The Southeastern Anatolian Region
Southeastern Anatolian Region has a very rich history and
cultural heritage, as can be seen in its magnificent historical
sites. Its history begins around 7,000 B.C. in the New Stone
Age. Between 2,000 B.C. and 1,500 B.C. came the Hurris who
were followed by the Hittites sometime around 1,200 B.C.
In the land which encircles the Firat (Euphrates) and the
Dicle (Tigris) rivers, lived Abraham, the patriarch claimed
by three world religions. Some think that Abraham was born
in what is now called Sanliurfa, supposed to have been Ur
of the Chaldees, and later moved south from the city to
Harran. In Harran, which was an important Mesopotamian historic
and cultural center, the ruins of one of the largest and
oldest Islamic universities can be seen among the archaeological
remains. Restoration of the 18th-century mansion, Küçük
Haci Mustafa Hacikamiloglu Konagi in Sanliurfa, is now complete.
It has just reopened and now serves as an art gallery.
When you travel from the south to the north over the Mesopotamian
plains, the first high mountain to be seen is the picturesque
Mt. Nemrut, with the mausoleum of the Commagene King Antiochos
at its 2,150 meter peak.
The most important areas of the region are Diyarbakir,
whose city walls are a superb example of medieval military
architecture; Mardin with its regional architecture; and
Gaziantep, a large trade and industrial center which contains
the remains of late Hittite cities.
The Atatürk Dam Lake is the region's holiday and water-sports
center. There are many beaches along the shore of the lake
which can give you an unforgettable holiday experience under
the Mesopotamian sun.
The Southeastern Anatolian Project - GAP
Southeastern Anatolian Project is the largest and most multifaceted
development project in Turkey as well as one of the, largest
development projects in the world. The project includes
active farming with extensive irrigation systems and electricity
production. It will also benefit the tourism, mining, petrol,
education, health, communication, industry and transportation
The Southeastern Anatolia Project covers the lower parts
of the Firat and Dicle rivers and the provinces of Gaziantep,
Sanliurfa, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Siirt, Batman and
Sirnak, on the plains between the rivers. The project will
also bring with it a change in the climate of the area.
Atatürk Dam and Hydroelectric Plant, the largest in Turkey
and the sixth largest in the world, is situated on the Firat
River in the town of Bozova in Sanliurfa. Atatürk Dam, which
is the foundation of the Southeastern Anatolia Project,
began operation in 1994 and is important not only for energy
production but also for irrigation. The water obtained from
the reservoirs of the Atatürk Dam will be carried to the
Harran plain by the Sanliurfa Tunnel System, which is the
largest in the world, in terms of length and rate of flow.
The waters of the Firat river will pass through tunnels
which are 26.4 kilometres in length and 7.62 meters in diameter,
and be distributed to the vast croplands of the southeastern
Anatolian plains from central and branch channels, bringing
a production boom and prosperity to the region.
From Gaziantep to Mardin
To explore the sites along Turkey's southern border, take
the highway which connects Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Mardin
to Syria and Iraq.
Gaziantep (685 km southeast of Ankara) is located on a
wide and fertile plain cultivated with extensive olive groves
and vineyards and produces a wide variety of agricultural
crops. It is especially known throughout Turkey for its
excellent pistachios. Industry also contributes to the local
The 36 towers of the city's fortress were originally constructed
in the Justinian era and were later rebuilt by the Seljuks.
The Archaeology Museum has important artifacts from Neolithic,
Hittite and Roman times. The Hasan Süzer House, from
the turn of the century, has been beautifully restored as
the Ethnographical Museum. The artisans of Gaziantep specialise
in copperware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
The kitchens there produce some of the best lahmacun, a
delicious pizza topped with spicy meat and herbs, and also
baklava, a honey and nut pastry.
of Gaziantep, the Dülük Forest makes a good day's outing,
or you can stay overnight in the campsite. In the woods,
stroll through the archaeological site which dates back
to prehistoric times. A Hittite school of sculpture was
centred in Yesemek, where the 200 works of art still reveal
the beauty of the Hittite period. Next to the Syrian border,
on the banks of the Firat River, Kargamis, once a late Hittite
capital, is another important archaeological site. The site's
finds, including immense bas-reliefs, have been moved to
the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara.
The ruins of Belkis (Zeugma) are on the edge of Nizip.
There is a mound which was turned into a citadel and mosaics
from the Roman period, which are well worth seeing.
Kilis, near the Turkish-Syrian border en route to Gaziantep,
was originally known in the Assyrian archives as Kilizi.
