A New Role as a Kurdish Village Guide

Outside her brightly painted green and yellow house, 18-year-old Nadile makes sure that her guests have what they need for the village tour. “Hat. Sunscreen. Water. Good shoes.” She lists the items clearly in English from a piece of paper covered with notes. When everyone is ready, she will lead them around the tiny Kurdish village of Göllü where she was born and raised.

“I am a village guide,” she says, again in English, carefully but confidently. This is a new role for her. Since 2009, people from all over the world have come to her family’s homestay. As the oldest of five children, she has always helped prepare and serve food for guests, including making a welcome cake from the family’s own flour, eggs, and milk. This spring, however, a few visitors asked to see more of the village. Nadile enthusiastically volunteered and discovered a chance to use the English that she had begun learning with a project volunteer.

Now she leads a complete tour, including an ancient tomb site, a view of Mount Nemrut, an abandoned stone quarry, her uncle’s orchard of pistachio trees and grapes vines, the remnants of her grandparents’ original mud and stone houses, and a hidden cave where, according to the story, a princess was kept during times of fighting. Sometimes a younger sibling will accompany the group, wandering off to reappear with a handful of green almonds or a bushel of fresh chickpeas to be eaten from the pod.

Nadile takes pride in sharing the natural abundance of Göllü. She picks leaves from a camomile plant and explains how to make a soothing tea. She makes a hair ornament from some yellow flowers and a leaf with spiky teeth and jokingly passes it to Seth, an American who just finished a Peace Corps mission in Ghana and is clearly enjoying some vacation time in this unique setting.

At 5PM, she points out the herds of sheep returning from their grazing to be milked. Her family has 100 sheep and 70 lambs this season. When her mother Ayten finishes the evening milking, Nadile and her sister Fadile show guests how the fresh milk becomes the cheese that they serve at breakfast and sell in the neighboring city of Sanliurfa. “I am a food guide, too,” says Nadile with a smile.

She says the best thing about the project is meeting people from other countries and seeing what good people they are. She also recognizes that her family offers something special–“Everything here is natural, organic,” she says in Turkish. “Guests can be comfortable here.” Her hope for the future is to continue learning English and guiding visitors.

Written by Mary Leighton