The true treasures of... Turkey
Michael Fleetwood, Cox & Kings’ Europe Product Manager, visited the central and southeastern Anatolian regions of Turkey on a fact-finding tour.
Travelling from the rock formations of Cappadocia, through the towns of Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, Adana, Kahta, Gaziantap to the marvellous city of Mardin, the diverse nature of the country is showcased in these regions.
There were numerous highlights ranging from the Pool of Abraham with its holy fish in Sanilurfa, the archaeological museum in Gaziantep, which contains some of the finest Roman mosaics outside of Italy, Diyarbakir with the 2nd longest city walls in the world and the renowned fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, but my three personal favourites were as follows:
Located about 30 minutes drive from Sanilurfa, on former East-West trading routes, is the small village of Harran, which has been fought over for centuries. The border of Syria is only 10 miles away, so inhabitants use a mixture of Arabic and Kurdish in their dialects. The village is renowned for its conical domes and was the scene of one of the Roman Empire’s worst defeats; the battle of Carrhae. Fought in 53 BC, the battle was a meeting of two empires- Rome and Parthia and the defeat change the course of Roman history.
The conical domes in Harran were built between 150-200 years ago from bricks gathered from the ruins of the old town. The heights of the domes are generally about 5 metres high, constructed on square prismatic bases. The houses are surprisingly spacious inside, because arches connect every neighbouring dome. Cool in the summer and mild in the winter, these houses are suitable for the changing climate in the region. In the 1980s and 90s the government decided that the houses were not fit for the local population to live in and evicted all the residents from them but locals have since returned.
It was believed that Nemrut, or Belli as it is known locally, was constructed in the 1 BC by King Antiochus the First who ruled Commagene as an annexed Kingdom under Roman control. The actual purpose of the site was as a burial chamber for the King but his underground tumulus has never been discovered. The main focus for visitors is the terraces, which contain the various statues of the Commagene Royal Family, the Greek Gods and either a lion or Imperial Eagle. Presently there are only three terraces that can be visited, the east, north and west.
The east terrace is comprised of 4 sections; a line of stone heads in front of their stone bodies, which is seen on entering; to the left, a gallery dedicated to the King’s mother; to the right, a gallery dedicated to the Persian Emperors; and the last was a Fire Altar which looked out across the Kingdom below. The west terrace follows the same layout as the east but instead of a fire altar, there is a gallery dedicated to the Greek Gods. All of the Persian reliefs are much more visible but the most impressive is that of Darius.
Fast becoming one of the fashionable cities in Turkey, Mardin has a magical atmosphere, which will captivate even the most seasoned traveller. Located on the side of a mountain with the plains of Syria in the distance, you can wander around the small narrow streets, which have not changed in style since the city was built in 4500 BC. Watch the Syrian Orthodox gold and silver smiths in their workshops, enjoy a cup of Turkish tea in a teagarden or just visit one of the many mosques, which are dotted around the city.
Any visitor to the city, must explore the Sabanci museum of local history which explains how this melting pot of Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Jews, Armenians and Suriani, the Syrian Orthodox Christians have contributed their own culture’s to the history of Mardin.
View our Ancient Wonders of Southern Turkey group tour 10 Day / 9 Night tour starting from £1,445 per person.