Friday, June 03, 2016

Sepia Saturday #333:The Squeakiest Wheels

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week is of an old water mill and the photograph was taken 136 years ago by the Victorian photographer, Francis Bedford. It is part of the Flickr Commons stream on the National Media Museum.

Our family, like many American families, is a delightful riot of race, ethnicity and national origin. The French-Syrian branch has introduced us over the years to Syrian culture. In 2010 we decided to spend three weeks in the country touring and enjoying as many of sights and treasures we could absorb in the brief time we had. We're so grateful we went when we did.

One of our favorite visits was to Hama where we saw the enormous groaning and moaning water wheels.  Here's a video of them - not mine unfortunately, but one that gives you a feel of the enormity of the wheels and the ever present groaning that gives the city it's unique character. 

Distorted by the weight of the water and the endless rotation, the wooden wheels sound like ruminating prehistoric animals, creaking and splashing as they turn. The Norias, as they are known, date back to the 13th century and are thought to be some of the oldest water wheels in the world. There were 17 of these in and around Hama on the Oronte river. They were no longer used for irrigation but played a huge role in the cultural heritage of a Syria that sadly, is no more.

"A constipated Tyrannosaurus" our guide and driver, Abdul, suggested about the noise, laughing heartily. On the day of our visit, we ate ice cream at his favorite shop nearby and enjoyed an hour's rest in the sun, relishing his company.
Sightseeing with Abdul

Abdul, a patient man

In Hama, taking pictures of the wheels

Our wheel photo

Choosing ice cream in Hama

Sadly, we don't know what happened to him. We were in touch for a few years and we know that part of his family, from Aleppo, was able to get to Turkey. The last time we heard, he was in Brazil trying to figure out where to go and what to do. His is the story of displacement, the horrible plight of so many people from Syria. Abdul is smart and flexible, likable and persuasive; he knows how to do a lot of things and I have confidence wherever he has ended up, he'll be okay.

So far, the Noria have fared better than the Syrian people. Despite periodic reports that they've been burned to the ground, my last check with Mr. Google shows that they are still standing.

You can read about the Noria here, then you can roll on over to Sepia Saturday for more stories.


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  2. Your water wheel photograph is fantastic! I wonder if those amazing and ancient wheels are still turning? Very possibly not, and as you say, you were so lucky to be able to visit Syria when you did. You're clearly an adventurous world traveller.

  3. A timely reminder that we should not forget the situation of Abdul and thousands like him. Wonderful photos.

  4. I enjoyed the video very much. And I hope, as do you, that Abdul is doing well in his new surroundings. I ache for the people displaced from their countries by war & attack.

  5. The video was a great visual and audible representation of those giant wheels. "A constipated Tyrannosaurus", no less. Also good to read about your story of family and people in Syria.

  6. Lordy, that noise is incredible! Does sound prehistoric -- and the wheels themselves are beautiful!

  7. I want to go there with a bucket of grease! But then, that would ruin the effect.