by Ana Vidosavljevic

Mila woke up to the sound of Fajr prayer. It was still pitch-dark outside. She came close to the window and pulled back the curtain. The sky was overloaded with starts. Mila was gazing at thebeautiful twinkling carpet above. It was stunning. It seemed so close, as though she could reach andtouch it. As though she could hold the moon in her hand. She lowered her head and she saw man hurrying to the mosque. She loved listening the early morning prayer. It was full of sorrow, lament, mystery and artistic beauty at the same time. She couldn’t wait the dawn and she was eager not only to walk the streets of Sanliurfa, but to visit Gobekli Tepe as well. For most of people, laymen, Gobekli Tepe was an archaeological site. For archaeologists, anthropologists and those who studied human life and human culture this was an exquisite place, a place which seemed to not only question certain religious beliefs but whose mysterious stones maybe marked the site of the Garden of Eden. 

Mila was not an archaeologist or anthropologist and she had never before been to Gobekli Tepe. However, a year ago, she had met a young archaeologist who had told her the stories and legends about this mysterious place. And her interest for this place grew so much that she started dreaming it. Those dreams were so vivid and so puzzling that they colored her everyday life. Not a day passed without her thinking about this place. Often would she dream the Gobekli Tepe’s hills, yellow dust and strange skulls that were half-human and half-animal. Those dreams didn’t let her do anything else except read about Gobekli Tepe. And the more she read about it, the more intense her desire to visit it became.

One dream especially kept her anxious and restless. She was sleeping but she was tired. That recurring dream exhausted her. Mila dreamed that she was walking alone on a dusty road that led to Gobekli Tepe. The sun was at its zenith and the burning ground was throwing out the golden dust.

Those golden clouds blurred her vision. But still, she could anticipate something strange approaching her. It was not a man, nor a bird and it didn’t seem like any animal either. And still, it seemed alive. Alive but not walking, flying or slithering. It was more floating through the hot air.

The closer it was, the stronger her heart was beating. When it was almost within arm’s reach, she realized that it was a skull. It was not a completely human skull. It was long and narrow with a pointy chin and narrow Asian eyes. The skull was so close to her face that it seemed she could feel its sharp edges. And in that moment, when her face almost touched the skull, she would always wake up. This particular dream tortured her. Awake, she was aware that she would dream the same dream over and over again, but the very process of dreaming always brought anxiety, blurry images, uncertainty, fear, anticipation. She read a lot about the skulls found in Gobekli Tepe and it probably influenced her dreaming, but she couldn’t understand why she often dreamed the same dream. Since it was almost dawn and she couldn’t go back to sleep, she spent an hour reading. Later, she was the first one to have breakfast in a hotel restaurant.

The hotel was half empty but still people didn’t hurry to go for breakfast since it was served until eleven in the morning. Mila was in a hurry. She was anxious to visit Gobekli Tepe. She ate and stayed in the hotel lobby to wait for a driver and guide who were supposed to take her to the famous archaeological site. The driver came at 7.30. The guide arrived at the same time. The guide was pleasant, talkative and obviously full of knowledge. His English was excellent.

Once they arrived to the site, he walked her around and explained to her a lot about this amazing place, considered to be the world’s first temple and believed to be a burial site as well.

Gobekli Tepe, at least the part that was excavated, consisted of circular and oval-shaped structure set on the hill. It was an impressive archaeological site but even more impressive were the stories, legends, mysteries, beliefs around it. Mila listened to them and didn’t want to interrupt the guide even though she had hundreds of questions to ask. Finally, after a couple of hours, the guide seemed tired of walking and talking. It was getting hot. Mila knew that her tour would be over soon. She asked the guide to bring her to this site few more times and answer her questions. He agreed to meet her again the next day and bring her to Gobekli Tepe.

Mila and the guide met three more times. She would wait every morning at 7.30 in front of the hotel and the guide and driver would take her to Gobekli Tepe every of those days. The guide showed her every corner of the site. He explained everything he knew about every part of this place and answer those Mila’s questions he knew the answers to. And when he didn’t know what else to talk about connected to this site, he told her that he couldn’t help her any further. Mila was satisfied but not completely. She thanked the guide but decided to stay in Sanliurfa few more days. She spent the next two days walking the streets of Sanlirfa, eating baklava in local restaurants, sitting in the Balikli Gol park and watching and feeding the fish in the pool.

It was a late afternoon and Mila was sitting on one of the benches in the Balikli Gol park. A middle- aged woman with a child approached. The child was playing with its toys and seemed very focused on its imaginary castles with little rubber soldiers that were scattered around the ground.

