Monday, November 11, 2013

Day #6 of Land Tour, Part 2: Hasankeyf

 After leaving Mor Gabriel there was an hour or two dive to Hasankeyf.  At the time I thought I had never heard of Hasankeyf; later I reviewed my pre-trip notes and found an entire printed page about this place.  Short term memory loss setting in?  Or was my head slightly spinning after all the ancient places we had visited in just a week!

Hasankeyf is an ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Turkey.  Hasankeyf has been identified with the Ilanşura of the Mari Tablet, circa 1800 B.C.  I had never heard of the Mari Tablets; if anyone is interested they can do their own research on that topic.  What little I read was interesting but I am not explaining the Mari Tablets here.  Suffice it to say that Hasankeyf had been identified to be associated with those fascinating ancient tablets.  

Hasankeyf is another open air museum like the Yasemek Open Air Museum we had visited on one of the first days of this group tour.  Hasankeyf is located at the end of an impressive gorge formed by the Tigris River. (How cool is this!  On this trip we crossed both the Euphrates River and 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.
Photo from brochure we purchased.  Looking down from the Citadel where visitors are no longer allowed.
Ruins of the old bridge; new bridge to the right.  Tigris River is at much higher water level in this photo
than on the day we visited.
One of the dominating features of Hasankeyf is the Old Tigris Bridge which was built in 1116 by the Artuqid Sultan Fahrettin Karaaslan.  It replaced an even older bridge.  This bridge built in 1116 over the Tigris River is considered to be the largest from the Medieval period.  In 1260 the Mongols invaded the city.  

Our guide said that the Mongols had destroyed this old bridge; however, I did not find any references to this in my research about Hasankeyf.  According to Wikipedia (as if we are to consider that site authoritative and all information cited there as accurate!), this bridge was built with support from wood in case the bridge had to be removed in order to prevent an attack.  Because the support was wood and wood rots over time, nothing remains today except 2 piles of stones and some foundation work.  I do not know which story is true, but I kind of like the one about the Mongols destroying the bridge during their invasion here.

Photo from the brochure we purchased.  This aerial view of the old Citadel is now off-limits to visitors.
Much, much earlier the Romans had built the citadel of Cephe as their stronghold on the frontier separating the Roman Empire from the Persian Sassanid Empire.  Cephe is in a strategic place on the steep rocks overlooking the Tigris river.  Much later, under the name of Kiphas (which means 'steep rock'), the Byzantines also made it their stronghold in the southeast of Anatolia.  In the 5th century A.D., this place became the seat of a Bishopric (Christian; had a Bishop).  This area was coveted by the Arabs and in the 7th century the city fell to the Omeyyads who changed its name to Hisn Kayfa.  Later, the city fell to the Abbasids.  The Abbasid Empire was the tenth of the ten great Muslim caliphates of the Arab Empire. 

The Ayyubids (descendants of Saladin) captured the city in 1232 and built mosques that made Hasankeyf an important Islamic center.  Saladin was Kurdish.  The Kurdish Ayyubids were known as the Black Sheep Tribe and were sent to fight the Crusaders.  The Ayyubids were a Kurdish dynasty that ruled Egypt, Syria-Palestine, parts of northern Mesopotamia and Yemen between 1169 and 1260.   
The city suffered badly from the invasion of the Mongols, but it rose from its ashes to become the place where summer residences of emirs were built.  The city was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1515 and gradually lost its past glory.

The Citadel on the top of the high cliff overlooking the river.  Up until fairly recently visitors were allowed access to the Citadel and the surrounding structures up there.  This is no longer allowed.  The government states the reason for barring visitors up there is because of the possibility of a landslide.  One of our tour group members was a geologist and he phoo-phooed that idea entirely.  He named the type of rock composition of that cliff and said there were no faults and there was no way anyone needed to fear a landslide of that area.  The truth is that the government discourages visitors to Hasankeyf, period.  Not just up at the Citadel, but they would prefer that visitors not come here at all.  The government would like people to forget about Hasankeyf and not have any media attention drawn to it at this time.  

