SOUTH EASTERN REGION


The South-eastern 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 Sanli Urfa, 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 centre, the ruins of one of the largest and oldest Islamic universities can be seen among the archaeological remains Restoration of the 18th-century mansion, Kucuk Haci Mustafa Hacikamiloglu Konagi in Sanli Urfa, 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 Mount 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 Gazi Antep, a large trade and industrial centre which contains the remains of late Hittite cities.

The Ataturk Dam Lake is the region's holiday and water-sports centre. There are many beaches along the shore of the lake which can give you an unforgettable holiday experience under the Mesopotamian sun.

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 Suzer House, from the turn of the century, has been beautifully restored as the Ethnographical Museum. The artisans of Gazi Antep specialize 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.

West of Gazi Antep, the Duluk 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 cantered 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 Civilizations 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.

Adiyaman (153 km northeast of Gazi Antep) 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 base from which to visit Nemrut Dagi (Mount 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 gigatic 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 their feet. In the great Upper Mesopotamian plain, Sanli Urfa, thought by some to be the ancient city of Ur and later known as Edessa proudly exhibits the legacy of all the civilizations that have prospered in this region. Some of the oldest signs of civilization, dating to 7000 B.C. were found 70 kilometres northwest of Sanli Urfa, at the village of Kantara. The recent development of dams and ahydroelectric 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 centre 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 Sanli Urfa lies Gobekli. 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 Sanli Urfa area, in the second millennium B.C., was a city of a Hurrute 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 Sanli Urfa, wander through the vaulted eastern bazaar and linger in the courtyards of the old hans (inns). See if you can find Gumruk Hani and Barutcu Hani - the most interesting of the old hans.

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.