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Hasankeyf is located in Turkey
Location of Hasankeyf in Turkey
Coordinates: 37°42′51″N 41°24′47″E / 37.71417°N 41.41306°E / 37.71417; 41.41306Coordinates: 37°42′51″N 41°24′47″E / 37.71417°N 41.41306°E / 37.71417; 41.41306
Country  Turkey
Region Southeastern Anatolia
Province Batman
 - Total 320 km2 (123.6 sq mi)
Population (2000)
 - Total 7,464
 Density 23.3/km2 (60.3/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 72xxx
Area code(s) +(90)488

Hasankeyf (Greek: Kiphas; Turkish: Hasankeyf Latin: Cepha; Aramaic and Arabic: Hisn Kayfa; Syriac: Heskîf ) is a ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Turkey. It was declared a natural conservation area by Turkey in 1981.[1] Kurdish people form the majority in this city.[2]

Much of the city and its archeological sites are at risk of being flooded with the completion of the Ilisu Dam.



It is an ancient city, and has been identified with the Ilanṣura of the Mari Tablets (c. 1800 BC). [3] The Romans had built the Cephe fortress on the site and the city became the Kiphas fortress and a bishopric under the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Arabs (Omayyads), in ca. 640, renamed Hisn Kayf. In the 12th century, the city was successively captured by the Artukids as their capital. During this period, Hasankeyf's golden age, the Artukids and Ayyubids built the Old Tigris Bridge, the Small Palace and the Great Palace. The infrastructure, location and significance of the city helped increase trade and made Hasankeyf a staging post on the Silk Road. The Ayyubids (descendants of Saladin) captured the city in 1232 and built the mosques that made Hasankeyf an important Islamic center.[4]

The city was captured and sacked by the Mongols in 1260. The city would rise from its ashes though as summer homes for Ak Koyunlu emirs were built. Following the Ottoman ascendancy established by Selim I in the region in the early 16th century, the city became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1515, during Sultan Süleyman I's campaign of Irakeyn (the two Iraqs, e.g. Arabian and Persian) in 1534, at the same time as Diyarbakır, Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. [5]

Archeological sites

Hasankeyf is rich in history throughout the ages and aside from the sites below, thousands of caves exist in the cliffs that surround the city. Many of the caves are multi-storied and water-supplied. Churches and mosques were also carved into the cliffs and numerous ancient cemeteries exist throughout the area as well.[6]

The Old Tigris Bridge - Built in 1116 by Artukid Fahrettin Karaaslan, it replaced an older bridge. The bridge over the Tigris River is considered to be the largest from the Medieval Period. Support for the bridge was built with wood in case the bridge had to be removed in order to prevent an attack. Because of this, two piles and some foundation work are all that exist of the bridge today.

The Citadel - This structure sits 100m above the Tigris River, overlooking Hasankeyf. The Citadel has likely been used as a dwelling place for centuries.

Small Palace - This palace was built by the Ayyubids and overlooks Hasankeyf as it sits on a cliff.

Ulu Mosque - Built by the Ayyubids in 1325, on-top of a church's remains.

Great Palace - The palace was built by the Artukids and has an associated rectangular tower that may have been a watchtower.

El Rizk Mosque - The Mosque was built in 1409 by the Ayyubid sultan Süleyman and stands on the bank of the Tigris River. The mosque also has a minaret that has remained intact.

Süleyman Mosque - This mosque was built by Sultan Süleyman and is all but destroyed except for a minaret. Süleyman's grave is missing from the site as well.

Koc Mosque - The mosque is located east of the Süleyman Mosque and was likely built by the Ayyubids.

Kizlar Mosque - Located east of the Koc Mosque, the Kizlar mosque was also likely from the Ayyubid period as well. The section of the structure which is used as a mosque today was a mausoleum in the past, containing grave remnants.

Imam Abdullah Tomb - The tomb lies west of the new bridge in Hasankeyf and it the tomb of Imam Abdullah. Abdullah was the grandson of Cafer-i Tayyar, uncle of the prophet Mohammad. An epitaph on the tomb states that the tomb was restored in the Ayyubid period.

Zeynel Bey Mausoleum - Named after Zeynel Bey, this mausoleum is opposite Hasankeyf on the Tigris River. Bey was the son of Uzun Hassan ruler of the Akkoyunlu Dynasty which ruled over Hasankeyf in the 15th century.

