“In Northern Iraq there is a place called Lalish where the Yezidis say the universe was born.”
— Michael J. Totten
The building itself was a large rectangular block structure with a stone patio on the top of the first floor where people were standing, and talking. The structure supported three spires elegantly carved into lines pointing upward into the heavens. They were the dominant architectural elements in the valley. The towers, carved from light reddish-brown colored limestone reminded Katie of upside down snow cone cups.
“Isn’t that one of the camp’s white ambulances?” It was parked in the dirt parking lot closest to the temple. The back doors were wide open.
“Yes,” her driver replied. “Tahar requested the ambulance. He wanted more but we only one was available.”
“Well, it’s a start.”
The people in Lalish were unfortunately going to be seeing a lot of ambulances in the next few weeks.
“This is fine, I can walk from here.”
“Very good, Dr. Reynolds. Bye.”
She slammed the door and faced this other world. It was a world of three-thousand-year old temples, castles, graves, and grottoes. She needed a break, Jay was right. Entering the main courtyard, where the dancers and qewels and priests were gathered in front of the temple she saw Tahar drive past her in a Jeep. He went a little way further and parked it between some buildings.
He turned and smiled when he recognized who it was.
She ran over to him. “You were able to secure an ambulance, good for you.”
“I have been hearing more of this cloud coming from the east, from Alex and René. I am glad you are here, Dr. Reynolds.”
“Well thank you Tahar.”
“Could you take another picture of our squad, while we assemble onto the temple roof, please?”
“Sure, I'll be around. Just let me know when.”
“Wait until we are all on top. And don’t forget to wipe the raindrops off the lens.” He disappeared into the temple.
His squad was congregating on the concrete roof above the temple. There was enough room for them all to stand proudly between its spires. Katie looked up and counted fourteen men in military greens. Tahar waved and nodded, and she snapped three pictures.
There must have been two squads of Peshmerga because a handful of others milled downstairs while Tahar’s squad was still on top. When his men came out of the temple Katie noticed a change in the excitement level. Something was happening. The soldiers were more alert, looking expectantly around them. Alex came up to watch.
“What’s going on Alex?”
“Tahar says one squad must leave for Sinjar. They have come under gunfire and need backup. His squad will stay here because this is their home place. The other group came from Sinjar to help during the festival.”
They watched the Sinjar squad queue up in the courtyard.
“Are we in danger? Shall we move somewhere, do something different?”
“Probably not. Sinjar is more than a hundred miles away. It is a two-hour drive, so they must leave now. Hopefully, this is a one-time thing, you know.”
After they left, everything quieted down. But the Lalish soldiers seemed more alert and more focused, just in case.
Katie saw a group of priests, hustle through the complex carrying platters of food to the assembly hall. It was finally time to serve the meal. In spite of the increasing cloud cover and the threat of rain, the sanctuary courtyard came alive with the murmur and shuffle of a crowd of hungry people. Good feelings and easy talk floated freely in anticipation of a good meal.
Half way through the feast, the Qewel players, in white priestly garments finished their song list and withdrew to their sanctuary. Other musicians took over the plaza, and new, non-spiritual, tunes filled the air. Those who finished eating jumped up and started a line dance in the large courtyard in front of the temple. The men, dressed in their best suits, and the ladies, in their colorful dresses and head scarves, stood in a line facing inward. They hooked their little fingers together and moved their feet in unison to the rhythm of the music. Soon a long line of people, hooked together like a happy train were shuffling around the patio.