Photographs and narratives by ROBERT LEUTHEUSER from and of his travels through Kurdistan and the greater Middle East. Published in conjunction with his photographic website

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11 April 2014

The Last Temple

My last three visits to the Sinjar (Shingal) region of northern Iraq have focused on visiting and photographing all of the Yezidi temples (mazara) located there. (Please see previous postings.) With the attentive help from my good friend, Sheikh Xarbi, I completed the journey in April. 
Rob Leutheuser 

On Friday we visited what I thought were the last four mazara on the north side of Sinjar Mountain – Sheikh Barakat, Sheikh Shems, Sheikh Mand, and Sheikh Amîn. It being the first day of the Iraqi weekend, all were being visited by enthusiastic Sinjari Yezidis, as much to enjoy the weather and picnic camaraderie as to visit the mazara. The setting of the latter pair – Mand and Amîn – was absolutely spectacular, but the four mazara had been renovated roughly a now-standard design with the spire's capped with tan block stone and sharply fluted. The exceptions were becoming more difficult to find.

Mazar Sheikh Mand
I had considered leaving the Sinjar the following day, but swiftly changed my mind when Sheikh Xarbi said that there was one last small mazar we could visit. And so we did. 

Mazar Sheikh Qurish sits at the very edge of the mountain's northern foothills that mound up from the tapering alluvial fans melting into the Mesopotamian Plain. We drive for a half an hour on the roads of opportunity through the greened winter wheat, and where not planted, the broad fields of either yellow or lavender wildflowers. We pass small herds of sheep and smaller herds of families searching for the wild spring tuber, quma, coveted by all. Nice puffy clouds, not always a feature, drift overhead.

And there the little temple stands, its softly curved and fluted spire rising above a field of yellow that hides slabs of unmarked stone headstones tilting in the ground. Its humble beauty takes the air from my lungs.  I stop for a long moment to absorb. It is visceral. It is entire.

Mazar Sheikh Qurish
A group of women are washing the swaths of bright cloth (perî) that are hung inside of all mazara, the cloth that is kissed, knotted, and unknotted by the Yezidis upon every shoeless visit. Large pieces of red, yellow, green, silver, white, purple, and gold fabric are draped over the enclosing stone wall and on the struggling olive trees, drying in the sun, waiting to be rehung.

Drying Peri
And in the shade of the mazar brewing tea over an open fire sits an amply mustached Yezidi with scarf loosely wrapped around his head. We join him. The day is complete.

Mazar Sheikh Qurish

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