A Tale in Red: Ancient walls, four pillars of lucky, some amazing friends and a sumptuous breakfast.

I will never forget the moment we took the road to Diyarbakır. There was a thin cloud of fear inside the car, and it came from the guide. He had so many misconceptions about the region, prejudices created by distorted information and some acts of people who had the same intent. Destabilise the area and build a wall between the Turkish and Kurdish people.

I remember, at some moment, Firat pointed to the distant mountains, saying people were communicating with each other using light signals. “If something happens, please don’t try to save me; just hide and wait.” I felt like I was entering a zone war; all I was doing was going to Diyarbakır.

We would meet people who would show us the best of the city before walking around the city centre. The idea was to give an honest look at the place’s atmosphere. We were stopping near a peculiar minaret. Close to the Seyh Muhatar mosque that has more than 500 years old and contains the grave of Sheik Muhatar. 

On the northern side of the mosque, there is a minaret called “Dört Ayakalı Monare”, or the Four-legged minaret. It told the tower was built in the year 9000BCE, and only when the local people turned to Islam was it repurposed as a minaret.

The funniest information about the minaret is that if you pass seven times between the four columns, you will have their wishes granted.

From there, we met two teachers that led us on a tour around the city.

Since ancient times, the city known as Diyarbakır has been ruled by various empires and kingdoms, including the Hurri-Mithani, Hittites, Assyrians, Arami Bit-Zamani, Medians, Persians, Macedonians, Seleukos, Romans, Ilkhanide, and Akkoyunlu Seljuks. Different names, such as Amidi, Amid, Amido, and Amida, have referred to it. Islamic-Arabic sources refer to it as “Diyar-i Berk,” while it became known as Diyarbakır in the Republican era, named after the copper ore found in the area.

The city boasts some of the best-preserved walls from the Middle Ages, made of black basalt and spanning 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles). These walls feature 16 keeps, five gates, and 82 watchtowers and are 12 meters (39 feet) high and 3-5 meters (10-16 feet) wide. The Dag Kapi, Urfa Kapi, Mardin Kapi, and Yeni Kapi gates open in different directions. The walls have been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015, alongside the Hevsel Gardens.

The city’s fortress, built on a rock formation called “Fis” 100 meters (328 feet) high from the Tigris River, is another notable attraction. It is believed to have been built by the Hurri and contains a domed basilica, mosque, Sahabeler tomb, Artuklu Palace, and other old official buildings. Deliver Han, built by Husrev Pasha in 1527, is another attraction that used to serve as a caravanserai for silk road travellers, and it has now been restored as a 120-bed hotel.

Other historical attractions include the Ulu Mosque, which was converted from the Church of Saint Thomas and featured original architecture and ancient materials. The mosque’s minaret and gate bear inscriptions dating back to various historical periods. Other notable sites include the Mesudiye Medrese, Hasan Pasha Han, Nebii Mosque, Church of the Virgin Mary, and Kasim Padisah Mosque. The house where the poet Cahit Sitki Taranci was born has been turned into a museum featuring personal articles of the poet and ethnographic pieces from the area.

Diyarbakır is also home to various natural and archaeological sites, such as the mythological cave Eshab-ul Keyf, Dacianus ruins, holy Mount Zulkufil, Hilar Caves, Birkleyn and Hasun Caves, Antak City ruins, and Cayonu Archaeological Site. Zerzevan castle is a newer archaeological site that was once the easternmost border of the Romans.

The city is located at the centre of a highway network connecting other vital settlements in the region and has air connections to major Turkish cities like Istanbul and Ankara. It has a territory of 15,355 square kilometres and a population of approximately 1.7 million. While agriculture and stock breeding are essential industries, the city also moves towards food and meat production and maintains traditional crafts such as jewellery, silk processing, and coppersmith works. Sericulture is practised in the city centre and the districts of Kulp, Silvan, and Lice, while textiles and other industries are present in small workshops.

The two teachers showed us some unique places, like a school for disadvantaged children where cooperation and integration were the primary purposes. And a university where students were homed.

We also walked on the city’s ancient walls and had a luxurious breakfast in an ancient caravansary converted into a restaurant.

DIyabarkir was a surprise in many ways; one of the most emotional stops was when we got close to the Tigris River (Dicle River). There, Firat told me his mother had chosen that name if she had a daughter. However, Nersin was the mother to two boys: Serhat and Firat.


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