Belhasan climbed up into the mountains, to the place that now bears his name, brought down a sackful of snow, and carried it all the way to Erzincan. By the time he offered it to his brother…not a single flake had melted. Tales of the miracle spread far and wide, and when Belhasan died, he was buried at the spot whence he took the snow. In summer, shepherds visit his grave, light candles, sacrifice sheep, and sometimes eat the sacred soil, which is said to have healing powers. These days, however, fewer and fewer people go to this once-important ziyaret, as fewer families migrate up to the highlands.
At the base of the very same mountain sit the sacred springs at El Baba. It’s said that back in the time of Mohammed, an evil ruler had seized a part of Turkey along the Mediterranean Coast. He abducted the most beautiful young women from every village under his control and forced them into his harem. Local people prayed for help, and eventually the army of Ali arrived. A great battle ensued, the wicked ruler was defeated, and the women were freed. One of Ali’s soldiers, however, had been gravely wounded. He had a vision of the springs at El Baba and, convinced that their waters could heal him, set off to find them. According to the story, the soldier died of his injuries just as he reached the springs, but before he could partake of the waters. And that is where he was buried.
Today, people still go to the springs for healing, especially for knee and leg problems; one resident of Guney Konak village said that he was at El Baba when a family arrived with a ten-year-old boy who had never been able to walk; after spending a few hours there, and drinking tea made from a mixture of water and dirt from around the spring, the child got up and walked away with his overjoyed parents, as though his legs had never had a problem!
Perhaps the best-known ziyaret after the source of the Munzur River is a cave in a mountainside near the town of Nazımiye, which is just outside of the Munzur Valley. Known as Düzgün Baba, the story of the holy place once again revolves around a miracle-working shepherd. Some say that if this shepherd, whose name was Haydar, struck a tree with his staff in the middle of winter, fresh green leaves would sprout on its bare branches; if he touched the frozen ground with his staff, fresh green grass would emerge from the snow. Others say that he could make grass grow on a parched and dusty field in the middle of a drought-stricken summer. In either case, he only used his powers secretly, causing his family and friends to wonder how it was possible for his flocks to remain so fat, while theirs were going hungry.
One day, Haydar’s father, Mahmud, decided to spy on his son to see if he could find out what he was doing to keep his herd so healthy. While surreptitiously following Haydar, Mahmud witnessed the miracle and turned to leave. At that very moment, one of Haydar’s goats sneezed, and Haydar said, “What made you sneeze? Did you see my father Mahmud somewhere?” Just then, Haydar caught sight of his father. He was so ashamed at having been heard speaking his father's given name – which, apparently, was considered very disrespectful – that Haydar ran away. In three giant steps, he strode about three miles, leaving impressions of his footprints in the mountains each time, which are still visible today. Upon reaching the cave near Nazimiye, he stopped, and lived there in self-imposed exile for the rest of his life. Occasionally, people went to check on Haydar and, finding that he was alive and well, would report to his parents: “durum düzgündur,“ meaning “everything is fine.” Thus, Haydar became known as Düzgün.
When he died, Düzgün was buried on the ridge above his cave. His grave was marked by a pile of stones, which became an important pilgrimage site. It is said that at one point during Ottoman times, the regional commander of the army, who wanted to deal a blow to the Alevi faithful by dispelling the myth of Düzgün, sent a group of soldiers to dig up the grave, certain there would be no evidence of anyone actually being buried there. But as soon as the soldiers struck the ground with their shovels and picks, a river of blood came pouring out of the earth. The soldiers ran away, terrified. This was irrefutable proof that Düzgün, in fact, was buried there, and the site became even more holy thanks to this miracle that occurred long after his death.
Today, pilgrims tackle a steep and sketchy trail to reach Düzgün Baba. At the cave, people light candles and pray; it’s believed that childless women who go there to ask for a baby will soon become pregnant. Virtually everyone who visits climbs to the back of the cave, where a small hole has been worn in the rock, in which water can be found by those whose souls are pure; spoons are left nearby, with which to scoop and sip the holy liquid.