I spent around six months working as a fixer in Turkey.
A lot of that was spent in the restive south east region where the Kurds are fighting for independence. I also used Turkey as a base to drive into Iraq to cover stories in Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk and Suleimaniya. Mostly it was issues regarding the Kurds in Iraq and the fight for the oil wealth of the north of Iraq.
Much of this time I was working with Nicolas Rothwell, Middle East correspondent for the Sydeney based ‘The Australian’ newspaper. I also did some independent assignments and fixing jobs for the LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, BBC, Polish Television and variety of other crews who were crossing into Iraq.
When I was not on assignment I took long drives west along the Mediterranean coast as far as Dalyan. I visited and stayed in cities like Antakya, Antalia and numerous smaller towns and villages along the way. One remarkable place is Olympus, where you sleep in wood cabins and tree houses in a forest that ends at the beach.
I was given a job to cover the ANZAC day commemoration in Gallipoli where thousands of Australians and New Zealand troops were slaughtered in an attempt to take a ridge during the First World War (between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916).
During this time I stayed in an extraordinary little town of Canakkale, an old caravan serai but one which the centre had been turned into a thriving night life. This is the fabled Greek city of Troy.
I then drove from Istanbul via Ankara to Van to explore remnants of the Armenian civilisation that was centred there before being expelled by the Turks. I drove upto Mount Ararat in a somewhat misguided and half joking attempt to search for Noah’s ark but the area is controlled by the Turkish military and inaccessible.
The South East
Driving along the roads of South East Turkey takes you along the old silk road and through extraordinary cities like Ghaziantep, Diarbekir, Sanliurfa, and Mardin. These are all cities that thrived as ‘caravan serai’ during the height of the silk road.
Caravan serai are essentially rest stops for the trading caravans that ploughed the route between Europe and Asia. They were built to accommodate, protect and supply caravans on the long journey. They could accommodate animals on the ground floor and people on the top floors and were usually well fortified. They have lasted remarkably intact in this part of the world.
Unlike many other ancient cities in the region, these have maintained their ancient architecture and are still being used by people living and working in them.