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Middle East Abeja Dispatch

Deal of the Centuries: Abeja Sells You a Hole in the Ground

March 15, 2000

Looking for a cozy little cave in the hills? Well, now is the time to buy!

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Welcome to Cappadocia Realty! My name is Abeja, and I'd be happy to show you through some of the lovely stone carved houses we have here in Central Anatolia. Rest assured, I am an expert in dwellings carved out of rock. I've explored the cliff dwellings of the Dogon and the Tellum in Mali, I've wandered through the once hidden city of Petra in Jordan, and I've climbed around the Anasazi cliff cities in the Southwestern United States. The houses here in Cappadocia display some of the finest workmanship I've seen. What I particularly like is that these spread out for miles and miles, and there are several villages that incorporate the ancient stone dwellings into their houses, even today.


Let me tell you, a stone house is an excellent value, guaranteed to last you and your family for generations to come. The houses you'll see today were actually built 60 million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the planet. They just don't make 'em like they used to, do they?

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Take a look at that fantastic view! There are just no words to describe the magical, improbable, surreal landscape that graces these valleys in the Central Anatolian Plateau. Mother Nature began this architectural wonder when the earth buckled, and three volcanoes erupted in the area. First came the ash, then something known as lapilli, and, finally, the lava fell. All of that was compressed below a layer of sedimentary rock that gradually formed on top. Yes, I see you nodding your head. Perhaps you have studied a bit of natural history in school.

If you'll take a look over here, our first stop is the Fairy Chimney Community in Love Valley, near Goreme Village. Fairy Chimneys are a very popular model, and variations of them can be seen all over Cappadocia. As you can see, these tall, multistory houses are made of a light colored, porous stone, known as volcanic tufa. The roof, though, is a harder, darker stone called 'basalt.'

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Water began this process, by making small cracks in the rigid basalt, and then expanding and contracting with the changes in temperature to make the cracks larger and larger. Eventually, the cracks exposed the layers of soft tufa below, which was carved away by the wind over hundreds of thousands of years; quite fast in geological time. These cracks were shaped into pinnacles by the wind, leaving us what we see today.

Ah, but the marvels are only beginning. Come on inside and see what I'm talking about! Yes, you have to climb a little, and then crawl into this small hole. You might have guessed that I am not your typical realtor by the fact that I wear these scruffy pants and hiking boots.


incorporate - to unite or combine so as to form one body
lapilla - stony particles ejected from a volcano
rudimentary - basic, simple, not complex
monastic - a secluded manner of living

This is where ancient humans came into the building process, by using rudimentary tools to carve out tunnels and caverns in the soft tufa. No one is sure quite when or who - it might have been the Hattis (rhymes with Fatties), or the Hittites (rhymes with 'sit tight'), but the stone carved cities that fill this region of Anatolia were probably developed over many centuries.

Careful coming up, it's a little tricky. You have to crawl on your belly in places. Sorry! The previous occupants did sweep up before they moved out, but that was at least several hundred years ago. The wind and rain have eroded the tufa and left a layer of dirt for us to crawl through. Nothing that about 200 passes with a Dustbuster couldn't handle.

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larger view
As you can see, what you lose in space you make up for in height! The view from the top of these Fairy Chimneys is spectacular. They also keep you safe from your enemies. No one can mount an attack up a little tunnel, having to crawl in on their belly!

Okay, a bit too small you think, even for you. Let's try over here, in a slightly older residential area. You can tell that it's older because the basalt roofs are gone from most of the houses, leaving only the white tufa behind.

We can also head this way, into the hills, where condos and duplexes have been carved into the stones, as well as large, single-family rock units. If you look here at the walls, you can still see the marks left by the carving tools. It must have taken them a really long time to chisel all this out by hand.

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Now, this place has a really nice basement. But this is nothing like the ancient underground cities of Derinkuyu. If you're interested in underground cave living, you can talk to my colleague Andrew. And if a monastic lifestyle is more to your liking, check out the Monasteries carved into stone just around the corner.

If gardening is your thing, this is the house for you. Those little niches carved on the outside and inside of some of the rooms are called pigeon lofts. Pigeons are encouraged to roost there, and the guano (poop) they leave behind is used to fertilize the fields. Ingenious, eh? I, personally, haven't had the pleasure of collecting the guano, but I know that it makes for tasty, healthy vegetables!

Other links:
Great Adventures in Cappadocia
Buy a Cave
I hope that you've enjoyed our little tour, and found something to your liking. If not, there are miles and miles of valleys out there, filled with ancient dwellings, carved in stone. I'd be happy to take you out again tomorrow.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at


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