x0x The dance of Taskale
By Muge Iplikci
A local dance that used to be performed in Taskale is described by
Cenk Gencdis in his book about the town. Two people dressed up as a
camel in a costume made of sacking. A wise man wearing a white robe
would appear first, and behind him the camel, and then the caml'sr
owner, an old man. Once they had come out it was the turn of a young
'girl' (played by a man) in regional dress, who joined the circle.
Then came two young gallants and a third man in a strange costume. The
sound of the darbuka drum became more urgent, and the strains of the
ud could be heard as far away as the granaries. The rhythm of the
dance speeded up and the sense of exhilaration affected the audience.
The young gallants shouted aloud and the camel went into a trance.
While everyone was preoccupied with the dance the third man kidnapped
the young girl. The young men took off in pursuit, caught the man and
hauled him off into the presence of the sage. The sage had him
punished, and killed the camel which was to blame for everything.
Then the owner of the camel began to cry so much that blood mingled
with his tears. The camel was so affected by the tears that showed the
devotion of its owner that it came to life again. It was disconnected
from its shadow, however, and the shadow of the camel stretched longer
and longer under the late afternoon sun that it struck Taskale Gorge -
the gorge you reach when you set out from Karaman and follow the
yellow signposts to the Manazan Caves and Taskale, east of Yesildere.
Glancing off the Yesildere river flowing peacefully at the side of the
road, the caml's shadow flopped down on its knees on the rock walls of
the 27 kilometre gorge that stretches eastwards towards the Bolkar
Mountains. Then the shadow of the camel appeared on the Manazan Caves
on the left-hand side of the road. A five-storey high rock which rises
like the Great Wall of China just outside Taskale. The Manazan Caves
were hollowed out of the rock on the north slope of the Yesildere
river in Byzantine times, and their walls decorated with painting.
The shadow of the camel glided first into the lower caves, then up to
the levels known as the Sand Castle, the Hippodrome and the Place of
the Dead respectively. Then this serene shadow advanced along the
mountain slope and suddenly found itself at the entrance to Taskale
(Stone Castle), with its 251 ancient granaries dating back five
centuries. With its limbs and even with its hump it tried to grip the
cavities hollowed out of the rock at a height of 35 to 40 metres above
the ground, but nearly lost its footing! Then it realised that the
best solution was to climb up to them using handholds carved in the
rock. Only a shadow perhaps, but we must remember that it was the
shadow of a camel, and so difficult to manage, especially in the plays
of light. The camel climbed and climbed.
When it discovered that the tuff from which the granaries were
hollowed kept them at a fixed temperature winter and summer it was
astonished. And its imaginary heart stopped a beat when it found that
each granary, generally consisting of two sections, could hold 60 tons
of grain, and that this grain would keep here without spoiling for
Then the shadow found its way underground into Incesu Cave, whose 1356
metre long gallery is the third longest in Turkey, and which is
adorned with stalactites, stalagmites and travertine pools. Breathing
deeply, it plunged into the 750 metre long Asarini Cave that is good
for asthma and bronchitis, but was scared of that dark world where
The shadow emerged into the light again and the distinction between
being and non-being became ill-defined. Unheeding it flowed towards
Gulluk Spring, where cold water from an underground source forms small
cascades in a setting of luxuriant greenery, roses and trees. It even
passed by the trout farm. It seemed to be saying to local people
dreaming of moving to the great cities, 'Don't go, it is so beautiful
here.' Perhaps that was why it landed on the carpets that are one of
the main sources of income here, tracing the traditional motifs and
searching for the fascinating yarns woven into them. It lay down upon
one true tale embellished with a sun motif telling of how soldiers
dressed in shee'sd pelts took the castle, and hoped that one day it
would be the hero of a carpet.
Then dusk fell, and in this land that was once an inland sea - to
judge by the fossil of a shell on the ceiling of Tas Mosque - everyone
began to applaud the dancers.
* Muge Iplikci is a short story writer.