March 7, 2009

İskenderun Arrival
İskenderun, Turkey

Mersin to İskenderun

It wasn't a very picturesque ride between Mersin and İskenderun—lots of industrial factories and mining operations. My best guess is that the access to the ports of these two cities has made this area a real gem to do manufacturing and raw materials refinement.

After three hours I was dumped by my bus randomly in the middle of the city center (watching it speed off to its final destination another hour down the road). Surprised not to find myself at some type of bus terminal, I needed to get myself in touch with my new host, Jamal.

Jamal is actually the older brother of my CS host in Kemer, Hasan. Jamal isn't an official CouchSurfer per se, but Hasan was nice enough to send me over to him anyways (and I was quite thankful for it, as I couldn't get any other hosts in the region to make a space for me).

Unfortunately, I never could get Jamal's mobile number out of Hasan, so I was arriving in town pretty much on blind faith without a fallback.

Pondering my options on the side of the street, I walked into a random bakery and asked the fellow behind the counter (and in front of the ovens) if he wouldn't mind calling up Hasan's mobile number. He gave our location to Hasan, who in turn called his brother. Moments later Jamal pulled up on a scooter and we were off!

Jamal's empty apartment

Wow, it's been a while since I've been on the back of a bike with my backpack on—I think Indonesia, 2007. Always a mildly harrowing experience that's good for a memory.

Jamal's home is nearly completely empty, save for his bedroom and a pair of couches that covert into beds in the guest bedroom. There's not even a refrigerator, as I don't think he ever even walks into the equally dark, empty kitchen space.

Naturally, there's also no Internet in the flat, so tonight I paid for my Internet access for the first time in 13 months. Wi-Fi and CouchSurfing is just a killer combination that typically works out to equal no café fees in this part of the world. I'm under the impression that such things are going to change rapidly in department from this point forward, towards something along these lines.

I'm told that 10 years ago the cruise ships stopped docking here, and stared doing as much in Mersin. I get the feeling that the removal of those ships seriously impacted the local economy. The dusty downtown is lively, but nothing of interest (especially at this time of year).

Maybe You Remember İskenderun From…

Scenes from Indiana Jones III

In the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jones claims the Holy Grail is in the "canyon of the crescent moon" outside of Alexandretta. Indiana explains that Alexandretta was completely demolished by the end of the first crusades and that the city is now known as İskenderun, even though that name is simply Alexandretta in Arabic.

In the movie, the Nazis offer the sultan of Hatay precious valuables to compensate for removing the Grail from his borders. He ignores the valuables, but accepts their Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Following that, we see the Jones boys head from Berlin to İskenderun where they find the Holy Grail. However the canyon and the El Deir Temple in which they find the Grail was filmed in Petra, Jordan.

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