Diyarbakir rises above the right bank of the Tigris
to the north of the Mesopotamian plain.
of years ago, the volcano Karacadag, now extinct,
erupted leaving a thick layer of basalt. Diyarbakir,
which has its foundations on this black basalt stratum,
known as the Dark because
the walls and much of the old town are constructed
from the rock.
The region of Diyarbakir saw a succession of
civilizations such as the Hurrites,
city, known at the time under the name Amida, from
115 AD, was at stake in the wars between the Romans
and the Parthians and
later the Sassanids.
Finally in 297 AD, Amida was annexed to the Roman
Empire. A fortress was built on the hillock overlooking
the city and in 349, Emperor Constance surrounded
it by walls that later were reinforced by the Byzantines
and particularly in the 6th century under the reign
of Justinian, to face
the continuous Sassanid threat. But aroud 638, the
tremendous walls could not resist the attacks of
the Arab tribes regrouped unter the banner of Islam
and who had set out to capture Syria, Mesopotamia
and Iran, after defeating the Byzantines on the
banks of the Yarmouk River (which delimits the modern
border between Jordan and Syria) in 636. The city
first became part of the Omeyyad Caliphate (660-750)
and later of the Abbassid Caliphate, taking the
name Kara Amid then Diyar-bekr.
In the late 10th century, the city became independent
under the Marwanid rulers (circa 990-1096) who restored
the walls. Persian Nâser-e-Khosrow who visited the
city, in his memories attests that it was the most
important fortified place he had ever seen. The
successors of the Marwanids, the Seljuk-Artukids,
founded a Turcoman (Turkmen)
dynasty in Diyarbakir towards the end of the 11th
century. But in the 13th century, the region was
swept by the Mongols and
the walls hardly resisted their assaults and those
of Tamerlanes in the
14th century. The Turcoman (White Sheep) Akkoyunlular,
settled in the region in the mid 14th century, ruled
Diyarbakir until the downfall of their dynasty in
1507. Diyarbakir then fell to the hands of the Persian
Safavids, but when
Ismail Shah was defeated by sultan Selim
I in 1515, the city was incorporated into the
The fortified city took its present form during
the Islamic period, with several architectural additions.
Diyarbakir is reputed for its copper and silver
artefacts and for its watermelons. In
September, during the Watermelon Festival, it is
possible to see watermelons which can weigh up to
40 kilogrammes / 88 pounds.
The other festivals and festivities held in the
The Diyarbakir Culture and Art Festival which takes
place every year in September. Nevruz, celebrated on March
21, which commemorates the first day of spring.
Hidirellez, celebrated on May 6, which are culture
and spring festivities.
the GAP Project (South-East
Anatolian Project) and the development of irrigation
systems have brought to the region of Diyarbakir
Diyarbakir is linked by daily flights to Ankara
The walls, which encircle the city, are 5.7
km / 3.55 miles long, 12 m / 39 ft high and 3 to
5 m / 9.8 to 16.5 ft wide, and are well preserved.
There are four gates, each of which have inscriptions
and reliefs, and eighty two towers and bastions.
The main bastion is the "bastion of seven Brothers"
(Yedi Kardes), built in 1208 by the Artukid ruler
Melik Salih Memduh. It has a double headed eagle
and winged lion reliefs. The three main gates are
Harput, Urfa and Mardin gates. The most interesting
part of the walls lies between Urfa and Mardin gates.
the air, the impressive
black basalt walls
have the shape of a turbot
fish. They are one of the best examples of medieval
Ulu Camii, the Grand Mosque,
was erected by the Seljuk
sultan Malik Shah in 1090-1091,
on the site of the Byzantine Mar
Toma (St. Thomas) Church which had already been
converted into a mosque in 639.
The mosque, which is one
of the oldest mosques in Turkey, was built in the
local basalt stone but
the originality of its architecture resides in its
design and in the fact that it (and particularly
the east and west wings) contains many re-used building
materials from the Byzantine and more ancient periods.
The walls of the mosque are ornamented with niches,
marble carvings, reliefs and Kufic
script inscriptions. The
interior is notable for the ceiling of the central
nave with ebony wood decoration and a calligraphic
frieze inlaid in mother of pearl.
mosque has a rectangular minaret, and two ablution
fountains or "şadırvan", (the latest is
dated 1849) stand in the courtyard.
