The Path of Marco Polo June 2000

In the last few years, we have all grown accustomed to a global economy: Honda cars are made in Ohio, Irish drums in Pakistan and excellent Italian-designed violins in China. Political and economic changes in recent days have opened up a new-era of trade-but some areas of the world have not yet been affected by the changes that we now take for granted.

For the past few weeks, I have been out here on the western end of the ancient trade route linking East and West. I have retraced this land route, which began in Asia Minor, through the ancient cities of Konya, Kaiseri (Caesarea), Sivas Erzincan, Erzurum and on to Mount Ararat. Marco Polo passed through these same cities about 700 years ago with relative ease-peace in this area was enforced by the Mongol Khan who controlled the territory from the China Sea to the edge of Europe.

Now, things are (unfortunately) more normal. A civil war is being fought in Afghanistan. Iran is in the grip of Islamic fundamentalism and here in Eastern Anatolia, 150,000 Turkish troops are trying to keep the Kurdish population in line. Two days ago, along with Kurdish guide, we made an unauthorized incursion into Iran over an obscure mountain road that was not designed for automotive use. In any case, it did not seem that the Persian villagers were too concerned about the satanic American passing through town. It is clear, however, that the global economy, which is so much a part of our lives, is not a reality here. It is also clear that if we were depending on this land as a bridge between East and West, not so much would be happening. At Saga, we are always trying to push the borders of possibility a little further.

Richard Keldsen
Dogu bayazit, Eastern Anatolia
July 1994