His mother was smiling looking at him and decided to take a rest. She came close to the bench where Mila was sitting and asked in a very good English if Mila didn’t mind her sitting on the bench as well. Mila didn’t mind at all and what’s more she even longed for company. First, the woman seemed reserved and not willing to talk but all of a sudden, she started asking questions – where from Mila was, if she liked Sanliurfa, what brought her here, if she was married and had children.

Mila politely answered all the questions but didn’t talk more than what was asked by the woman.

The woman seemed satisfied with the answers. Since it was hot, she opened her bag to take the bottle of water.  A small picture with a strange colorful peacock fell down. Mila took it from the ground and gazed at it. It seemed familiar.

“I’ve seen something similar but I can’t remember where…” she said.

She forced her brain to work better trying to remember where and when she saw this image or the similar one.

“It is Melek Taus, or the Peacock Angel,” the woman said. “The Yezidis believe that Melek Taus is the true creator and ruler of the universe. The Supreme God created him as the greatest of all. Our religion is the oldest religion on earth and all other religions came after and from our religion.”

Mila was more than interested to hear more about Yezidis, Melek Taus and their religion.

“So, Melek Taus is not God?” asked Mila.

“No,” the woman said, “he is God’s most important angel, also known as Shaitan or Satan. He is a fallen angel. He rebelled against God and was cast into Hell. But God forgave him.”

“And how is Melek Taus related to Adam and Eve?” Mila was curious.

“He taught Adam and Eve secrets of worship and human evolution. He is the one who asked Adam to “eat of the grain” and that’s how we got wheat today.”

“That’s interesting,” said Mila, “so you don’t believe that he brought an apple, the symbol of knowledge, but wheat?” she was surprised even shocked.

“Yes, he brought the wheat that was domesticated by humans. And they stopped hunting and gathering and took up farming.”

Mila was amazed.

“And very close to Sanilurfa, in Gobekli Tepe, it all began. Gobekli Tepe was the Garden of Eden.”

Mila didn’t hide her bewilderment.

“Gobekli Tepe is the oldest place on earth,” continued the woman persuasively.

Mila was still digesting everything she had heard from the woman for the last twenty minutes, when the woman stood up abruptly, said “nice to meet you”, took the child’s hand and walked away.

Mila finally stood up as well. She hurried up through the Balikli Gol park and through the busy Sanliurfa’s streets and reached her hotel room. She took her laptop and the next 5 hours she spent Googling and reading the articles about Yezidis and Melek Taus and their connection to Gobekli Tepe. She learned about the Book of Enoch and its story of fallen angels or Watchers. And furthermore, she read about Yezidis and the commitment to their own community. She learned that they must marry within the Yezidi community, and a Yezidi who married a non-Yezidi risked the expulsion from the community. She was taking all the information and all of a sudden she remembered!

When she was a little girl, she saw a small picture of the Peacock Angel in her grandma’s drawer. She also remembered that her grandma was not in the house at that moment so she asked her grandpa what it was. After seeing the picture in Mila’s hand, grandpa got furious. He grabbed the picture and asked  Mila where she had found it. Mila told him the truth. Half an hour later, when grandma came back from the shop, the moment she entered the house, grandpa faced her yelling and showing the Peacock Angel picture. Mila had never seen him so angry. Grandma looked ashamed for some reason and asked Mila to go and play outside. Even fifty meters from the house, Mila could hear grandpa’s angry voice. However, she saw her friend and they went to the park to play.

This memory struck her. Why did her grandma have the Peacock Angel picture?  She needed some answers. She grabbed her mobile phone and called her mother. It had been a long time since she talked to her mother. Her mother knew Mila was going for some trip to Asia, but Mila had never told her where exactly she would go. Anyway, her mother answered the phone immediately. After the usual small talk, Mila asked her:

“Mum, why did grandma have the Peacock Angel picture? I remember finding it in her drawer when I was little. Do you know anything about it?”

A moment of silence.

“Mum? Was grandma a Yezidi?”

“I don’t want to talk about it on the phone,” said Mila’s mother indifferently.

“Please I need to know,” begged Mila.

“Not on the phone, Mila! We’ll talk when you come back. Stay safe and call me when you’re back.”

She hang up. Mila was confused. She didn’t fail to notice irritation in her mother’s voice and a certain kind of shame.

Mila sat on the bed with the phone in her hand more than ten more minutes thinking about her conversation with her mother. When she got herself together, she turned on her laptop and booked the flight back. She needed to go back home and find out the truth. And the first flight was the next day.

The next day, she woke up soaked in sweat. The same skull dream tortured her again. It was only 7 in the morning and the driver was supposed to pick her up at 9 am and take her to the airport.

