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DIYARBAKIR

Diyarbakir rises above the right bank of the Tigris River (Dicle) to the north of the Mesopotamian plain. Many thousands 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, is 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, Mittanians, Arameans, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Urartians, Medes, Persians, Macedonians. The 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 Tamerlane’s 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 Ottoman Empire.

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 city are:
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.

Today, the GAP Project (South-East Anatolian Project) and the development of irrigation systems have brought to the region of Diyarbakir greater prosperity.

Diyarbakir is linked by daily flights to Ankara and Istanbul.

Places of interest:

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. Viewed from the air, the impressive black basalt walls have the shape of a turbot fish. They are one of the best examples of medieval military architecture.


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, corinthian columns, 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. The mosque has a rectangular minaret, and two ablution fountains or "şadırvan", (the latest is dated 1849) stand in the courtyard.



Mesudiye Medresesi, adjacent to the Ulu Mosque and one of the first theological school, was completed by the Arturkids in 1198.

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.

Safa Camii, built in 1532 at the time of the Akkoyunlular, has a finely decorated minaret with inlaid tilework on its base.

Nebii Camii
is 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 Mosque.

Behram Pasa 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 material.

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.

Fatih Pasa 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.

Deliller 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 Pasa Hani was built by the third governor of Diyarbakir, Hasan Pasha in 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 Jacobite Christian 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 (Keldani Kilisesi).

Cahit 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 republican period, Cahit Sitki Taranci (1910-1954). Transformed into an ethnographic museum, the house also displays the poet's personal belongings.


Ziya 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.

Dicle Bridge, which spans the Tigris (Dicle River) south of the city, can be seen from the city walls and the Atatürk Kiosk (Atatürk Köskü) located outside the walls, by the river. An inscription informs us that the 10 arched bridge was built in 1065 during the Marwanid period.


Baklava bakery

Young boy selling simit breads
 




HASANKEYF

Hasankeyf is an open museum located at the end of an impressive gorge formed by the Tigris River. The 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 the stronghold of Cephe on the frontier separating the Roman Empire from the Persian Sassanid Empire in a strategic place on the steep rocks overlooking the River Tigris. Under the name Kiphas, which means "steep rock", the Byzantines made it also their stronghold in the south-east of Anatolia. In the fifth century, this place became the seat of a Bishopric. oveted by the Arabs, in the seventh century, the city fell to the Omeyyads who changed its name into Hisn Kayfa, and later to the Abbassids. Hasankeyf had its golden age when it became the capital of the Turcoman Artukids 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 considerably (the 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 Turcoman Akkoyunlu emirs ruling the area from Diyarbakir, were built. The city, having stayed under the Safavid hegemony for sometime, was incorporated to the Ottoman Empire in 1515 and gradually lost its historical importance and past glory.

Due to its archaeological and historical assets, Hasankeyf has 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.
The 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.
The 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 breathtaking view 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.
El 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.

Koç Mosque 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.
Zeynel 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.
 




MARDIN


Mardin 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 Mittanians, the Assyrians and the Hittites established 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 Seleucid Kingdom. 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 Safavids, but 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.

The 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 or Armenian.

Mardin, 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.


Mardin 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 Artukids.
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 Istanbul.


Places of interest:

Zinciriye Medresesi is also referred to as Sultan Isa Medresesi. 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 plains.

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).

The buildings of the Post-office, located in the main street, should not be missed to enjoy upstairs the beautiful “lace” stonework.


Kasimiye Medresesi (the Medrese of Sultan Kasim): the construction of this medrese was started by the Artukidsin 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.

Mardin Museum is located in the former Syrian Catholic Patriarchate, a building constructed by Antakya Patriarch Ignatios Behnam Banni in 1895. Later, this place was used for different purposes. It was purchased from 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 Atatürk sculpture.

In 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...

The citadel that 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.

Deyrul Zaferan
, a monastery located 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.

The chapel

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 Persian Sassanids.
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 apple groves.