Medresesi, adjacent to the Ulu Mosque
and one of the first theological school, was
by the Arturkids
Zinciriye Medresesi is built according
to the traditional
plan of the Seljuk medrese.
It is an extension of Ulu Cami.
The Archaeololgical Museum: the first
museum in Diyarbakir was created in 1934 at
the Zinciriye Medresesi. It moved to its new
premises on Elazig Street in 1985.
Camii, built in 1532 at the time of the
Akkoyunlular, has a finely decorated minaret
with inlaid tilework on its base.
an early 16th century mosque. The many references
to Mohammed in the inscriptions on the minaret
which is dated 1530, have given the mosque
its second name Peygamber Camii, the Prophet's
Camii was built in 1572 by the Governor Behram
Pacha. It is one of the largest and most interesting
Ottoman mosques in the city, with a particularly
striking façade. It is interesting that a form of
prestressed concrete was used, pre-empting by some
four hundred years the more general use of that
Hazreti Süleyman Camii, also known as Kale
Camii (Mosque of the Citadel), was built between
1155 and 1169. The style of the mosque is Seljuk
except for the square minaret with a short spire
which denotes an Arab influence. The adjacent mausoleum
houses the tombs of early heroes of the Islamic
wars in the region.
Camii was built between 1516 and 1520 by Biyikli
Mehmet Pasha, the commander of the Ottoman army
who conquered the region of Diyarbakir, and the
town's first governor.
Seyh Mutahhar Camii, built by the Akkoyunlular,
is notable for its minaret which stands on a base
made of four columns carved from a single block
of stone. It is said that if one walks seven times
around the columns and make a wish, it will be granted.
Hani is a caravansarai
close to Mardin Gate, built by the second
governer of Diyarbakir, Hüsrev Pasha, for
the use of the merchants and pilgrims who
were travelling to the countries of the Hijaz
where the two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca
and Medina are located, and to the countries
of the Silk Road like Syria, Iran and India.
The han was built in white (from Urfa)
and local black stone between 1521 and 1527
with a mosque and medrese forming a complex
called külliye. The han has been turned into
a hotel where carpet
and souvenir shops can be found.
Hasan PasaHani was built by the third governor
of Diyarbakir, HasanPashain 1572-73.
Today it houses a colourful carpet bazaar.
The Church of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana
Kilisesi) is a 3rd century sanctuary
used by the remaining Syriac
Community, where services are still conducted in
Aramaic, the language of Jesus.The church, which
has been restored many times, has a Byzantine altar
and some interesting icons. The other church still
active in Diyarbakir is the Chaldean Church
Sitki Taranci Evi is a beautiful local example
of an early 19th century Ottoman house. It is a
two storied structure built in basalt stone with
white decorations. All facades look onto an inner
courtyard. Here was born and lived the poet of the
Cahit Sitki Taranci (1910-1954). Transformed into
an ethnographic museum, the house also displays
the poet's personal belongings.
Gökalp Evi : this house, which is another typical
example of local architecture, was built in 1808.
Here, the writer Ziya Gökalp was born in 1876. The
house has become an ethnographic museum which also
displays the personal belongings of the writer.
Bridge, which spans the Tigris (Dicle River)
south of the city, can be seen from the city walls
and the Atatürk Kiosk (Atatürk
Köskü) locatedoutside the walls, by the
river. An inscription informs us that the 10 arched
bridge was built in 1065 during the Marwanid period.
is an open museum located at the end of an impressive
gorge formed by the Tigris
cave dwellings and ruins
of Hasankeyf tell of a long history although it
is not known when and by whom Hasankeyf was first
established. The Romans
built thestronghold of Cephe on the frontier separating
the Roman Empire from the Persian Sassanid Empire
a strategic place on the steep rocks overlooking
the River Tigris. Under
Kiphas, which means "steep rock", the
made it also their stronghold in the south-east
of Anatolia. In
the fifth century, this place
became the seat of a Bishopric.
seventh century, the
to the Omeyyads
changed its name into Hisn Kayfa,
and later to the Abbassids.
its golden age when it became
the capital of the TurcomanArtukids throughout the
12th century. During this period, a magnificent
bridge and two palaces were built.