She had enough time to eat delicious baklava and say good bye to Sanliurfa. The flight was long but pleasant. She read books and magazines she bought in Sanliurfa and time flied. She arrived home the next day in the evening. She couldn’t wait any longer to talk to her mother and hear the whole story, so she decided to call her immediately. Luckily, her mother sounded calm and told Mila that she was welcome to come to her house and talk. Mila didn’t want to lose time. She quickly took shower, grabbed one beautiful sarong she bought for her mother in Sanliurfa and called a taxi. Ten minutes later, her mother opened the door, hugged her, seated her on a couch in the living room and brought her a cup of tea. Then, she sat as well in a wing chair across from Mila. Her mother closed her eyes for a moment, then, she took a deep breath and began:

“I don’t know if you remember but your grandfather was a vagabond. Always ready to travel, to move, to go somewhere. When I was a kid, he would, every second-third day, put me in his old car and take me to different places, sometimes not that far from our hometown but the other days, we would go miles and miles far from it. We visited all the lakes, rivers, cities, villages in our region and few other regions until I reached the age of nine years. When he was young he was worse. He would grab his back pack and travel the most remote places on earth. When he was 21, he went to the south-east Turkey. In that time, probably he was one of the rare Westerners to set his foot on the soil of that part of Turkey. Initially, he planned to spend just a couple of days there and to continue his trip to probably Iraq and Iran. But he got very sick. He couldn’t eat, drink or move from bed. He was so weak and in pain that he was afraid he would die there. Luckily, he met a nice young man, Misha, almost his own age, who was Yezidi and this young man took him to his home where he lived with his parents and sister. First, the family was angry that their son brought a Westerner to their house who would “spoil the sacredness of their home with his Western impurity” but then they agreed to take care of him until he got better. Misha’s sister was the one who was bringing food and water to your grandpa in a small room where the family put him. Even though, they couldn’t communicate verbally since the young girl didn’t speak English, your grandpa fell in love with her.

Anyway, the only one in the family who spoke English was Misha. Since your grandpa spent almost one month in their house lying in bed and hoping to recover, he and Misha talked a lot every day.

Misha told him a lot about Yezidis, their beliefs and tradition. He told him about their commitment to the Yezidi community and ostracism of those who decided to marry a non-Yezidi. Your grandpa learned that his feelings for Misha’s sister couldn’t be revealed otherwise, both she and he would be in trouble. Days were passing and he wondered if the girl felt the same for him. He took a piece of paper and drew a man who was holding a flower in his hand. The next time the girl came to his room he gave her the drawing. First, after seeing the drawing, the girl looked confused and scared, but then he recognized  a trace of a smile on her beautiful face. She took the drawing, folded it and put it in her pocket. The following day, he drew a man with a bunch of flowers, and the day after, a man with a heart in his hand. While taking the last drawing, the girl finally showed a real smile. But then, as if she regretted it, she ran away from the room. The next day she didn’t show up. Instead of her, Misha brought food and water.

“That what you are doing is very dangerous,” said Misha calmly. Your grandpa was taken by surprise. “I mean, making a young Yezidi girl fall in love with you…” he was looking your grandpa straight into the eyes, “my sister showed me the drawings you had given her…you know that we Yezidis don’t mix with the other religions, beliefs, groups. If we did, the worst curse would fall on us.”

Your grandpa didn’t say a word. But he also couldn’t help himself from falling in love with the girl.

The girl didn’t show up the following day either. Your grandpa was feeling better and better and he knew he would have to leave soon. He decided to risk and talk to Misha about his plan. Misha was the only one who could help him. He told Misha about his feelings for his sister and he told him that he was planning to talk to Misha’s parents anyway and he needed Misha as an interpreter. Misha got angry.

“You are absolutely crazy! You really are! We are Yezidis! My parents would never let their daughter marry a Westerner! And it is not only them. But the whole Yezidi community will stand against you. And my sister will be excluded from our community and will not be allowed ever again to even come and visit any of us here.”

Your grandpa was deeply disappointed and hurt. He was feeling much better physically though and he decided to leave in three days. Every next time Misha came to his room, he was quiet and seemed deep in thought.

In the evening before your grandpa’s departure, Misha came to his room.

“Two days ago I spoke with my sister,” he said. “She seems really likes you and is willing to run away with you.”

The words “run away” struck your grandpa. He didn’t plan to run away from anyone and with anyone.

“I decided to help you,” Misha continued, “I made my sister a passport. Don’t ask how! And she will be ready to leave with you before dawn. You have to leave before anyone is awake. So tell me, do you still want her to come with you?”

Your grandpa didn’t hide surprise. He was shocked by the Misha’s plan but he couldn’t back out of the whole situation and honestly he didn’t want to. He was young, in love, and ready for big risks.

