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It was once a capital city

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It was once a capital city

November 13 —  Did you know that Hasankeyf, which is headed for inundation by waters of a dam in the area, was once a capital city for mor...

The Zeynel Bey Tomb is notable for its geometric design motif.

       Hasankeyf was known as Hısn Keyfa by the Artukoğulları Türkmens, who made it their capital during their reign in the region between 1101-1231. What can now be seen in Hasankeyf is the minaret of the Grand Mosque, the castle overlooking the city and the remains of the bridge over the Tigris. However, this once mighty city used to play a capital city role to the Artukoğulları Kingdom.



       This Türkmen Dynasty known, as Artukoğulları or Artutids, reigned supreme in the region from the late 11th to the 15th centuries. The dynasty had three main centers, the Hısn Keyfa in Hasankeyf, the Amid in Diyarbakır and the Silvan in Mardin and Silvan. For his role in aiding the great Seljuk King Melikşah, Artuk bey of the Artutids was given Palestine as a gift by the Seljuk king. The Artutids cooperated with the Byzantines and the Seljuks, intermittently broken by wars and disputes. At various times they had to resist the campaigns of crusaders. The remnants of the Artutids, such as mosques, medrese’s (schools) and Turkish baths are still in Hasankeyf and were the first of their kind to be built in Anatolia.



       The population of Hasankeyf, which used to live until 1970 in ancient caves, have now been moved to the bottom of the hill — the area to be flooded by the Ilısu dam waters. There are remnants of diiferent civilizations which lived in the nearby caves. But there are no definite records as to who founded the city. There are not enough remains left in Hasankeyf concerning the Artutids to establish a definite historical record. The castle on a 100-meter-high hilltop overlooks the site of the original city. The castle, built of solid rock, has many escape routes built within it and secret thoroughfares to the Tigris River.

       Its door, built by the Ayyubi civilization, is truly magnificent. We can see pottery pitchers hanging on walls and ceilings that were used for heating and sound insulation. The grand mosque remains in Hasankeyf as the most prominent mark of the Ayyubis on the city.The remanants of the city's castle.

       The Hasankeyf bridge stands as a tribute to what was once a mighty structure taming the Tigris River. It is thought the bridge, which would have extended 100 meters, was built in the 12th century. According to sources, the middle section of the bridge was originally made of wood to allow for its removal should enemies be attacking from the other side. Another significant feature of the bridge is what was once the presence of 12 stars with astrological signigicance on the center bridge supports. Unfortunately, there are only two stars that remain entact. The Zeynel Bey Dome, built by the Akkoyunlular tribe, remains on the opposite side of Hasankeyf. The geometrical designs on the tomb of Zeynel Bey, who fell in battle against the Persians in the Otlukbeli battle in 15th century, is amazing for its beauty.

       Other antiquities in the town include the Sultan Süleyman Mosque, which is in dire need of repair. The Koç Mosque is notable for its beautiful plaster designs. The El Rızk Mosque, east of the Tigris, built by Sultan Süleyman in 1409, has beautiful designs of plant matifs bearing the name of Allah. Kızlar (Girls) Mosque is thought actually to be a memorial tomb.

       But the completion of the Ilısu dam will likely cover all of these treasures of history.


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November 13 —  Did you know that Hasankeyf, which is headed for inundation by waters of a dam in the area, was once a capital city for mor...