Diyarbakir

In many respects the city of Diyarbakır is the centre of the south eastern region of Turkey. The city, which is surrounded by five km of walls, the second longest such structure in the world after the Great Wall of China, has developed and expanded rapidly in recent years. It has outgrown its old city walls years ago. Outside Diyarbakir’s old walls there are modern apartment blocks and housing complexes, state buildings and makeshift shanty houses as well. However, within the walls there is exotic architecture, churches and mosques from many different civilisations and a mixture of languages and beliefs that have survived together for centuries. The hans (trade and accommodation centres) and the bazaars where traditional handicrafts are still practised and where people sit on low stalls called “kursi” and have long chats on even longer hot summer days take you back centuries. The caravanserais in Diyarbakır, with their cool wide courtyards, give you the feeling that a caravan loaded with precious goods could walk through the great gates of the caravanserai anytime. Why not? The city was on the Silk Road and the area is full of caravanserais where the caravans would stop for a while and sell or exchange their wares.

The historical heritages

The Nebi Cami and Ulu Cami (The Great Mosque) are both masterpieces. The Ulu Mosque is one of the oldest in Turkey. The sundial and the stone work in its courtyard are really impressive. It envelops one more as you study the patterns and motifs on the stones and the superb quality of the workmanship. Diyarbakır has played host to many civilisations in its history, which goes back to the 7th century BC. Throughout the city there are traces from the Hurrians, the Assyrians, the Medes, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Emevis, the Abbasids, the Oğuz Turks, the Selçuks, and the Ottomans. Apart from the large number of mosques and Islamic universities (medreses) representing the Islam belief, there are also many churches in Diyarbakır. These include the Mart Thoma, Meryemana (the Church of the Virgin Mary) and Mart Pityon churches. The Mart Thoma was a Syrian church that was converted to the Ulu Mosque in 639. The Church of the Virgin Mary is still being used by the Surani community, which has declined in recent years due to migration.

The Hans and Bazaars

When you go through the hans and the bazaars you see that the traditional production techniques and trade still continue, with wooden slippers being shaped by adze, felt being made by hand, workshops where copper is hammered out and many goods that are sold in sacks and boxes. The Deliller, the Hasan Pasa, the Çiftehan, and the Yeni Hans are some of the most interesting. They are full of shops that sell carpets and rugs and traditional silver work. The most famous is the Deliller Han that was founded in 1527. The han was originally called the “Hacı rehberleri”(pilgrimage guides) it was a place where both pilgrims and those who would serve as their guides would gather. The opposite side of the han was known that as the “Hacilar Harabesi” (the Pilgrims Ruins). Today the two story han has been restored was converted to a hotel. The word “deliller” used to mean one who showed the path.
Sit in the courtyard of the han. In the hottest of summer days it is always cool and in winter it is warm. The han is made of a special stone named as “disitas” (female stone). The characteristic of this stone is that it absorbs water when it gets wet but does not let it pass through, thus providing a form of isolation. As you move from the Deliller Han towards the Mardinkapi (Mardin Gate) you will see a marketplace devoted to yoghurts and cheeses. It is impossible not to be amazed by the variety of the cheeses here. The vendors will offer you a small slice from the various cheeses, allowing you to taste each and then buy the one you prefer. In some cases, this is the only place you may find some of these delicious cheeses. In this marketplace you will also fine many types of honey.

Moving towards the Walls

As you approach the Mardinkapi there is a beautiful caravanserai that has been restored and converted to a hotel. Even if you do not stay in the hotel you may have a coffee or some other drinks in its courtyard and examine this beautiful architectural work. Walking a bit further you arrive at the extensive city walls, which you can climb. From that vantage point you can watch the Tigris River stretching across the plains before your eyes.

After strolling on the walls you can visit the Gazi Köşkü (Hero Mansion) where the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, stayed. The other places to visit are the house of the great Turkish thinker and poet Ziya Gökalp and the Archaeology Museum. The museum boasts a rich collection of archaeological pieces unearthed in the region.

The On Gözlü Köprü (the Ten Eyed Bridge) and others

There is a very beautiful bridge running over the Tigris River. However, before discussing the bridge let us first mention the Çayönü Höyüğü (the tumulus in front of the stream), Hilar Kayaları (the Hilar Rocks) and Eğil Mağaraları (the Eğil Caves) that have been dated to 7000 BC, all sites worth seeing. To get to one of the most famous bridges in the region, the On Gözlü Köprü (Ten Eyed Bridge), you travel three km to the south of the city, on the old Silvan road. On the religious Feats of Sacrifice girls and young women gather on the bridge, say prayers and cast written messages to God carrying their wishes onto the waters of the Tigris River. Although the origin of this centuries old practise is unknown, it is though it comes from the belief that the Tigris is the path leading to God. There are songs and sagas written about the most popular bridge in the region, the Malabadi Bridge. The bridge is on the Diyarbakır to Batman road. When Batman became a province some years ago, the bridge came within the borders of the new province. Let us have a look at Batman.

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