Machko

It was July 12, on a Monday afternoon that I found myself deep into the Kurdish culture in Erbil’s central bazaar. I was running some errands when the heat of the sun cornered me into taking comfort at the famous Chaixane Machko. As I recall it, the time must have been about two thirty and outside was cooking from the scorching sun’s rays like it was a desert. And in the distance, I saw the teashop like a stranger stranded in the desert would see a pond of fresh water. But maybe not as dramatic though.

Once I set foot in the teashop, a damp and chill air grazed my unmoisturized skin and I could feel the absence of the sun on the back of my neck. Oh my, this heat is too much, I reminded myself for the thousandth time.

Erbil could be a harsh environment during the summer, with temperatures rising as high as 45C. It’s really when your insides are boiling that you long for the lovely winter. Oh if it ever rains again, I’ll never take shelter from it, I’d promise myself, knowing well enough that I won’t live up to the promise.

Maneuvering about the shop, I found myself a seat and asked the waiter to get me a chai with a bottle of water. Now, if you’re not Kurdish and haven’t mixed your blood with chai, you wouldn’t understand the reason with which I ordered a hot istikan (glass) of chai.

Istikan of Chai and a cold bottle of water

But if you’re Kurdish and know the heavenly taste of chai, then we understand each other.

Looking around, you could see the pictures and portraits of hundreds of artists and singers that in some way or another have contributed to the nation of Kurdistan, regarding literature, science or anything worth peoples attentions. Each face carries a story. And each story must have a million little details behind it. It amazed and inspired me as I sat there, for a good amount of time, looking at the walls and contemplating its dazzling nature.

From the corners of the ceiling came the sound of the whirling fans mixed with Umm Kalthums classical music, delivering in me a calm state that I honestly couldn’t fathom why. Objectively speaking, this environment, at this hour, shouldn’t be as comforting and calming. It should just be a teashop with a damp air and lots of scents of tea. Yet somehow, I sat down in silence, listening to the alluring songs and sipping on Kurdish chai, with the least amount of worry on my mind.

Reaching the end of my little rest-stop along with the end of my istikan of chai, I stood up and moved about the scattered seats and was once again facing the flaming heat of the sun. With a little will power, I pushed myself and was on to continue with my day again. Oh, and this heat again.

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