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Travel: Devine figures of Nemrut Dagi

Walking amongst the gods atop a UNESCO World Heritage site



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We continued around the tumulus to the Western Terrace, from which you look out over ribbons of lesser mountain ranges to the Euphrates River and northern Syria.

Here the same figures (though apparently by different sculptors) are scattered about, higgledy-piggledy, in an appealing manner. Here rises another Zeus, with a curly beard, and young Apollo. Fortuna seems to smile ever so slightly. This terrace includes Antiochus and innumerable stone reliefs of his Persian and Macedonian ancestors.

By late afternoon, a sinking sun cast ever-evolving hues of light on the weathered stones. The effect was dramatic; the photo taking was manic.

Despite the (not widely observed) prohibition on drink in this mostly Muslim country, we cracked open a few bottles of wine, and no one seemed to mind. We toasted the gods and above all their maker — in this case, King Antiochus I.

After sunset, we all — 300 or 400 visitors in all — negotiated our way down another rocky trail. Small flashlights helped; some of us went down in pairs. A myriad stars, even a crescent moon, filled a night sky that can only be described as an astronomer’s dream. Divine it was.