain slope. It is not easy to walk on those stones, but they give the village a very authentic feeling. I heard the banging of hammers on iron. At the end of the street there was a little shop with a sign: Kemaliye (Egin), “Otantik Kapı Tokmakları” (Kemaliye Authentic Doors and Door Knockers). The two men who work in this little workshop are father and son, Mustafa and Ali. For years they have worked together as blacksmiths, and they have a specialty; the handcraft of typical and authentic doorknockers. Mustafa just puts a piece of iron on the hot sizzling coal, and once this piece of metal is glowing hot he takes it out of the fire and puts it on the anvil. Father and son hit the iron in a melodic rhythm. It’s hard work. Slowly the metal bar changes into something that looks like a doorknocker. This is one of their favorite things.

In the old times, every entrance door of Kemaliye’s houses used to have two doorknockers: One small and one big. The bigger knocker, with a deep sound, would let the people in the house know a man was waiting at the entrance. The smaller knocker was the one for women. The sound of the doorknockers is so different that people always knew whether a man or woman should answer the door.

Original doorknockers

Further outside the village center I saw more and more beautiful buildings. Almost all of the houses are decorated with beautiful old original doorknockers. Kemaliye must have been a rich village in the past. As part of the Silk Road, the caravans used to pass it, but after the Silk Road stopped being used, people gradually started to forget Kemaliye.

Over recent years the village has become popular again and people have been restoring some of the old buildings. A couple of unfortunate mansions are still waiting for their destiny. Will they be lucky and become like the old grandeur they used to be once upon a time, or will weather and time manage to wipe out another part of the history of Kemaliye?