Hasan and I had planned on getting up early on Wednesday, as he hadwork and i had a day trip to Hasankeyf planned, but been lazy men itwas 09.30 before we crawled out of our beds. After a quick shower weate breakfast together and then went out into the gloomy streets, thatwere been spattered by rain.
Even though Hasan was running terribly late for work, he kindly agreed to walk me to the bus stop and during this period the heavens opened. Luckily we didn’t get too wet as we bobbed and weaved between the covered markets and soon i was on the warm, dry bus.
The journey took around an hour and by the time we arrived the bus was full to overspilling with people. Only some of these were Turkish tourists, the rest locals, but it was still unusual to be amongst other tourists from any country. During my time in Turkey i had been used to having places all to myself, but i guess i could share the town with a couple of dozen other people for once I was pleased that the rain had stopped during the trip and whilst the skies were still overcast, i could more than cope with this.
The bus dropped me in the very centre of town, so i immediately headed back along the road that we had come in on and crossed the new bridge that spanned the river Tigris. This offered some lovely views in both directions and also gave me the chance to peer down on what was left of Eski Koprusu, which was the old bridge that dated back to pre-Ottoman times. Walking further away from town i soon came to Zeynel Bey Turbesi, a 15th Century tomb with some nice tiling. Goats and cows grazed in and around the site, giving it a thoroughly rustic feel and making for some nice photo opportunities.
Walking back to the centre i then followed signs that pointed uphill towards the Kale (Fortress) and Magaralar (Caves). The small street that paved the way up was occupied by some small souvenir stalls and tea houses, but most interesting of all was the El-Rizk Cami. This Mosque was built in 1409 and its minaret is a symbol of Hasankeyf, as it has a storks nest at the summit, which certainly isn’t something you see everyday.
Once in the rocky hills, there were numerous hollowed out caves in the rock, which had once been used as homes and shops. Nothing remains inside, so it didn’t take long to pass these and walk up to the top of the fortress. Constructed in Byzantine times, it was rebuilt by several conquering dynasties, with the Ayyubids leaving the most distinguishable remains, which date back to the 14th Century.
I spent an hour or so wandering around and investigating the numerous structures, which were in varying stages of disrepair. Most interesting was the Buyuk Saray (Big Palace), although other noteworthy buildings included Kuruk Saray (Small Palace), a Mosque and Ulu Cami. Whilst picking my way through the rubble i met a nice Turkish guy who was from the Black Sea coast and we chatted for a brief time as we walked around.
At this point the sky turned really black and drops of rain began to fall, so i decided that i didn’t want to get stuck up there in a downpour and began to make my way back down to the town. There were a few more sites worth seeing that were dotted around the new town, so i spent half an hour perusing these and then caught the 15.00 bus back to Batman.
With plans for a new dam in the area, Hasankeyf may be under water within a decade, which seems a terrible shame. The location is stunning and there is a lot of Historical significance. At the same time, i am sure that the dam would create revenue and jobs for the province, so the government doesn’t have an easy decision. Whilst i am totally against destroying natural wonders – like what happened in Paraguay with the Itaupu Dam – i am slightly less against sinking a town, as it in itself was a man made creation. But just in case Hasankeyf is lost to time, i am pleased that i can say that i got to see it before it was washed off the face of the Earth.