South East Region     

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The Southeastern Anatolia Region has a very rich history and cultural heritage, as can be seen in its magnificent historic sites. Its history begins around 7000 B.C. in the New Stone Age. Between 2,000 B.C. and 1,500 B.C. came the Hurris who were followed by the Hittites sometime around 1,200 B.C.

Halil Rahman Mosque, Sanli Urfa

In the land which encircles the Firat (Euphrates) and the Dicle (Tigris) Rivers, lived Abraham, the patriarch claimed by three global religions. Some think that Abraham was born in what is now called Sanli Urfa, supposed to have been Ur of the Chaldees, and later moved south from the city to Harran. In Harran, which was an important Mesopotamian historic and cultural center, the ruins of one of the largest and oldest Islamic universities can be seen among the archeological remains. Restoration of the 18th-century mansion, Kucuk Haci Mustafa Hacikamiloglu Konagi, is now complete. It has reopened as an art gallery.


When you travel from the south to the north over the Mesopotamian plains, the first high mountain to be seen is the picturesque Mount Nemrut, with the mausoleum of the Commagene King Antiochus at its 2,150 m peak.

Sanli Urfa

The most important areas of the region are Diyarbakir; whose city walls are a superb example of medieval military architecture; Mardin, with its regional architecture; and Gaziantep, a large trade and industrial center which contains the remains of late Hittite cities.

Ataturk Dam (GAP)

The Ataturk Dam Lake is the region's holiday and water sports center. There are many beaches along the shore, which can give you an unforgettable holiday experience under the Mesopotamian sun.


The Southeastern Anatolia Project is the largest and most multifaceted development project in Turkey as well as one of the largest development projects in the world. The project includes active farming with extensive irrigation systems and electricity production.


The Southeastern Anatolia Project covers the lower parts of the Firat and Dicle Rivers and the provinces of Gazi Antep, Sanli Urfa, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Siirt, Batman and Sirnak on the plains between the rivers.

The Ataturk Dam and Hydroelectric Plant, the largest in Turkey and the sixth largest in the world, is situated on the Firat River in the town of Bozova in Sanli Urfa. Ataturk Dam, which is the foundation of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, began operation in 1994 and is important, not only for energy production, but also for irrigation.

Ataturk Reservoir (GAP)

The water obtained from the reservoirs of the Ataturk Dam will be carried to the Harran plain by the Sanli Urfa Tunnel System, which is the largest in the world, in terms of length and rate of flow. The waters of the Firat (Euphrates) River passes through tunnels which are 26.4 kms in length and 7.62 ms in diam, and distributed to the vast crop lands of the southeastern Anatolian plains from central and branch channels, bringing a prosperity to the region.


To explore the sites along Turkey's southern border, take the highway which connects Gazi Antep, Sanli, Urfa and Mardin to Syria and Iraq. Gaziantep (685 km southeast of Ankara) is located on a wide and fertile plain cultivated with extensive olive groves and vineyards and produces a wide variety of agricultural crops. It is especially known throughout Turkey for its excellent pistachios. Industry also contributes to the local economy.

Wood Carving, Kahraman Maras

The 36 towers of the city's fortress were originally constructed in the Justinian era and were later rebuilt by the Seljuks. The Archeology Museum has important artifacts from Neolithic, Hittite and Roman times. The Hasan Suzer House, from the turn of the last century, has been beautifully restored as the Ethnographical Museum. The artisans of Gaziantep specialize in copperware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The kitchens here produce some of the best lahmacun, a delicious pizza topped with spicy meat and herbs, and also baklava, a honey and nut pastry.

Yesemek Open Air Museum, Gazi Antep

West of Gazi Antep, the Duluk Forest makes a good day's outing, or you can stay overnight in the campsite. In the woods, stroll through the archeological site which dates back to prehistoric times. A Hittite school of sculpture was centered in Yesemek, where the 200 works of art still reveal the beauty of' the Hittite period. Next to the Syrian border, on the banks of the Firat River, Kargamis, once a late Hittite capital, is another important archeological site. The site's finds, including immense bas-reliefs, have been moved to the Museum Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.

Belkis (Zeugma), Gazi Antep

The ruins of Belkis (Zeugnia) are on the edge of Nizip. There is a mound which was turned into a citadel and mosaics from the Roman period which are well worth seeing.

Kilis, near the Turkish-Syrian border en route to Gazi Antep, was originally known in the Assyrian archives as Kilizi. Kilis is important for its cotton and silk weaving and also for its leather products. This most charming area is dotted with vineyards and olive groves. Also interesting are the Canbolat Bey complex, the old baths and a center that once housed a dervish order. Several other sites worth seeing nearby include Ravanda Castle, situated between Kilis and Gaziantep. Five km to the northeast is the town of Kuzeyne (Korus) that is like an open-air museum with its castle and mosaics. What makes it special is that here one can view ruins from Hittite, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic times all in one place. An ancient Roman center is found 20 km east of Kilis in the town of Korus (Kiriz). Ruins of a castle, a temple and a theater await your visit.