Kilis is important for its cotton and silk weaving and also
for its leather products. This most charming area is dotted
with vineyards and olive groves on all sides. Also interesting
are the Canbolat Bey complex, the old baths and a center
that once housed a dervish order. Several other sites worth
seeing nearby include Ravanda Castle, situated between Kilis
and Gaziantep. 5 km to the northeast is the town of Kuzeyne
(Korus) that is like an open-air museum with its castle
and mosaics. What makes it special is that here one can
view ruins from Hittite, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic times
all in one place. An ancient Roman center is found 20 km
east of Kilis in the town of Korus (Kiriz). Ruins of a castle,
a temple and a theatre await your visit.
the 12th century B.C. Kahramanmaras (78 km north of Gaziantep)
was the capital of the Hittite state of Gurgum. A massive
citadel built in the 2nd century B.C. now houses the city
museum with a good collection of Hittite sculptures. Other
sites include the 15th-century Ulu Mosque and the Tas Medrese.
The city is famous throughout Turkey for its ice-cream thickened
with gum arabic and beaten with a wooden paddle.
(153 km northeast of Gaziantep) the Archaeological Museum
houses regional finds from the Lower Firat which date from
the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages. Good quality kilims
woven in bright colours sell for reasonable prices in the
bazaar. Surrounding monuments include the ruins of an Abbasid
citadel (restored by the Seljuks) and the 14th century Ulu
Mosque. The discovery of oil in the region has brought prosperity
to Adiyaman. 5 km to the north is Pirin (Perre), that boasts
a large Roman necropolis dug out of the rock and soil.
Adiyaman, as well as Kahta (which also has good accommodation
and camping facilities), make good bases from which to visit
Nemrut Dagi (Mt. Nemrut) National Park. You can hire transportation
in either town. On the summit of Nemrut Dagi, at 2,150 meters
the highest mountain in Northern Mesopotamia, sits the gigantic
funerary sanctuary erected in the first century B.C. by
King Antiochos I of Commagene. The engineering involved
continues to amaze visitors seeing for the first time the
artificial tumulus as it is flanked by terraces on which
rest the colossal statues of Apollo, Zeus, Heracles, Tyche
and Antiochus. Time has inflicted heavy damage on the sculptures
- their torsos sit with their beautifully carved heads at
At ancient Eskikale (Arsameia of Nymphaios), a magnificent
relief in the ruins of what scholars believe might have
been the Commagene Palace depicts Heracles greeting the
Commagene king, Mithridates. Opposite this site, separated
by the Eski Kahta river, are the remains of Yenikale (New
Castle) built by the Mamluks. Other nearby sights include
the Roman bridge at Cendere and another Commagene royal
In the great Upper Mesopotamian plain, Sanliurfa, thought
by some to be the ancient city of Ur and later known as
Edessa, proudly exhibits the legacy of all the civilisations
that have prospered in this region. Some of the oldest signs
of civilisation, dating to 7000 B.C., were found 70 kilometres
northwest of Sanliurfa, at the village of Kantara. The recent
development of dams and a hydroelectric plant stand in stark
contrast to the ancient site of a temple and Neolithic settlement
which is nine thousand years old. The temple has been identified
as a religious center for moon worship. This site is still
the only one of its kind in the world. Visitors can view
small idols and religious figures as well as some very early
and beautiful mosaic work from the settlement. On a hill
20 kilometres northeast of Sanliurfa lies Göbekli.
This settlement is perhaps 9000 years old, and may rest
atop even older settlements in lower layers of the artificial
hill. The probable workplace of an ancient idol maker can
be seen here where many finished and unfinished human and
animal figures and tools have been found. The Sanliurfa
area, in the second millennium B.C., was a city of a Hurrite
state. Some believe that Abraham was born in a cave near
where the Mevlid Halil Mosque now stands. Today the cave
is a pilgrimage site and flocks of pigeons do not seem to
disturb the elderly men praying around the entrance. The
remains of a castle with two lone Corinthian columns rising
above the ruined walls stands atop a small crest. At the
foot of the hills, the lovely Halil Rahman Mosque is built
around a quiet pool in which sacred carp swim. The 17th-century
Ottoman Ridvaniye Mosque and the Firfirli Mosque, formerly
the Church of the Apostles, are worth a detour. The Archaeology
and Ethnography museum, one of the best in Turkey, houses
important Neolithic and Chalcolithic finds from the Lower
Firat region. To capture the spirit of Sanliurfa, wander
through the vaulted eastern bazaar and linger in the courtyards
of the old hans (inns). See if you can find Gümrük
Hani and Barutçu Hani - the most interesting of the
Believed, to be the ancient city of the same name mentioned
in the Old Testament, Harran is known more now for its unusual
beehive dwellings than as the place where Abraham actually
spent several years of his life. Included among the archaeological
are those of the largest ancient Islamic university, city
walls dating from the eighth century, four gates and a citadel.
