Van’s main raison d’etre is Lake Van (Van Gölü).

It is also tied in, historically, with the highly defensible position of Van Castle, towering high above what is left of Old Van, which went the way of all flesh circa 1915. Lake Van is a sodium lake with no outfall. It is not terribly fishable or swimmable and, apparently, only one fish is caught and eaten their regularly – the Tarek (Pearl Mullet/Alburnus tarichi/Van Fish).

Seen from space, should you have that option, Lake Van would represent a fairly significant tear in the fabric of Eastern Anatolia, not too far from the border with Iran. Although the history of settlement in the region is clocked at some 5,000 B.C., give or take, in more recent times, around 3,000 years ago that is, it was the epicentre of Urartian culture, well represented in Van Museum, Kars Museum and Ankara Museum. Urartu flourished from about the mid-9th century B.C. to  the 7th century B.C. when, among other factors, Assyrian pressure from the East was its undoing. Later tenants of the region included, but are not limited to, as all good legal docs state, Armenians, Mongols, Seljuks, Turks, Sassanians, Byzantines.

Van city itself, nowadays, is a predominantly Kurdish city and regional capital.

Cut into the mountainside beneath Van Castle is a trilingual cuneiform inscription of Xerxes 1 – Elamite, Akkadian and Old Persian – which was one of the bedrocks of Near Eastern scholarship in the mid nineteenth century. The Northern Irish Church of Ireland minister and scholar, Dr Edward Hincks, was one of the first to decipher elements of the inscription, copied at great physical expense by other people, in a time when both disease and banditry were commonplace threats.

Old Van, which lay beneath the castle, is no more though two fine mosques and the remains of a couple of towers still stand. The detritus of Old Van, which went under quite literally in 1915 during Russian-Turkish disputes, lies beneath a springy carpet of boggy terrain. Here and there, stones and large blocks hint at what was once a city. Modern day Van lies some five kilometres from the lake and castle and is a bustling city of over half a million people, with busy restaurants, cafes and shops.

During a recent sojourn in Van, I got to see the marvellous Dune 2 in a local cinema, in English with Turkish subtitles. Dune 2, like Dune 1, is full of dynastic drama, territorial squabbles and Shakespearian family intrigues. There is a murdered father, a widow, a son seeking revenge and much more. It is Sci Shakespeare, with the thunderous soundtrack of Hans Zimmer to ensure every moment is underlined or foreordained aurally.

When I headed out of the cinema after the movie, I headed for a nearby restaurant which served fine iftar food. Then, visually and gastronomically satisfied, I headed back to my hotel.

And Dune 2 got me musing over the musical chairs that is history – power lost and found, or simply mislaid, the long-gone lives that subtend great historical events. And the odd flashes of love in between the tectonic movements of powerful forces.