Doomsday believers flock to Turkish village for apocalypse that wasn’t

By Reuters Staff
December 21, 2012

(Doomsday tourists walk on the streets of Sirince December 21, 2012. REUTERS/Osman Orsal )

Friday was a quiet day under a clear blue sky in the small village of Sirince  in western Turkey, where the population is only 600 people.

Thousands of tourists from around the world had flocked here, believing it would be spared a apocalypse predicted by ancient Mayans to occur on Friday. Others had come to this  picturesque village of little white houses in the hills east of the Aegean Sea to witness the event but did not expect the world to end.

Believers in the phenomenon see Dec. 21, 2012, as the date prophesised by an ancient Mayan civilisation in which the earth would meet a fiery end, based on interpretations of a calendar that spans more than 5,000 years.   Solar storms, earthquakes and massive volcanoes would mark the cataclysmic event, according to some theories.

None of that happened, but that didn’t keep it from being an interesting day.

At 1 p.m. (1100 GMT), visitors gathered in the town square to await for the return of Noah’s Ark on a nearby hill. They counted down from 10 and applauded when the vessel did not appear and the world did not end.

Dozens of gendarmes, accompanied by dogs, patrolled Sirince’s narrow streets on foot as visitors shopped in souveneir shops.  The mood was largely festive, although the turnout appeared to be far fewer than the 10,000 or so people the provincial government had perviously estimated would arrive.

One vendor selling doomsday-themed mugs and perfume with names like Resurrection and Burning said business had been slow.   “We printed up 1,000 mugs and so far have sold 15 or 20. We definitely lost money,” Ahmet said without giving his last name.   “We are more optimistic about the weekend as people will be relieved the world didn’t end and will likely spend money.”

Located near the ancient Greco-Roman city of Ephesus, Sirince mainly drew members of a New Age group that believes Sirince and the French village of Bugarach are doomsday-proof.   The spiritualists hoped the village’s positive energy and proximity to a site where some believe the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven would make it a safe haven, according to news reports.

Jenna Mirabella, 32, strummed a guitar and sang lyrics from her iPad outside of a 19th-century church. She traveled to Sirince from New York to persuade followers that the world would not end and to spread Christmas cheer.

“We are Christians and don’t believe doomsday is today, because in the Bible it says only God knows when the world will end,” she said. “We came because Christmas is just a couple of days away, and we wanted to sing some songs and share with the people that there’s hope in God.”

A poll by Ipsos-Reuters, showed 13 percent of Turks believe the Mayan calendar accurately predicts the end of the world, second only to China, where 20 percent of the population said it believes in the prophecy.

Sceptics of the 2012 phenomenon include Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Thursday dismissed the Dec. 21, 2012, prophecy and said science showed the world would end in 4.5 billion years.   The Vatican came out earlier this month with a statement saying that the world will not be ending soon.

It didn’t on Friday, at least not in Sirince.

– by Ece Toksabay in  Sirince, Turkey

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