Ilısu Dam impact

Ms. Huriye Küpeli, prefect of Hasankeyf

With its history that spans nine civilizations, the archaeological and religious significance of Hasankeyf is considerable. Some of the city's historical treasures will be inundated if construction of the Ilısu Dam is completed.[7] These include the ornate mosques, Islamic tombs and cave churches.

According to the Bugday Association, based in Turkey, Ms. Huriye Küpeli, the prefect of Hasankeyf, the Swiss ambassador to Turkey and representatives of the Swiss led consortium of contractors for the dam project have suggested what they believe to be a suitable nearby spot for moving the historical heritage of Hasankeyf, an operation for which the Turkish Ministry of Culture pledges to provide 30 million euros.[8]

The threat of the Ilisu Dam project prompted the World Monuments Fund to list the city on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.[9] It is hoped that this listing will create more awareness of the project and prompt the Ilisu Consortium to develop alternate plans that are more sympathetic to this site of exceptional historical and cultural significance.

In December 2008 export credit insurers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland announced suspending their support for the project amid concern about its environmental and cultural impact and gave the Turkish government 180 days to meet standards set by the World Bank.[10]


  • Blue Guide, Turkey, (ISBN 0-393-32137-1), p. 590.
  1. ^ "Hasankeyf". Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  2. ^ Distribution of Kurdish
  3. ^ Michael C. Astour, "The North Mesopotamian Kingdom of Ilansura", in Mari in Retrospect, American Oriental Society
  4. ^ Hasankeyf
  5. ^ Hasankeyf
  6. ^ Hasankeyf
  7. ^ Ahmed, Kamal (2001-07-01). "UK drops Turkish dam plan". The Guardian News and Media Limited.,6903,515248,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  8. ^ Hasankeyf Raman Dağı'na taşınıyor
  9. ^ Davidson, Christina (November 2008). "Turkish Bath". The Atlantic Monthly. pp. 30–31. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  10. ^ Insurers halt work on Turkish dam, BBC World, 24 December 2008

See also

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Hasankeyf is a small village located along the banks of the Tigris River in southeastern Turkey.

It has been settled for perhaps as long as three millennia, though most cliff dwellings are around 2,000 years old. It was perhaps inhabited first by Assyrians and/or Urartians, and then most certainly by successive Roman, Byzantine, Turkic, and Arabic dynasties.

The unforunate thing about Hasankeyf is that it is slated to be inundated upon the completion of a dam project that has been in the works for a couple decades now.

Get in

Hasankeyf is far from the rest of Turkey, but one can easily reach the city of Batman by bus or rail, and then cover the remaining hour or so of travel by minibuses (dolmuş) offered by Hasankeyf town council (Hasankeyf Belediyesi). It costs 3 TL/person. It's also possible to reach Hasankeyf by taking Batman-Midyat-Mardin minibuses.


There isn't much else to do in Hasankeyf but see the ruins. But considering how extensive these ruins are, an entire day (or two) could easily be spent exploring old shepherd paths through narrow side canyons and along the tops of towering limestone cliffs. Until the 1970s many families still lived in the ancient cliff dwellings along the river, but now there aren't more than a few inhabitants. The great thing about Hasankeyf is that the lack of Western tourists- and pretty much anyone at all- really makes you feel that you're pretty off-the-beaten track.


There are a couple of places to eat in town, offering typical Turkish fare and good prices.


A glass of Turkish tea costs 0.50 TL at the open-air village coffeehouse by the new (highway) bridge.


As far as sleeping options are concerned, there is only one hotel on the river and the prices are reasonable but not as cheap as other similar quality hotels in this region of the country. However, the rooms are clean and some even have small balconies overlooking the Tigris River.

It's also possible —and legal according to military polices at the checkpoint on the road from Mardin— to camp on the banks of Tigris. The northern bank (the one on which the village is not located) seems to be more discreet, quiter, greener (like a finely mown patch of lawn), and has better views (of the ruins). If it's weekend, to avoid some (excessive) attention, just wait for the evening to arrive, so the local daytrippers from Batman leaves the place, to erect your tent. Also take usual precautions against scorpions - don't leave your tents and bags un-zipped, check your footwear before wearing them, don't remove rocks, and don't wander out of grass/humid areas at night.

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