On the banks of the river Tigris (Turkish Dicle), surrounded by grim basalt walls, lies the proud city of Diyarbakır, the unofficial capital of Eastern Turkey.
Historically, Diyarbakır was called Amed, the name it still carries in Kurdish. In the 7th century, the Arab tribe of the Banu Bakr settled in the region and called it "Diyar Bakr", which means "Land of the Bakr". In 1937, the city was officially renamed to Diyarbakır, meaning "Land of copper" in Turkish, after the large resources of copper in the area.
Like so many places in Mesopotamia, Diyarbakır has a long and impressive history. The earliest signs of habitation date back to the Neolithic period, some 10,000 years ago, but its actual history begins with the Hurrian Kingdom of Mittani (c. 1,500 BCE), followed by the rule of the empires of Urartu, Assyria, Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Seleucids. In 115 CE, it became part of the Roman Empire who called it Amida, but it was disputed by the Persian Sassanids who took control in 359. The city changed hands numerous times until the Arabs conquered it in 639 and started to call it Diyar Bakr, Land of the Bakr.
In the next few centuries, the city was ruled by several local dynasties including the Seljuks and the Ayyubids. It became the plaything between the competing Turkoman Ak Koyunlu and Kara Koyunlu, and between the Ottoman and Safavid Empire. After the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the region was made part of the new state. Diyarbakır's modern history has been marked by the conflict between the Turkish state and various Kurdish insurgence groups. In recent years, the city was the victim of terrorist attacks.
Sights and Photos of Diyarbakır
Located at the crossroads of Anatolia and the fertile plains of Mesopotamia, Diyarbakır has a foreign, oriental atmosphere with much of the architecture being of Arab rather than Ottoman style. There are women dressed in the chador or wearing colourful Kurdish headscarves, men with big beards and şalvar baggy pants. The old city is surrounded by dark basalt city walls, whose origins date back to the 4th century CE when the Roman Emperor Constantius II ordered their construction. They were rebuilt by the Byzantines and restored by the Ottomans when they took control of the city. The walls are considered perfect examples of the military architecture of the Middle Ages. Diyarbakır's city walls are the second-largest (5.5 km's) and best-preserved walls in the world after the famous Great Wall of China and have been placed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List since 2015.
In the historical centre, next to the main streets there is a maze of narrow alleys that lead to ancient Christian churches. You will need some assistance here to find your way. The Orthodox Syrian (Jacobite) Church of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Kilisesi) is still in use and beautifully maintained. It is surrounded by a high basalt wall and extremely difficult to find in the narrow streets of Diyarbakir. However, only about 15 families still attend the services. Another church is the Kaldani Kilisesi or Chaldean Church. It is used by Christians following the Syrian rite. Diyarbakir is also famous for its watermelons and each year there is the famous Diyarbakir Watermelon Festival.
Here are the photos of Diyarbakır, click on the thumbnails to see greater pictures.
Travel Information and Travel Tips
When security measures allow it, a one-day excursion to Mardin and its monasteries is not to be missed. Mardin is a highlight of cultural tourism.