The reason is not surprising.  
Our poor quality iPhone photo, taken from the new bridge.
Hasankeyf was declared a conservation area since 1981.  As part of the GAP project, this area will be flooded by the Ihsu dam being constructed.  The lower level and middle level of the inhabited area of Hasankeyf is being relocated to a higher level nearby.  We could see the newly constructed buildings in the distance.  The historical site that was declared a conservation area in 1981 will soon be underwater.  No wonder the powers that be would prefer no media attention here.

Additional information about Hasankeyf can be found at this link:  Hasankeyf info

The old hamam (spa)
The first place our group stopped to see was a large hamam built a very long time ago.  I did not note the estimated year of original construction.  It was flooded by the Tigris and then rebuilt and enlarged during the Ottoman Empire period.  Taş spoke to the group at length about this hamam (ancient spa) but I did not hang around to listen.  My camera batteries had died when we were at Mor Gabriel.  A man was nearby selling books and I wanted to buy one to save the memories of visiting here since we would not have any photos except the very poor ones taken with Bill's iPhone.  Bought the book entitled 'A City on the Verge of Vanishing: Hasankeyf'.  It is really more of a tourist brochure than an actual book.

Me with the tourist brochure in lieu of real photos.
Note the zigzag in the cliff behind me on the other side of the Tigris River.
There are steps carved into the stone for access to the Citadel up on top.
That would be a scary walk up or down but visitors are not allowed there anymore.

Bill scanned a few of the photos in this brochure and cropped out the text.  I am posting some of those on this blog posting.  I assume this is okay because there is nothing in the brochure about copyrighted photos.

Zeynel Bey Mausoleum
Next our group strolled over to view the Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, obviously named after Zeynel Bey.  This mausoleum, like the hamam, are built on the opposite side of the Tigris River from the inhabited city.  Zeynel Bey was the son of Uzun Hassan, the ruler of the Akkoyunlu Dynasty which ruled of Hasankeyf during the 15th century.  He died in battle in 1473 and was buried inside this circular brick mausoleum.  Originally this mausoleum had patterns of glazed navy blue and turquoise tiles; however, it was restored and the restoration was of terribly low quality.  Those glazed colored tiles were merely painted over.  The structure was likely better had it not been 'restored' at all.
During 'restoration' many tiles
were simply painted over.

The second known university in the world was located here, according to our guide Taş.  He provided us with the information that is provided to him by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for Turkey.  This is another of those items of information that I did not read anywhere, just heard it from the guide.  Believe it or not, as you choose.

We then went back across the river to the city.  We walked through their main street lined with vendors and tiny shops.  Several of us purchased souvenirs; my purchase will be a gift for my granddaughter.  Most of the group then walked up to visit one of the many ancient mosques; Bill and I opted to go to the restaurant where we would soon be enjoying lunch.  We already have seen enough mosques to last our lifetimes.

The restaurant was set high above the Tigris River.  Their speciality was fish from the river.  Bill chose grilled chicken; I chose the carp.  How could I eat regular old chicken which can be eaten anywhere anytime.  I ate the carp from the Tigris River.....grilled......and it tasted better than I expected.  Freshwater fish tend to be muddy tasting.  And I understand carp usually has a very strong fishy taste.  This did not.  It was simply cooked, mild and did not taste muddy.  I was happy with my choice.  Also figured that if I didn't like it then salad and bread would have been enough for lunch anyway.

The view from our table was fantastic.  The old bridge was right in front of us.  On top of the farthest foundation pier was a home!  Someone had made themselves a home up there.  We asked Taş about it and he asked the owner of the restaurant what that was all about.  There had to be a story there.  There was.
Note the white square on top of the bridge foundation pier on the far right near the trees.
That is someone's home today.
Photo is taken from the brochure we purchased.
The government had tried to evict the man living up there.  Turned out he has the original deeds from the Ottoman Empire times.  Now, that is really cool!   So the government cannot evict him.  I don't know what he is going to do when the dam is finished and this area is flooded.  Eventually the water level is supposed to be covering that old bridge foundation pier.  The water level is supposed to reach the top rim of that minaret to the right in the photo.

Soon we were back on the little bus and on our way to Şanliurfa, where we arrived in time for a late dinner at our very nice hotel.

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