High Ground

On the shores of Lake Fish (Balik Gölü) fishing nets are drawn in like an ancient ritual. Lake Fish valley that leads to Ararat... Endless swamps, reedbeds and plains around Saz and Gölyüzü lakes, and the Sarisu which leaves the Turkish border near Gürbulak... In the villages in the region of Lake Fish valley and Sarisu live robust folk who patiently endure the harsh climate, their restricted sowing grounds and mineral tainted water.

Karabulak in the sub-province of Dogubayazit is one of the region's most densely populated villages. Only its slender white minaret distinguishes Karabulak from the yellowing and pastel colors at the foot of Mount Ararat... As you approach this village to the north of Saz Gölü it seems as though the earth suddenly springs to life. Haystacks gradually emerge followed by herds of cows...

In the Holy Bible Agri's name is Ararat, the mountain on which Noah's ship came to rest. According to legend this is the cradle of the human race.

The magnificent extinct volcano, Great Ararat, has been the subject of legends, stories and human beliefs for centuries. When the volcano erupted, its lava deposits covered an area 40km in diameter, ultimately raising it 4,200m. from the plain of Igdir and 3,400m. above Dogubayazit. According to local legend, Noah's ship is still hidden somewhere on the peak because God did not wish anyone to see it. The 5,137m. peak is covered with a thick broad ice cap. This largest glacier in Turkey on the highest mountain in Turkey covers an area of approximately 10 square meters. One large section of the mountain is treeless and desert-like and the other swims in broad pasture... 

With nailed baton in hand, women of the East proudly showing their strength and determination in spite of the region's limited soil and harsh climate in Sultan Sariboga, one of Dogubayazit's lake villages.



In the village of Ortadirek live Sakir Irkek and family in a two room adobe house. The oldest member of the family, Mükrime nine, loves the films of Kemal Sunal. Although her grandchild interprets for her, she wishes the films were acted in the Kurdish language... Sakir Irkek earns his family's living from the soil. According to Irkek, this is easier than raising animals on a farm. His only problem is finding enough water in summer. Although water is plentiful in the region, its high mineral content reportedly damages the soil and crops. Irkek says that if you give the land a lot of water it becomes covered in white sediment.


Lake "Fish" is one of Turkey's highest lakes and one of its most important lava barriers. Along its shores patience is an infinite concept and time meaningless to its people.


Originally formed in the volcanic region to the west of Ararat, Lake Fish hovers between the blue sky and the straw-colored earth. The lake, in the provice of Agri at the eastern end of the Arasgüneyi Mountains, is 2,550m above sea level, covering an area of 34 square kilometers. Fish, usually trout and carp, are most often caught by the rolling net method. Fishermen spread the net on the lake by boat and gradually draw it to shore. Meter-long ropes appear centimer by centimeter from the water. Drawing in the nets on this lake has become almost ritualistic.



Irez Irkek showed her hospitality by welcoming the Atlas team into her home and immediately baking tandoori bread. In the region's villages a few days supply of bread is usually baked at once, but the villagers are not slow to show their generosity to rare guests.

Making tandoori bread requires skill... First the mud and plaster walls of the tandoori oven are heated. The dough is turned and spread on a pillow, wiped with a damp cloth, stuck onto the tandoori wall and the pillow removed. The blisters in the yeast dough dry to a biscuit-like delicacy... The traditional garb of women of the East consists of beaded scarves, long loose robes, silk Salvar and short jackets worked with embroidery...

At the juncture of endless straw-colored fields and gray sky sprawls Lake Fish, enormous motionless lake whose color seems to shift every hour. Only the swaying of a blade of grass or the flight of a bird breaks the illusion of being in a giant postcard...

Lake Fish is one of Turkey's highest lakes at 2,550m. The lake covers an area of 34 square km at the eastern end of the Arasgüneyi mountains in Agri.

Dried dung smoke spirals from the roofs of Tanyolu village.

As I approach the lake, the disturbing silence is finally broken by the gurgling of a stream. Dried dung smoke spirals from the roofs of Tanyolu village. A little further on slumps the long deserted building where the whirring of pigeons' wings has replaced the laughter of mountaineers from all over the world who once came here to climb Mount Ararat. In the distance a group of people are dragging in a net from the lake: this evening there will be a feast of fish...

The net is spread on the lake by boat. The two ends are slowly drawn to the shore by four people at the end of each rope in a ritual that takes hours. Time is a meaningless concept to the patient people of Lake Fish...


Dogubayazit is in the east of the province of Agri to the southwest of Little Ararat. Life stirs in the city's streets in the mornings but trade is not as brisk as in the old days. The city is on the Trabzon-Iran transit road 35km from the border at Gürbulak(left).
In Yukari Göller, as in other villages of the region, wheat is crushed with a wooden mortar to produce bulgur(right).

It is quite cold and light snow is falling. One of the team pulling the net, a small boy, stands mired up to his knees in mud. To our astonishment the little fisherman wades into the lake and starts washing his galoshes and socks in the icy water. He then puts on the wet items again and continues to wander about in them for hours.

a small boy, stands mired up to his knees in mud

In Lake Fish trout and carp are the fisherman's prey. The former is very popular, but customers for the latter are difficult to find. A good fisherman can catch up to 100 kg of fish a day in season, although no-one is that merciless. The co operative sells the catch in Kars, Dogubayazit, Taslica and Agri.

At last the white floats reach the shore signaling laborÕs end. At this point, small children throw stones at the middle of the net to drive the fish to its rear. Visions of a feast vanish as the enormous net yields only four carp and a single trout. Apparently this was just a trial run before the start of the season.



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