“Before Daesh, we got 1,500 tourists in peak season, per day” Khalil says. “Now, you are the only people for the entire week!” He pauses to drink another sip of his hot tea. “No one comes here since Daesh. No one but local tourists, and they are already few to begin with.” Beneath the carpets that shield us from the sun, we are personally attended by the patriarch himself, while two of his sons wait in the wings to take our orders. Tea, like him, we say. The steaming glasses arrive on silver platters faster than a knife’s cut, carried by a Syrian boy the family has taken in.
Daesh, or ISIS, or ISIL, or the Islamic State, as it is known, does not have much of a permanent presence in Harran. But Harran is 12 miles from Akçakale on the Syrian border. Thousands of refugees have poured through the city, fleeing from one faction or another and the Western airstrikes that follow them. Journalists in nearby Sanliurfa have been beheaded by Daesh militants. The road that leads to the city is known colloquially as the “ISIS Highway.” Naturally, the mere thought of Daesh no more than a 20-minute drive from the town has sent most tourists scurrying. The local industry plummeted in response.
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