The GAP project will transform Harran into one of the most
fertile areas in Turkey.
Birecik, 80 km west of Sanliurfa, straddles the Firat river
and is dominated by the citadel. A good place to take a
break, there are good accommodations and camping facilities
known in ancient times as Amida, spreads across a basalt
plateau close to the banks of the Dicle river. The black
basalt triple walls which encircle the old town give the
city a rather ominous appearance. These ramparts are 5.5
km in length, have 16 keeps and five gates, are decorated
with inscriptions and bas-reliefs, and represent a superb
example of medieval military architecture. The Ulu Mosque,
built by the Seljuk sultan Melik Shah, is notable for its
original design and for its utilisation of both Byzantine
and more ancient architectural materials. The mihrab of
the nearby Mesudiye Medrese is made of the local black basalt.
The Nebii Mosque represents the typical Ottoman style, while
the Safa Mosque exhibits Persian influences in its tiled
third century Aramaic Church of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana
Kilisesi), which is still in use today, also makes for an
interesting visit. For an example of early domestic architecture,
stop at the restored home of the writer Cahit Sitki Taranci.
The Deliller Hani (1527) by the Mardin Gates, convened and
refurbished into a hotel, recreates the atmosphere of the
days when trading caravans stopped in Diyarbakir. Just outside
the city walls, by the river, stands Atatürk's house, now
a museum. South of town at the Dicle Bridge, built in 1065,
you can take a great picture of the Dicle River, the bridge
and the city walls.
In Silvan, 77 km east of Diyarbakir you should stop at
the graceful Ulu Mosque, which dates from 1185, to admire
the fine flowing lines of stone-relief work that outline
the pointed arch portal.
Çayönü, one of the earliest Neolithic
settlements yet to be discovered, dates from the seventh
a distance, the golden stone houses of Mardin blend into
the rock of the hills on which the city is built. On closer
inspection, the stone carving and decoration of the houses
and public buildings reveals the city to be an architectural
treasure-chest. Among the jewels are the ancient citadel
and several mosques, in particular, Ulu Mosque. The 15th-century
Kasim Pasa Medrese is remarkable for its fine stonework.
At the lovely Isa Bey Medrese, from the 14th century, you
can admire the magnificently carved portal and climb to
its roof to enjoy a fantastic view of the Mesopotamian Plain.
Only 7 kilometres east of Mardin is the Syriac Jacobite
Monastery of Deyrulzaferan, which was once a thriving religious
community. At nearby Kiziltepe, the 13th-century Ulu Mosque,
one of the best examples of Artukid architecture; has superb
mihrab reliefs and a beautiful portal. Midyat, famous for
its silver jewellery known as 'telkari', also has many elegant
and historic houses. Eighteen kilometres east of town is
the active Syriac-Jacobite monastery of Deyrelumur (San
Gabriel), which dates from the beginning of the fifth century.
Batman is Turkey's most important oil-producing center,
with oil wells pumping the precious fuel dotting the surrounding
area. North of Batman, the Malabadi Bridge, built in 1147,
spans the Batman River. Undisturbed by time, peaceful waters
still reflect the widest single-arch bridge of its day.
Two guard towers ensured the bridge's security.
At Hasankeyf are the ruins of the 12th-century capital
of the Artukids. The bridge, which once spanned the Dicle
and connected the two pans of the city with the ruined palace
inside the citadel, evokes the ghosts of a vanished dynasty.
The 15th-century Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, attractively decorated
with turquoise tiles, reveals Persian influence.
was an especially eminent city at the time of the Abbasid
Caliphate. Among the city's monuments, be sure to visit
the 12th century Seljuk Ulu Mosque and the 13th century
Asakir Çarsi Mosque. At Aydinlar (Tillo), only 6
km from Siirt, the Ibrahim Hakki Mausoleum Complex and nearby
private Ibrahim Hakki Astronomical Museum are worth a visit.
Siirt produces fine and large pistachio nuts and is known
as well for its excellent goat-hair blankets and kilims.
Sirnak, on the north face of Mt. Cudi (2,114 meters), derives
its name from the Moslem belief that Noah's Ark landed on
this mountain: Sir - City, Nak - Noah. Forty-five kilometres
from Sirnak, Cizre is the supposed location of his tomb