International Noah and Cudi Symposium
Held in Sirnak, Turkey, Sept. 27–29, 2013
Report by Anne Habermehl, B.Sc.
It's a long way to Sirnak (sheer-nak')! From my nearest airport, Syracuse Hancock, New York, I flew to Washington, then Istanbul, then Diyarbakir. After that there was a car ride of several hours to Sirnak. I returned via Chicago.
"Sirnak" means "City of Noah," and is situated on a hillside with a view of Mount Cudi (pronounced "Judy") in far eastern Turkey. In this area of the world, it is believed that Noah's Ark landed on Mount Cudi, not the better-known Mount Ararat some 200 miles to the north. Those traditions go back a couple of thousand years at least, and there are many historical claims that pilgrims climbed Mount Cudi to reach the Ark.
The Symposium was organized by the two-year-old Sirnak University, an institution so young that it does not yet have a campus. That is to be built in the near future. Meanwhile, the activities of the Symposium took place at the Sehr-i Nuh (shayr'-ee noo) hotel, where I stayed. "Sehr-i Nuh" also translates to "City of Noah." The logo of this new and modern hotel was an ark, naturally, and it appeared everywhere, right down to the salt and pepper shakers in the dining room. My key card was encased in an ark holder. In my very nice and well-appointed room (slippers, large TV, electric kettle and tea bags, refrigerator stocked with various soft drinks and bottled water plus two Turkish-made Nestle chocolate/pistachio bars, all renewed every day), I opened the folder of hotel information, and a cutout logo ark popped up. It was rather unreal to stay in a hotel with an ark on everything. The lobby displayed a large model ark about six feet long from stem to stern ensconced in an alcove; this one was very interesting because it sported three sets of sails!
The manager of the hotel dining room saw to it that we did not starve. He was an energetic little man who spoke quite good English, and who was proud of his operation. The best meal was breakfast, and you have not lived if you have not seen a Turkish breakfast. It's a large buffet with several cheeses, black and green olives, eggs in various forms, sliced bologna-style meat, several kinds of raw fruit, raw tomatoes and cucumber, various plates of food that I couldn't identify, breads and rolls of various kinds, and always soup. The fruit juices were really good, and the concept of synthetic, watered-down fruit drinks has not hit Turkey. May it never do so.
The call for papers for this conference had looked interesting. Having already spent a lot of time researching and writing a paper for the ICC2008 (International Conference on Creationism) on the subject of the search for Noah's Ark, I had become convinced that the Ark must have landed on Mount Cudi and not on Mount Ararat. Indeed, it had become clear from scientific considerations that the latter mountain could not yet have been in existence when the Ark grounded; geology showed that Mount Ararat was a young volcano that had only risen well after the Flood.
I submitted a paper proposal entitled, "The Role of Science in Determining the Resting Place of the Ark." This theme was inspired by the negative experiences that I had encountered in the years since 2008 with people whom I call "Ararat believers." These people hold a fanatical belief that the Ark is to be found on Mount Ararat, and are not swayed by scientific arguments. The Symposium committee accepted my paper, and that is how I eventually found myself in Sirnak. I have received permission from the committee to post my paper, and it is here on this web site.
The symposium was trilingual; papers were accepted in Turkish, English and Arabic. The majority of the 66 papers were in Turkish, as we might expect. About ten were in English, and three in Arabic. Two sessions ran simultaneously, with earphone translation available in only one room; the other room had only Turkish-language presentations. The presenters sat at a table at the front of the room, along with the session moderator. PowerPoint slides were projected onto three screens, one of which was behind the seated presenters. Other American presenters included Bill Crouse ("Five Reasons for Rejecting Agri Dagh as the Ark's Final Resting Place and Five Reasons Why It Did Land on Cudi Dagh"), Gordon Franz ("Did Sennacherib, King of Assyria, Worship Wood from Noah's Ark?" ) and John Baumgardner ("Noah's Flood: The Key to Correct Interpretation of Earth History"). One thing that became clear from the list of papers is that there is a large body of Islamic tradition having to do with Noah and his family, quite unknown to those of us who base our belief on the Bible. Some of these Islamic papers had titles like, "Did God Cry After the Flood? Classical Islamic Theology Debates About Noah, His Ark and His Family," "Noah After the Flood in Abrahamic Verbal and Visual Imaginations," "Rethinking of Being Family after Noah's Life Axis," "Features Regarding to Noah in the Diwan Poetry," and "Noah and the Ark Metaphor in the Mystical Discipline and Education Process." I've given these paper titles as printed in the program; obviously the translation from Turkish has a few glitches. Note that "Cudi Dagh" = "Mount Cudi" and "Agri Dagh" = "Mount Ararat." Also, "dagh" rhymes with "saw"; the "g" is not pronounced.
At the end of the Symposium, the rector (president?) of Sirnak University announced that the university plans to set up a Mount Cudi Noah Studies Research Group. But perhaps the most exciting announcement was that they also plan to form a team of archaeologists and engineers to start excavation at a site on Mount Cudi, as it now becomes possible with the ongoing withdrawal of the PKK (Kurdish terrorists). Up to now this mountain has not been safe enough to consider archaeological excavation. Perhaps, finally, we can hope that the site of the Ark will be found. Will there be enough of it left to determine that it's the Ark? Only time will tell.
On Saturday afternoon I got a chance to walk through old Sirnak with some new local Kurdish friends. Through them I was able to meet some of the people, look in on a Kurdish wedding (a whole street full of people doing line dancing!), and have tea in a private home. Turks/Kurds drink tea at all hours; it is a social custom.
There was a program of sacred Turkish classical music on Friday evening, with eight instrumental musicians and two whirling dervishes performing. On Saturday evening there was folk dancing, in which a group of young men clasped hands in the traditional Kurdish manner and did a form of line dancing like what I had seen at the wedding. On Sunday, the university took us on a bus trip to Cizre, where we saw the claimed burial place of Noah's body. We also went on to Mardin to a monastery, and finally, to the ruins and caves at Hasankeyf. The bus got back late, and after dinner there was packing to do. The next morning at 6 am the driver would be there to take me to the airport at Diyarbakir (we did it in three hours without stopping), and so continue the long trip homeward. As the road wound past Mount Cudi, I said my last good-bys to a unique experience.
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