Where to escape doomsday: village's 'positive energy' offers shelter

Believers of the Mayan calendar prediction that the world will end on December 21 have flooded into a small village in western Turkey, near the ancient Greek city of Ephesus.

Some New Age spiritualists are convinced of a December 21 "doomsday" foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs - at least according to some interpretations.

The date marks the end of an era that lasted over 5000 years, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. The idea that the date, which coincides with the December solstice, marks the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs has been ridiculed by scholars.

Sirince, a village of around 600 inhabitants, has a positive energy according to the doomsday cultists, who say that it is close to an area where Christians believe the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven.

The Mayan prophecy has sparked a tourism boom in the village, which is now expected to host more than 60,000 visitors according to local media.

"It is the first time we witness such an interest during the winter season," said Ilkan Gulgun, one of the hotel owners in Sirince, quoted by the media.

He said the tourists at his hotel believed that the positive energy of Sirince would save them from an apocalyptical catastrophe.

An ancient Greek village, Sirince is home to boutique hotels attracting Turkey's wealthy class. It is also well known for its wine.

Erkan Onoglu, a Turkish businessman, produced a special "wine of the Apocalypse" for December 21, a product on sale especially for superstitious survivalists, the daily Radikal newspaper reported.


A resident of Sirince working in the hotel business, Ibrahim Katan, welcomed the enthusiasm of tourists to the village, hoping that local businesses can benefit from the boom.

"The rumours floating around have increased the number of customers. We are only happy about it," he said.

Meanwhile, Rigoberta Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is unhappy about the commercial hype over the supposed end of the world.

Millions of tourists are expected to flock to Mexico and Central America for celebrations that will include fireworks and concerts held at more than three dozen archaeological sites.

But don't expect much authenticity, said Menchu, an indigenous Guatemalan of Maya ethnicity.

"The authentic celebration of the Mayas -- that will not be seen by everyone, that is part of the private lives of the Mayas," said Menchu late Monday as she marked the 20th anniversary of her Nobel win.

"We are going to bid farewell to the grandfather sun and will bid him farewell in thousands of ways," Menchu said. "We don't care what the government will do."

The government of President Otto Perez has planned events at 13 archeological sites, especially at Tikal, some 530 kilometers north of Guatemala City.

Native Maya communities, however, have separate ceremonies planned at 11 other sites.

Menchu is hardly the first native Mayan to decry the exploitation of her heritage.

"We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit," Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlajuj Ajpop, said in October. "They are not telling the truth about time cycles."

The Maya culture flourished between the years 250 and 900, then slowly entered a period of decadence ending around 1200.

Archeologists believe long catastrophic drought sparked political destabilization and triggered wars that led to the collapse of Maya culture.

Scholars say that December 21 simply marks the end of the old Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new one.