Every day on the way to work, we go over a bridge with a river – mostly dry riverbed – below. It looks sort of intriguing, partly because it’s a moving body of water and anything moving somewhere intrigues me and partly because it looks as though some sort of domestication of its banks have been attempted. So, a few mornings ago, Heidi and I went down to investigate. Heidi, who has likened herself to a hamster in a wheel, was on a mission to find and collect river rocks for her latest project (a welcome mat with varnished river rocks). This was actually the only thing that was motivating enough to get her up and out of the apartment by 6am.
We didn’t really know how to get there but we knew the direction so we just set off and meandered until we saw a road that seemed to be – and was – going down to the river. When we got there we saw that the municipality had, at some point, gone to quite a lot of trouble to try to make it a pleasant green space for walking and picnicking. Bit of a sad state of affairs it’s in now though, everything all crumbly, overgrown, falling apart and vandalized. Below is a picture of the riverbed, with scrubby bushes and grasses growing. Above that, is the walkway on the opposite side of the river; I didn’t actually take photos of the decay as it seemed too sad.
Some bits were actually very pretty where the new growth had enough water to produce some lush greenery and here the water is actually moving; in some parts it was pretty stagnant and…stinky.
You can see here how tiny the trickle really is, in comparison to the width of the river bed. At this point, we didn’t know why the river had dried up to this degree.
So we walked along, maybe a couple of kilometres, crossing over footbridges as they appeared, with Heidi scoping out the river bed for suitable stones and bemoaning the fact that they all seemed to be square rather than round as river rocks usually are, when…hello!…I saw a cow standing in the vegetation. I’ve become used to chickens everywhere but, we are technically still in the middle of the city… a cow?
And as we’re staring at this unexpected riverside encounter, we notice that there are actually several more cows, along with an old man herding them as they graze in what must be the best cow chow in the country.
He looked just about as taken aback at the sight of two clearly Western women up at dawn in this unexpected location as we were to see him. But when I called out “Salam” to him, he waved cheerily back and “Salamed” us in return, along with a good 5 or 6 very friendly sounding sentences in Kurdish, waving his hand merrily around at the river, the riverbank and the cows. NO idea what he said. I have a very meager, albeit growing, Kurdish vocabulary but he said nothing I could recognize. Clearly very friendly though so we waved and smiled and carried on.
Other than a lone runner, we saw no one else down there. We did, however, see somebody’s very humble home:
When we got to the last footbridge, we saw the reason for the river having turned into a trickle; they had dammed (I first wrote ‘damned’ …Freudian slip?) it and numerous trucks came down to fill up and cart it off to I don’t know where. Grey water for the many green parks and beautification sites? For construction purposes? Certainly not for drinking.
We were quite fascinated with this whole process and stood and watched for a good 20 minutes or so.
And that was our morning river walk. By then Heidi (with my help) had collected a pretty hefty bag of smooth, round(ish) river rocks and, although it wasn’t 7:30 yet, it was getting too hot to be outside and we still had to walk back.