Trade, most of which was done on the river, developed
city was a staging post on the Silk Road). The
Ayyubids (descendants of Saladin), who captured
the city in 1232, built mosques that made Hasankeyf
an important Islamic center. In
1260, the Mongols
invaded the city which suffered badly from this
period but rose from its ashes for it became the
place where the summer residences of the TurcomanAkkoyunlu emirs ruling
the area from Diyarbakir, were built. The city,
having stayed under the Safavid hegemony for sometime,
incorporated to the Ottoman
Empire in 1515
and gradually lost its historical importance and
to its archaeological and historical assets, Hasankeyf
been declared conservation area since 1981. But
within the scope of GAP
project, the area is to be flooded by the Ilısu
dam, and the works implemented for the rescue of
the lower and middle parts of the town are
still being carried on.
Old Tigris Bridge was built in 1116 by Artukid
Fahrettin Karaaslan. It probably replaced an older
one for when Hasankeyf was conquered by the Arabs
in 638, they mentionned the existence of a bridge.
This magnificent bridge was also considered to be
the largest in the Medieval Period. The opening
between the two middle piles which carried the large
vault is 40 meter. This vault was made of wood so
that it could be removed to prevent access to the
city in case of danger. However, it seems that this
property shortened the life of the Bridge.
Citadel is perched on top of limestone cliff 100 m / 328 ft above the Tigris.
It is clear from the rock cut structures that
it has been used as dwelling places since
remote ages. The access to the
citadel is made through a winding footpath defended
by four gates (there were seven in total).
The ruins of the Small Palace built
by the Ayyubids, raise spectacularly on the
edge of the clifft
the north-east end of the citadel which offers a
over the valley. Over
one of the windows, a relief of two lions
and plates with Kufic
script inscription can be seen. Further are
the ruins of the Ulu mosque built by
the Ayyubids in 1325 over the remains of a
church. The ruins of the Great Palace, built
by the Artukids,
are located at the north of the citadel under
the Ulu Cami Mosque. The rectangle tower,
independent from the building, may have been
a watch tower.
Rizk mosque, built in 1409 by the famous
Ayyubid sultan Süleyman, stands on the bank
of the river with its imposing minaret which
has remained intact. The inscriptions on the
minaret and the portal door, the vegetal ornaments
make the charming characteristics of the Mosque.
Süleyman Mosque, also built by Sultan
Süleyman, is completely destructed and even
the grave of the Sulatn is lost. Only the
minaret, which is adorned with plant ornaments
and Kufic script inscriptions, has survived.
is located on the eastern side of Suleyman
Mosque. From its general properties and plaster
ornaments, it is supposed that the mosque
belongs to the Ayyubid period. Due to the
remains of different buildings around the
mosque, it seems that it was part of a "külliye",
a complex consisting of a medrese, imaret
(soup kitchen), hospital etc...
Kizlar Mosque, located in the east of Koç Mosque,
is estimated to belong to the Ayyubid period.
The section which is used as a mosque today,
was mausoleum in the past. Grave remnants
have survived to the present day.
Imam Abdullah Tomb stands on the small
hill located at the west side of the new bridge.
Imam Abdullah was the grand-son of Cafer-i
Tayyar who himself was the uncle of Prophet
Mohammed. An epitaph mentions that the tomb
was restored at the time of the Ayyubids.
Bey Mausoleum is situated on the other
bank of the Tigris. Zeynel bey was the son
of Uzun Hasan, of the Akkoyunlu dynasty which
ruled over Hasankeyf in the 15th century during
a short period. One can still see traces of
the beautiful turquoise and dark blue glazed
tiles that adorned the cylindrical body of
the mausoleum, and the calligraphical inscriptions
mentioning the names of Allah, Mohammed and
Ali. This türbe is one of the rare examples
of its kind in Anatolia.
Next to these historical traces, all of Hasankeyf locality is interesting because of its thousands of caverns and cave dwellings. Some were multi-storied and water supplied structures. There were also churches and mosques carved into rocks, and cemeteries. Until recently, more than 30 millstones carved into the rock were still used to grind all wheat of the region.
is a very picturesque city with a unique location
at an altitude of 1,300m/ 4,265 ft, with houses
that rise in tiers up the mountain sides. The
city offers a gorgeous view over the vast plains
of Mesopotamia that stretch towards Syria
whose border is only twenty-five kilometers away.
