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SEYHAN DAM LAKE IN ADANA
2001 /FEBRUARY

The city of Adana in southern Turkey was at first sight no different from other Turkish cities: the same type of shops, banks, mosques and signs. We might have been anywhere. I searched for clues to the city's individuality as my friend drove me to his flat in one of the innumerable modern buildings on the city's outskirts, in an area known as New Adana near Seyhan Dam.We turned a bend and suddenly the scene changed. There were tall blocks of flats to one side, but on the other dark green vegetation and to our immediate right the lake of the Old Seyhan Dam. The view was as beautiful as a stage set in a romantic Hollywood film. I was taken completely by surprise. Continuing along roads lined by modern buildings, large brightly lit shops and trees, we arrived at the flat where we would be staying for the next few days.

Early the next morning I walked down to the lake shore. The water reflected the blue of the sky, and the slanting light had the delicate luminosity of winter.

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SEYHAN DAM LAKE IN ADANA
2001 /FEBRUARY

I climbed to the top of the first hill that caught our eye, and found ourselves in a crowded landscaped park. Over a loudspeaker could be heard someone reading from the Koran, and we discovered that this was a sacred shrine: the tomb of Coban Dede. Next my attention was attracted by a well dressed crowd ascending the steps. It was a wedding procession.Apparently ceremonial visits to the lake shore or crossing the road over the new dam to

Balcali and back is customary at weddings and circumcisions, some saying that the sight of water brings good fortune. Whatever the reason behind the custom, it was evident that this blue stretch of water is a source of enormous pleasure to the people who live in its vicinity.On the shore right in front of us, people were making sailing boats ready. I was reminded of Istanbul where I was born and grew up, and I felt as if I were on the Bosphorus or on the shores of Lake Buyukcekmece in summer.

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SEYHAN DAM LAKE IN ADANA
2001 /FEBRUARY

The sailing boats were already some distance away when we reached the lake shore again, and we saw some other people getting ready to go out water skiing. I sat on the jetty in eager anticipation, because I had rarely seen lakes adorned with water skis and sailing boats.
The weather would pass for summer by our standards, but as I basked in the warm sunshine I noticed snowy peaks on the horizon. Then I realised with astonishment that I was looking at the Aladaglar, a part of the Toros that I know well from climbing there every year. There was the peak of Alaca, rising to an altitude of over 3500 metres, and to the right Avci Beli ridge, and then the peak of Kaldi. I had not thought they would be visible from Adana.
Next I walked along the shore to the park near the old dam, in search of Genclik Bridge, a long suspension bridge for the use of pedestrians only. In the centre stood a youth fishing, his bicycle beside him. I do not know whether it was his rod or his bicycle that I envied most.

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SEYHAN DAM LAKE IN ADANA
2001 /FEBRUARY

The green countryside and the buildings around me formed an attractive contemporary harmony. It was a delight to come to the inland city of Adana and find such a beautiful shoreline. Along the lakeside people passed jogging or riding bicycles, and a group of girls were exercising. I watched a boy paddling a canoe on the lake. Then I returned to the west shore by another bridge.

That evening I went down to the lake again with my fried'sg son, who was in his twenties, and he told me about the popular pastimes of the young people of the city. On a tiny island in the lake was a neon sign reading Love Island, and next to it another larger island linked to the shore by a causeway. No one could remember the islnd'se proper name, and it was known to everyone as American Island. Scores of cars were parked on it, and cheerful groups of young people were having noisy fun, while others strolled apart enjoying the beauty of the night. As I watched them I began to see how the name had arisen.

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SEYHAN DAM LAKE IN ADANA
2001 /FEBRUARY

With its parks, picnic areas, tour boats, and floating restaurants, the lake is a focal point for the social life of the area. It was here that I really became aware that I was in Adana, and on the edge of Seyhan Dam Lake.


The next morning we set out early, and stopped for a few minutes on Adnan Menderes Boulevard. The clear bright weather of the previous day had made way for a strange haze in the air, and the lake looked quite different. But it was still beautiful, and we got back in the car resolved to return again.

 

 

* Haldun Aydingun is a photographer

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