He didn’t let himself dwell on the whole idea of escape. Instead, he took the girl’s passport, thanked Misha and checked if all his belongings were packed. He couldn’t sleep that night at all. At 4 am, he took his backpack, jacket and hat, met the girl in the corridor and they left the house without making any noise and without waking up anyone. They walked until the end of city where they found a taxi which took them to the train station. Luckily, when they arrived, they had to wait only twenty minutes for the train to Istanbul. And even though people were staring at the Westerner and Turkish girl, everything went well. However, once they arrived here I believe you can imagine the shock of your great grandparents when their son brought a Yezidi girl to their house. But he was their only child whom they loved and supported in everything so they accepted her as his wife-to- be. But they were afraid that any moment someone might come to look for the girl and kill all of them in the house. Your great grandfather even bought special locks for the front door and a German Shepherd that stayed in the garden all night and day long. However, law was on their side since both their son and the girl were mature. Both of them were 21 years old.

After a year when they realized that no one was looking for the girl, they relaxed. Your grandpa and the girl, your grandma, got married and first they got me and a year after they got your uncle Misha.

Your grandma was a very smart woman. She learned English fast and even though I remember her strange accent when I was very little, by the time you were born, her accent was perfect. No one was able to say that she had been born in Turkey. However, you have to understand and I am sure you do that her life was not easy, before or after leaving Turkey. Giving up the whole her family and Yezidi identity was heartbreaking even though it was her choice. She suffered a lot. I remember finding her crying in her bedroom while holding the picture of the Peacock Angel and asking for forgiveness. She never heard anything about her parents and brother. Once when I was ten, your grandpa suggested going to her hometown alone and finding her parents and brother and trying to talk to them and beg them to accept him as their son-in-law, and to accept their marriage. She forbade him to ever again mention something similar. She knew how dangerous it would be to go back there and useless as well. She knew that kind of attempt would have no desired effects and it would be more than disappointing. She accepted that she would never again see anyone from her family. And she lived with it. The only reminder of that old life was the picture of the Peacock Angel.”

The mother stopped talking. She went to the bedroom and after a minute came back. She came to Mila and opened her hand asking her to take what was in her palm. It was a small picture of the Peacock Angel.

“When I was little I found that picture in the grandma’s drawer…she and grandpa fought over it.

Grandpa was very angry that she kept this picture,” Mila said.

“No,” the mother said, “they didn’t fight over the picture. When your grandpa suggested going to find your grandma’s family because he couldn’t bear her suffering so much, she not only refused but asked him not to mention them again or anything that connected her to Yezidis. Years later, when you found this picture, he realized that she had never stopped suffering and probably felt guilty because she abandoned them. He was angry because she refused his help. He wanted her to stop feeling guilty and to stop suffering.”

Her mother finished the story. Mila sat quietly holding the picture of the Peacock Angel. It must have been so hard for grandma to live the life with guilt and ignorance. But she didn’t have other options. At least, it seemed so. The great thing was she had had a wonderful husband who loved her, children and grandchildren. She had the family that supported her, loved her, and made her life easier than the one she had led when she had been young. Some decisions were not easy to make but Mila guessed when you were young everything seemed easy. The only remnant left from her old life was that picture. And it was not a religious token as Mila had initially believed. It was a painful reminder to the old life. Her grandma kept this picture maybe to remind herself that we all did good and bad things in life. And as Yezidis believed that good and evil both exist in humans, it all depended on humans which one they chose. And even if they thought at certain moment they chose good but it was perceived as bad, they would be forgiven, as God forgave Melek Taus, the fallen angel.

Mila was happy with her own interpretation of her grandma’s decisions, life, beliefs. After finishing the cup of tea, Mila kissed her mother goodbye and went home.

That night she lied in her bed eyes wide open thinking about the story her mother had told her a couple of hours ago. For a long time she couldn’t fall asleep. But once she did, she slept deeply and peacefully like a newborn baby after finishing a full bottle of milk. There was no skull dream and the morning sun rays woke her up. She got up, came to the window, opened it and let the sun sneak inside her room. She made herself a cup of black Turkish coffee, took the Black Book, sat in a wind chair next to the window, face toward the sun and started reading it:

“Wherefore, it is true that My knowledge compasses the very Truth of all that Is, And My wisdom is not separate from My heart…”

About the Author:


Ana Vidosavljevic was born in Serbia and currently living in Indonesia. She has her work published or forthcoming in Down in the Dirt (Scar Publications), Literary Yard, RYL (Refresh Your Life), The Caterpillar, The Curlew, Eskimo Pie, ColdnoonPerspectives, Indiana Voice Journal, The Raven Chronicles, Setu Bilingual Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Madcap Review, The Bookends Review, Gimmick Press, (mac)ro(mic), Scarlet Leaf Review. She worked on a GIEE 2011 project: Gender and Interdisciplinary Education for Engineers 2011 as a member of the Institute Mihailo Pupin team. She alsoattended the International Conference “Bullying and Abuse of Power” in November, 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic, where she presented her paper: “Cultural intolerance”.