We had been around most of Turkey apart from the South Eastern part. Sadly, this is the region that was hit by the devasting earthquake in February this year. We had been to some of the towns that were hit and it was awful to think of those people who lost their lives and homes.
It is quite a way from Finike, where the boat is, so we flew up to Diyarbakir and then hired a car for the week as many of the places were quite a distance apart. We covered about 1000miles.
This is the largest city in the region and is situated on the Tigris River. We visited the Grand Mosque which Muslims consider to be the fifth holiest site in Islam. It was built in 1092 and can hold up to 5000 people. The design of the mosque is based on the Great Mosque of Damascus.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the Fortress as it was closed on Mondays. We did take a walk around the city walls which had four gates that were restored in 349AD during the reign of Constantinus III of Rome. The walls are the the second largest in the world after the Great Wall of China.
Kahta and Mount Nemrut
We next made our way to Kahta and on our way we drove over the Nissibi Euphrates Bridge, a cable stayed bridge which was completed in 2015. It spans the Atatürk Reservoir on the Euphrates River. Ian liking bridges, don’t ask, we had to stop for a look.
One of the reasons for our visit here was to go up Mount Nemrut. We decided to do this on a tour which included a few other sights. First stop was Karakuş Tumulu, which means Black Bird in Turkish. It is an artificial mound, 35 meters high, located on the top of a natural hill. There are three columns remaining and are about nine metres high. It was built by Mithridates II, son of the magnificent king of Commagene I antiocho as a burial site for the female members of his family. The views from here were stunning.
We then visited the Cendere Bridge which was built in the second century AD in honour of Emperor Septimius Severus and sit across the Chabinas Creek.
Next on our tour was the Old Kahta Castle which was used until 1926. Unfortunately, there was an accident recently at the castle and it was closed to visitors. So, we had to look up at it on the hillside. It looked rather steep so wasn’t too disappointed we didn’t have to hike up there.
From here the highlight of the trip was Mount Nemrut, the burial site of King Antiochus I Theos from the Kingdom of Commagene. Mount Nemrut is part of the Taurus mountain range and is 2150 metres high. As well as being the burial site of the King it is full of statues of Greek and Persian gods built in 62bc by King Antiochus I Theos. The heads of the statues now sit alongside their bodies which originally were about 33 feet tall. It has been reported that the structures survived the earthquake that hit in February 2023.
It was really cold up there but it is a highlight to watch the sun go down (or sunrise but that was far too early for us). The sun has never taken so long to go down so we could get back down to where it was warmer. We didn’t expect to be wrapped up in our winter gear in Turkey.
One of the largest dams in the world is the Ataturk Dam which was built to generate electricity and to irrigate the plains in the region. We stopped for a cuppa here and a cow wandered along and stopped for a bit of a munch on the tree leaves. It’s owner sooner appeared and dragged it back to where it should be.
Not happy with seeing the front of the dam, we had to go off-piste to see the back of it. Off dirt track roads, just hoping the car didn’t break down as we were a long way from anywhere.
Our next stop was Gaziantep where the biggest collection of mosaics in the world can be found. There are about 2,500 sq m from the Roman and late antiquity periods. There is one particular mosaic called “The Gypsy Girl” that is in a very darkened room of its own and is nearly 2000 years old. It was discovered during excavations of the old city of Zeugma in the late 1990’s. However, there were pieces missing which had been looted and smuggled out of Turkey in the 1960’s and bought by the Bowling Green State University of Ohio in the US who displayed the pieces until 2012. The pieces were eventually returned to Turkey after tough negotiations in 2018.
We visited Gaziantep Castle which is now closed as it was badly damaged in the earthquake. The castle sat on a mound in the centre of the city.
It’s easy to get lost in places when visiting but we had no problem finding our way back to the hotel as it stood head and shoulders above everything else.
Turkey amongst other things is famous for Turkish Baths, known as the Hammam. In Gaziantep there is a Hammam museum. I hadn’t appreciated that the Hammam is not just steam rooms and a place for a massage but it is also a place of entertainment. It is common to visit a hammam before a wedding or a religious holiday. There is a Puerpera Bath ceremony which is held 40 days after a woman has given birth. Food and gifts are prepared for the ceremony. Salt is put on the baby’s body and then washed with 40 cups of water.
We packed a lot into our trip, too much for one post so the rest coming soon!