Hercules shaking hands with Mithradates, King of Arsameia (Eski Kale), Adiyaman

In the 12th century BC, Kahraman Maras (78 km north of Gazi Antep) was the capital of the Hittite state of Gurgum. A massive citadel built in the 2nd century BC now houses the city museum with a good collection of Hittite sculptures. Other sites include the 15th-century Ulu Mosque and the Tas Medrese. The city is famous throughout Turkey for its ice cream, thickened with gum arabic and beaten with a wooden paddle.

Mount Nemrut, Adiyaman

Adiyaman is 153 km northeast of Gazi Antep. The Archeological Museum houses regional finds from the Lower Firat which date from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages. Good quality kilims, woven in bright colors sell for reasonable prices in the bazaar. Surrounding monuments include the ruins of an Abbasid citadel (restored by the Seljuks) and the 14th-century Ulu Mosque. The discovery of oil in the region has brought prosperity to Adiyaman, Five km to the north is Pirin (Perre), that boasts a large Roman necropolis dug out of the rock and soil. The Haydaran rock tombs and a relief of King Antiochus shaking hands with the sun god are found 17 km north of Adiyaman in the village of Tasgedik.

Karakus Tumulus, Adiyaman

Adiyaman and Kahta (which also has good accommodations and camping facilities) make good bases from which to visit Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut) National Park. You can hire transportation in either town. On the summit of Nemrut Dagi, the highest mountain in Northern Mesopotamia at 2,150 m, sits the gigantic funerary sanctuary erected in the first century B.C. by King Antiochus I of Commagene. The engineering involved continues to amaze visitors seeing for the first time the artificial tumulus, flanked by terraces on which rest the colossal statues of Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, Tyche and Antiochus. Time has inflicted heavy damage on the sculptures - their torsos sit with their beautifully carved heads at their feet.

At ancient Eskikale (Arsameia of Nymphaios), a magnificent relief in the ruins of what scholars believe might have been the Commagene Palace depicts Hercules greeting the Commagene king, Mithradates. Anatolia's largest Greek inscription is also located here. Opposite this site, separated by the Eski Kahta River, are the remains of Yenikale (New Castle) built by the Mamluks. Other nearby sights include the 2nd century Roman bridge at Cendere (which is still in use) and another Commagene royal tumulus, Karakus. At Karakus. there is a nine m high pillar dating from the first century BC with an eagle on top.

Typical houses, Harran - Sanli Urfa

In the great Upper Mesopotamian plain, Sanli Urfa, thought by some to be the ancient city of Ur and later known as Edessa, proudly exhibits the legacy of all the civilizations that have prospered in this region.

Ulu Mosque Ruins, Harran, Sanli Urfa

Some of the oldest signs of civilization, dating to 7000 B.C., were found 70 km northwest of Sanli Urfa, at the village of Kantara. The recent development of dams and a hydroelectric plant stand in stark contrast to the ancient site of a temple and Neolithic settlement which is 9000 years old. The temple has been identified as a religious center for moon worship. This site is the only one of its kind in the world. Visitors can view small idols and religious figures as well as some very early and beautiful mosaic work from the settlement. On a hill 20 km north of Sanli Urfa lies Gobekli. This settlement is also at least 9000 years old, and may rest atop even older settlements in lower layers of the artificial hill. The probable work place of an ancient idol maker can be seen here where many finished and unfinished human and animal figures and tools have been found.

Ibises in Birecik - Sanli Urfa

The Sanli Urfa area, in the second millennium B.C., was a city of a Hurrite state. Some believe that Abraham was born in a cave near where the Mevlid Halil Mosque now stands. Today, the cave is a pilgrimage site whore flocks of pigeons do not seem to disturb the elderly men praying around the entrance. The remains of a castle with two lone Corinthian columns rising above the ruined walls stands atop a small crest. At the foot of the hills, the lovely Halil Rahman Mosque is built around a quiet pool in which sacred carp swim. The 17th-century Ottoman Ridvaniye Mosque and the Firfirli Mosque, formerly the Church of the Apostles, are worth a detour. The archeology and ethnography museum, one of the best in Turkey, houses important Neolithic and Chalcolithic finds from the Lower Firat region. To capture the spirit of Sanli Urfa, wander through the vaulted eastern bazaar and linger in the courtyards of the old hans (inns). See if you can find Gumruk Hani and Barutcu Ham - the most interesting of the old hans.

Stone Carving, Mardin

Believed to be the ancient city of Haran mentioned in the Old Testament, Harran, 48 km south of Sanli Urfa, is known more now for its unusual beehive dwellings than as the place where Abraham actually spent several years of his life. Harran, which was also known as Helenopolis, was burned and destroyed by Mongolian invaders in 1260. Included among the archeological finds are those of the largest ancient Islamic university, city walls dating from the eighth century, four gates and a citadel.

