In Turkey's quake-devasted city of Antakya, an antiques seller is determined to stay put
By Timour Azhari
ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) -From an old black cassette player, Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" rings out through a damaged neighbourhood of the ancient Turkish city of Antakya, where few residents remain since a devastating earthquake left it in ruins nearly a month ago.
Almost all of the city's shops were closed and rows of buildings lay in heaps of rubble, but Mehmet Serkan Sincan, an antique trader who decided to stay put, laid out his wares on the street and played music for passersby - just as he did before the quake struck.
A print of Salvador Dali's famed melting clocks hung prominently on the outside wall of his damaged shop, alongside tapestries of a large mosque and another depicting Jesus leading a flock of sheep to water.
Close by was a mosaic portrait of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, old magazines and several Turkish flags.
In a city where life has come to a standstill, 50-year-old Sincan, who counted friends and neighbours among the more than 50,000 killed in the disaster, said setting up the display as usual was a way to maintain some semblance of normalcy.
"Even before the earthquake, these chairs were outside, I had items outside to show that we run an antique shop ... This is normal, classic life for us ... So we have returned to normal," he said. "We're happy here."
In streets once bustling with tourists, most passersby are now soldiers, police officers and other emergency workers.
Sincan said the historic building housing his store has been deemed safe by engineers, with the damage limited to plasterwork and a few non-load bearing walls.
But there was also damage to thousands of antique items he has gathered over the years.
Inside the building, vases, teacups, saucers and other crockery lay jolted from their places in cabinets and shattered multicoloured glass and broken stone covered the floor among pieces of silverware, a candelabra and smashed wooden furniture.
Sincan walked through the store salvaging what he could: a portrait of his father, a cartoonish image of Albert Einstein with his tongue out; a faded copy of the Mona Lisa.
In one room, a wall collapsed on top of his collection of Turkish antique glassware.
"I saved a bit, the rest is under there and I don't think it's all broken. When we tidy up here a few more glasses will come out, God willing," he said with a toothy grin.
The earthquake left many of the historic buildings in a city with a strong history of religious diversity in ruins - including churches dating back to antiquity and many of the city's old mosques.
The imams who used to make the Muslim call to prayer five times a day also left, Sincan said, prompting him to take on the sacred task himself.
"I'm not hearing the calls for the prayers. I have been praying for 20 years, and so that hurt me," he said.
Several times a day, he climbs up the stairs of his building onto a patio perched above the street and, in a loud voice, calls believers to pray.
"It is a matter of honour for Turks. We say that the flag doesn't go down and the Adhans (call to prayer) don't stop," he said.
A man who has made a living from old things, Sincan said he took a historical view of the earthquake's devastation.
Antakya, formerly called Antioch, has been heavily damaged or destroyed several times over more than 2,000 years, both by earthquakes and conquest as it changed hands between ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Ottomans.
Sincan said he was confident the city would rise again.
"Antakya has fallen six times, this was the 6.5th time. God willing, we'll rebuild it until the 7th time."
(Reporting by Timour AzhariEditing by Helen Popper and Frances Kerry)