From the slope of a mountain covered with limestone
and lava, Mardin has been witnessing history for
several thousand years. Historically, the existence
of the city has been recorded since 1800 BC when
the First Babylonian Kingdom was founded. Subsequently
the Assyrians and the
their sovereignty in Mardin and the surrounding
areas. In the early 8th century, the region was
annexed to the Urartu Kingdom,
but with its decline, the region once again passed
into the hands of the Assyrians. Towards the end
of the 7th century BC, the area was attacked by
the Medes, and in 546
BC, the region came under Persian
domination until 333 BC, when Alexander
the Great put an end to their sovereignty
and annexed the region. Upon Alexander's death
his empire was divided between his generals and
the region remained within the borders of the
In the middle of the 1st century BC, Mardin was
incorporated into the Roman
Empire. The region was at stake in the wars
between the Romans and the Parthians
and later, between the Byzantines
and the Sassanids.
In the 7th century, the region passed under Arab
domination and became part of the Omeyyad Caliphate
and later of the Abbassid Caliphate, but due to
the latter's political decline, the Marwanids
ruled between circa 990-1096 until the Seljuk
conquest of Anatolia. Towards the end of the 12th
century, the ruling Seljuk-Artukids
were weakened by the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin
who aspired to conquer the region. In 1260, after
an eight-month siege, Mardin
fell under the hegemony of the Ilkhanid
Mongols. In 1400, Mardin was taken by Tamerlane
who, upon his retreat of Anatolia, left the city
under the control of the Karakoyunlular
(Black Sheep Clan), putting an end to Artukid
rule. However in 1462, the rival clan of the Akkoyunlular
(White Sheep) conquered Mardin. In the early 16th
century, the city fell to the hands of the Persian
when Ismail Shah was defeated by sultan Selim
I, he was forced to abandon his conquests
in northern Mesopotamia. After a one-year siege,
Mardin was incorporated into the Ottoman
Empire in 1516. Following the Battle of Nizip
in 1839, the troops of the Mehmet
Ali, viceroy of Egypt, occupied the city during
a short period of time. After the proclamation
of the Republic,
Mardin became a province.
city, known in antiquity as Marida (according
to some sources an Aramaic word meaning "fortress"),
has been home to populations of different ethnical
origins and religions such as the Christian Assyrians
or Syriacs also referred to as Arameans, the Jews,
the Yezidis, the Arabs, the Kurds, the Armenians
and the Turkmens. Despite the fact that the major
part of them has emigrated to Istanbul and abroad
during the republic years, in addition to Turkish,
Kurdish and Arabic are widely spoken in Mardin
and its surroudings, and one may still hear words
in Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus), Greek
which was situated on the historical Silk Road,
had a flourishing trade and commerce thanks to
the caravans on the Aleppo-Mosul and the Diyarbakir-Mosul
routes. The city was reknowned for its silk and
cloth weaved in Mardin and Midyat
was used in the Ottoman Palace. There were about
three thousand weaving looms until the First World
War. Today, Mardin's economy is dependent on agriculture
(beans, grains), stockbreeding (sheep, goats),
small-scale industry and handicrafts. Mardin has
significant energetic resources such as oil and
natural gas beds around Nusaybin, and mine reserves
such as phosphate beds near Mazidag and Derik.
is a city of great attraction both for its unusual
location and its preserved traditional architecture.
While wandering along the main street and through
a maze of alleys, stairs and passages (under the
houses) called abbara by the locals,
the visitor will discover the bazaar with its
different guilds, a succesion of well preserved,
traditional stone-carved houses reflecting all
characteristics of a closed-in way of life with
their high walls and beautiful monuments whose
architectural structure dates from the time of
The narrow streets of Mardin, where the sound
of bells and calls to prayer mix, reveal beautiful
churches and mosques.
Mardin is linked by daily flights to Ankara and
is also referred to as Sultan
Built in 1385 by the Artukid Bey
Necmettin Isa, this former coranic school
has a beautifully carved portal. The terraced
roof offers interesting perpectives on the two
domes and their typical stonework, and spectacular
views over the town below and the Mesopotamian
Typical stonework of the region of Mardin
The Latifiye Mosque's minaret
seen from the medrese
Latifiye Camii : this
mosque, built in 1371 by
the Artukid Abdullatif,
is located in the bazaar. The minaret of
the mosque was erected in 1845.
