In Old Persian, language of the Shah of Shahs,
Darius the Great, whose inscriptions
extend from Persepolis to Egypt,
and from Romania to Bahrain,
this salt lake, greater than the Dead Sea,
was called Chichast, ‘Glittering’ – sunlight
on the undulating lapidary
of myriads of silver particles.
Urmia – Assyrian Aramaic
for ‘City of Water’ – is high above
the lake on a fertile plateau
of orchards, grape vines, tobacco fields.
The city, a millennium ago,
was diverse, cosmopolitan, tolerant:
Christians, Jews, Muslims; Azeris,
Armenians, Assyrians, Persians, Kurds.
The Christians went first – massacred by the Turks
crossing the border. The Jews left for Israel.
Global warming is turning the lake
into an industrial salt pan the ancients
would have envied. Encrusted pedalos
and stranded diving boards in silent
holiday resort towns around the coast
glare like gargantuan rhinestones.ArmeniansAssyriansAzerisBahrainChichast 'Glittering'ChristiansDarius the GreatEgyptJewsKurdsLake UrmiaMuslimsOld PersianPersepolisPersiansRomaniaShah of Shahs