We arrived at Hansnkeyf in southeastern Turkey when the sun was high. Before heading to the city’s ruins, we stopped at Zeynel Bey Tomb. This tomb is a significant historical structure in Hasankeyf, constructed in the 15th century as a mausoleum for Zeynel Bey, a local ruler and member of the Ak Koyunlu dynasty. The tomb showcases the Seljuk-Turkoman style of architecture, which was common in Anatolia during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Located on a hill overlooking the Tigris River and the town of Hasankeyf, the tomb is a square-shaped structure with a dome-shaped roof supported by four arches. Its exterior is adorned with intricate geometric patterns and calligraphic inscriptions. Inside are three sarcophagi believed to contain the remains of Zeynel Bey, his wife, and his son. The interior is decorated with colourful tiles featuring floral motifs and Islamic calligraphy. However, in 2017 the grave was relocated due to the construction of a new dam that would flood the area.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to see Hasankeyf before it was submerged underwater. The site was incredibly intriguing and possessed a wealth of historical significance. Hasankeyf served as a centre of commerce, art, and advancement for countless centuries, dating back to its earliest Neolithic era up through its time under Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman rule.
Hasankeyf is a town with a breathtaking natural beauty that touches the heart. The Tigris River flows through the city, and the surrounding cliffs and lush vegetation make it a perfect place to enjoy the scenery. A boat tour along the river can take you to explore the nearby caves once used as dwellings and places of worship for early settlers.
Besides its natural beauty, Hasankeyf is rich in historic landmarks and cultural treasures. One of the most impressive of these is the ancient citadel, which dates back to the Roman period and has been used by various empires over the years. I had the chance to explore the citadel’s ruins and admire the stunning views of the surrounding countryside. I was thrilled to walk into the Citadel of Hasankeyif. It sits on a steep rocky hill overlooking the Tigris River, an important trade and transportation route for thousands of years.
The citadel has a rich history dating back to the Roman era and was reconstructed by the Byzantines in the 6th century. It was a strategic military outpost and residence for local governors for various Muslim dynasties, such as the Abbasids, Seljuks, and Ayyubids, after it fell to the Muslim armies in the 7th century. The Artukids, a Turkish dynasty, renovated and expanded the citadel in the 12th and 13th centuries, adding new walls, towers, and buildings, making it one of the most impressive structures in the region. However, it was abandoned in the 16th century due to changes in the political landscape.
Nowadays, Hsankeyif is flooded, and some of its treasures have been moved to a nearby museum because of the controversial hydroelectric dam project, the Ilisu Dam. Despite opposition from local and international groups concerned about the project’s impact on cultural heritage, it was still implemented.