Ulu Camii, the great mosque, was built by
the Artukids in the late 12th century. The building
was enlarged in the 14C and 15C. In 1832 an expolsion
damage the mosque which had to be restored. The
imposing minaret, a 19th century construction,
rises in the courtyard on a square base dated
672 of the Hegira (1176). The mosque is located
within the bedesten (the bazaar).
buildings of the Post-office, located in the
main street, should not be missed to enjoy upstairs
the beautiful lace stonework.
Medresesi (the Medrese of Sultan Kasim): the
construction of this medrese was started by the
the late 14th century and completed during the
rule of the Akkoyunlular
(the White Sheep) by Kasim Padisah, the son of
Cihangir. The two storied complex, called külliye
in Turkish, also houses a mosque and a türbe
(tomb). The medrese, or coranic school, has twenty-three
rooms and an inner courtyard with a pool. The
main facade and terrace of the building overlook
the plains of Mesopotamia to the south.
is located in the former Syrian
Catholic Patriarchate, a
building constructed by Antakya Patriarch Ignatios
Behnam Banni in
used for different purposes. It was purchased
the Syrian Catholic Foundation by
the Ministry of Culture which restored it and
opened it as a museum in 1995, replacing the old
museum in the Zinciriye Medresesi. The archaeological
section of the museum displays works belonging
to the Old Bronze, Assyrian, Urartu, Greek, Persian,
Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Artukid
and Ottoman periods. The ethnographical section
displays items which are characteristic to Mardin
and its surroundings, especially Mydiat.
The museum is located in Cumhuriyet Avenue beside
Mardin, in order to keep all the churches open,
the Christian families attend different churches
of different Christian denominations (Orthodox
Syriac or Aramean, Catholic Syriac, Catholic Chaldean,
Catholic Armenian) on a rotating basis. Among
the churches are Mar Yusuf (St Joseph) Church,
Mar Yusuf (Surp Hosvep) Church, the Red Surp Kevork
(St Georges) Church, Mar Efrem Monastery...
crowns Mardin dates from the Roman period and
was rebuilt in medieval times. The ruins of the
citadel are located in a military zone and therefore
cannot be visited.
6,5 km/ 4 miles to the east of Mardin,
is also known as the "Saffron Monastery"
(from the Arabic name Deir-Al- Zafaran) most probably
because of the yellowish rock from which it is
built. This Syriac-Jacobite monastery was constructed
in the late 4th century on the site of a temple,
used by sun worshippers as long ago as 2000 BC,
and which is still visible within the monastery.
A now-blocked window in the eastern wall enabled
the whorshippers to watch the sunrise while a
niche on the southern wall served as an altar.
There is a noteworthy ceiling made of self-supporting
stones built without the use of mortar. The monastery
was enlarged over the centuries.
From 1160 until 1932, the monastery was the see
of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate (in the aftermath
of the collapse
of the Ottoman Empire and the political situation
in the new state of Turkey, the Patriarch Mar
Efrem was forced to relocate the Patriarchate
to Homs in Syria and after his death, it was relocated
to Damascus in 1959). The graves of fifty two
Syrian Orthodox patriarchs can be found within
the monastery. In the chapel, there are the patriarchal
throne and a bible of great historical value.
Services are held in the chapel in Aramaic.
Guest rooms are available in the monastery for
persons visiting for religious reasons.
Temple used by the sun whorshippers
The ruins of Dara are situated 30 km/ 18.6
miles southeast of Mardin on the road to Nusaybin
in the village of Oguz whose houses are built
on the site of a previous fortress.
Dara was once a significant place in Upper Mesopotamia.
Dara was named after Darius I, or in original
Persian "Darayavaush" meaning the "king".
After Alexander the Great vanquished the Persians,
the region came under the domination of the Seleucids.
Later Dara fell in turn to the Romans, the Parthians,
the Byzantines, the Sassanids and the Arabs before
it was incorporated into the Turkish territories.
During a short period of time Dara was renamed
Anastasiopolis when it was fortified in 506 by
the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I against the
The remains of Dara spread over a vast area. They
include an underground prison and an impressive
monumental structure located under what was once
the palace, cave-warehouses, cave-dwellings, large
cisterns, an arsenal, a bridge, city walls...
Savur, which lies to the north east of
Mardin, is a small town with a well preserved
architecture. It is surrounded by vineyards and