Deyrulzaferan Monastery, Mardin

Birecik, 80 km west of Sanli Urfa, straddles the Firat River and is dominated by the citadel. It is a good place to take a break with confortable accommodations and camping facilities. The endangered Ibis also lives in a protected environment here.

Hasankeyf, Batman

Diyarbakir, known in ancient times as Amida, has been a cradle of 26 civilizations during its 5000-year history. The city is spread across a basalt plateau close to the banks of the Dicle (Tigris) River. The black basalt triple walls which encircle the old town give the city a rather ominous appearance. These ramparts are 5.5 km in length, have 16 towers and 5 gates arc decorated with inscriptions and bas-reliefs, and represent a superb example of medieval military architecture. The Ulu Mosque, built by the Seljuk basalt. The Nebii Mosque represents the typical Ottoman style, while the Safa Mosque exhibits Persian influences in its tiled minaret. The third century Aramaic Church of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana Kilisesi), which is still in use today, also makes for an interesting visit. For an example of early domestic architecture, stop at the restored home of the writer Cahit Sitki Taranci. The sultan Melik Shah is notable for its original design for its utilization of both Byzantine and more ancient architectural materials. The mihrap (prayer niche showing the direction to Mecca) of the nearby Mesudiye Medrese is made of the local black Deliller Han (Inn) of 1527 by the Mardin Gates, converted into a hotel, recreates the atmosphere of the days when trading caravans stopped Diyarbakir. Just outside the city walls, by the river, stands Ataturk's house, now a museum. South of town at the Dicle Bridge, built in 1065, you can take a great picture of the Dicle River, the bridge and the city walls.

Deliller Inn (Han), Diyarbakir

In Silvan, 77 km east of Diyarbakir you should stop at the graceful Ulu Mosque, which dates from 1185, to admire the fine flowing lines of stone relief work that outline the pointed arch portal.

Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, Hasankeyf, Batman

Cayonu, one of the earliest Neolithic settlements yet to be discovered, dates from the seventh millennium B.C.

Ulu Mosque Tiles, Siirt

From a distance, the golden stone houses of Mardin blend into the rock of the hills on which the city is built. On closer inspection, the stone carving and decoration of the houses and public buildings reveals the city to be an architectural treasure. The citadel was built in 975-976 by Harridan. It is a km long from east to west, and from 30 m to 150 m wide. Ulu Mosque is Mardin's oldest mosque built in 1186 in the time of the Artukid ruler, Kutbeddin Ilgaz. The 15th-century Kasim Pasa Medrese is remarkable for its fine stonework. At the lovely Isa Bey Medrese, from the 14th century, you can admire the magnificently carved portal and climb to its roof to enjoy a fantastic view of the Mesopotamian Plain.

Midyat, famous for its silver jewelry known as "telkari," also has many elegant and historic houses. Eighteen km east of town is the active Syriac-Jacobite monastery of Deyrelumur (San Gabriel), which dates from the beginning of the fifth century.

Women making "yufka"

Batman is the oil-producing center, with oil pumping the precious fuel dotting the surrounding area. North of Batman, the Malabadi Bridge, built in 1147, spans the Batman River. Undisturbed by time, peaceful waters still reflect the widest single-arch bridge of its day. Two guard towers ensured the bridge's security.

At Hasankeyf are the ruins of the 12th-century capital of the Artukids. The bridge, which once spanned the Dicle (Tigris) and connected the two parts of the city with the ruined palace inside the citadel, evokes the ghosts of a vanished dynasty. The l5th-century Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, attractively decorated with turquoise tiles, reveals Persian influence.

Ulu Mosque, Mardin

Siirt, 192 km northeast of Diyarbakir, was an especially eminent city at the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. Among the city's monuments, be sure to visit the 12th-century Seljuk Ulu Mosque and the 13th-century Asakir Carsi Mosque. At Aydinlar (Tillo), only seven km from Siirt, the l8th-century Ibrahim Hakki Mausoleum Complex and nearby private Ibrahim Hakki Astronomical Museum are worth a visit. Ibrahim Hakki, who studied science under Seyh Ismail Fakirullah, wrote over 40 works, the best of which are Ilahiname and Marifetname. Siirt produces fine and large pistachio nuts and is known as well for its excellent goat-hair blankets and kilims.

Baykan County in Siirt is home of the Veysel Karam Mausoleum. Veysel Karani was the beloved friend of the prophet Muhammad who was killed in battle in 657. The mausoleum is located 38 km north of Siirt and eight km southwest of Baykan at the intersection of the Siirt- Diyarbakir-Bitlis highways. A Veysel Karani memorial service is held each year on May 16-17.

Mount Cudi Sirnak

Sirnak on the north face of Mount Cudi (2,114 ms), derives its name from the Muslim belief that Noah's Ark landed on this mountain: Sir-City, Nak-Noah. Forty-five km from Sirnak, Cizre is the supposed location of his tomb.



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