Kilis, until recently a district of the province of Gaziantep, now has provincial status in its own right. The main centre of the province is the city of Kilis itself, a border town between Turkey and Syria once famed for the Syrian goods on sale in the days when illegal smuggling over the border was rife. Today still they sell “smuggled” goods but in fact the products come from Istanbul or Bursa. However, by describing their merchandise as smuggled, salesmen have found a way to maintain the allure of their goods, even though the illicit cross border trade has ended. Experts believe that the history of Kilis dates back to 3000 BC. In the city’s long history the Assyrians, Hurri- Mitani, Hittite, and Persian and many others have ruled over the region. In the year 636 the Prophet Omar added these lands to the expanding territory under Islamic control. In Byzantine and Ottoman times the city served as a border post. Before then, in the time of the Crusaders it was part of the County of Edessa, ruled from Urfa. It later fell to the Selçuks and then the Mamluks, becoming part of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Yavuz Selim.

The historical heritage

The Canpolat Cami is one of the earliest examples of Ottoman architecture. It was built in the time of the Kilis Bey Canpolat in the typical Ottoman mosque structure plan of a square building with a single dome. It was built in 1515 by Seyyide Fatma and has also has traces of Mamluk architectural style.
The Ulu Cami (the Great Mosque) was built by Abdullah Bin Hacı Halil in 1334. It is rectangular in shape and was constructed of straight cut stones.

The Rivanda Kalesi (Fortress)

Many of the walls and towers of the Rivanda Kalesi are still standing, though the date of the fortress’ construction has yet to be determined. Inside the fortress there are water cisterns, the ruins of accommodation and dungeons. The first known owners of the fortress were the Egyptian Kölemens, it later passing to the rulers of the Crusader County of Edessa. The fortress gain importance in the 12th century AD and it is believed that it had an attached underground city. However, as no archaeological excavations have been conducted this has yet to be confirmed.

The Ancient City of Kuzeyne

The ancient city and the fortress are five km from the city. At the site remnants from the Hittites, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic (Abbasid) eras have been found. It is a like an open air museum of past civilisations. Among the sites to visit while in Kilis there are the Surahbil Bin Hasane Türbesi (Tomb), Eski Hamam (the Old Bath), Hoca Hamam (the Hodja Bath), and the Tekke Mevlevihanesi (the Lodge of Dervishes). There are also many old large houses reflecting the civilian architecture of Kilis as well as numerous public fountains and bridges. With its bazaars and traditional handicrafts and clothing Kilis is typical of many south eastern cities. Its cuisine is very similar to that of Gaziantep and has the same rich variety.

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