The Citadel and the Walls of Diyarbakir, guarding the city for thousands of years, as if it was guarding a holy relic by surrounding the city magnificently, and 8,000 years old Hevsel Gardens both have been accepted by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) to World Cultural Heritage List.
With its length of 6 kilometers, Walls of Diyarbakir, is the second largest city walls in the world after the Great Wall of China. It is situated 100 m. above the valley of River Tigris. Diyarbakir still carries a medieval atmosphere with its walls encircling the city with its almost intact and impressive, 10-12 meters high and 3-5 meters thick, high walls.
Although there were Roman and probably earlier wallshere, the present walls, date back to early Byzantine times. It welcomes the visitors with relievos and figures on it by telling about the civilizations that lived neighbor on the walls throughout history. There are four main gates along the wall into the old city called as Dag Kapi, Urfa Kapi, Mardin Kapi and Yeni Kapi, each of which deserves a visit along with their inscriptions and reliefs. It also includes 82 watch-towers, which were built in antiquity, approximate 3,000 years ago, restored and extended by the Roman emperor Constantius II in 349.
The earliest reference to the city comes from Assyrian records which identify it as being the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Bit-Zamani (ca. 1300 BC). In the ninth century BC, the city joined a rebellion against the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III. The city was later reduced to being a province of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
From 189 BCE to 384 CE, the region to the east and south of present Diyarbakır came under the rule of the Hellenistic kingdom of Corduene.
Later, the Romans colonized the city and named it Amida, after the earlier Assyrian name Amid. During the Roman rule, the first city walls were constructed (297 AD) and later, the greater walls were built as per the command of the Roman emperorConstantius II. After the Romans, the Persians came to power and were succeeded by the Muslim Arabs. It was the leader of the Arab Bekr tribe, Bekr Bin Vail, who named the city Diyar Bakr, meaning “the country of Bakr”, i.e. Arabs. Much later, in the Republican era, the city got its current name Diyarbakır, which was derived from the abundance of copper ore that exists here.
The area around Diyarbakır has been inhabited by humans from the stone age with tools from that period having been discovered in the nearby Hilar cave complex. The pre-pottery neolothic B settlement of Çayönü dates to over 10,000 years ago and its excavated remains are on display at the Diyarbakır Museum. Another important site is Girikihaciyan Tumulus in Egil
The first major civilization to establish themselves in the region of what is now Diyarbakır were the Hurrian kingdom of the Mitanni. The city was first mentioned by Assyrian texts as the capital of a Semitic kingdom. It was then ruled by a succession of nearly every polity that controlled Upper Mesopotamia such as the Aramean, Assyrians, Urartu,Armenians, Achaemenid Persians, Medes, Seleucids, and Parthians.The Roman Republic gained control of the city in 66 BC by when it was named “Amida”.In 359,Shapur II of Persia captured Amida after a siege of 73 days which is vividly described by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus.
On Gözlü (Ten-Arched) Bridge
Spanning the Tigris River, Ten Arched Bridge is located on the old Mardin Road, some three kilometers south of the Mardin Gate. At the foot of Kırklar Mountain, this bridge is also known as the Tigris Bridge or the Silvan Bridge. According to some sources, the bridge was built in 515 B.C.E. by Anastasias the First, and was destroyed and rebuilt in the middle of the eighth century by the Umayyad Caliphate Hisham. The French architect and archaeologist Albert Gabriel, meanwhile, suggests that the bridge is much older, whereas an inscription between the first three arches of the bridge on the south claims that the structure was built by the architect Sancaroğlu Ubeydoğlu Yusuf between the years of 1065 and 1067 by the Marwanid Dynasty.The bridge is flat and built of basalt stone, and is composed, as the name suggests, of ten arches. The middle three sections are quite narrow, while the five sections to the west are quite wide. In recent years, for reasons of historical preservation, the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality closed the bridge to traffic and constructed another functioning bridge, the Marwanid Bridge, in its place
Deve Geçidi Bridge (Pira Neqeba Deveyan)
This bridge is some 20 kilometers to the north of Diyarbakır, on the road to Ergani, over the Deve Geçidi Brook. On the southern section of the bridge are three inscriptions. According to what they record, the bridge was made in 1218 by the Artuqid ruler Melik Salih Nâsıreddin Mahmud. The bridge has seven section, a pointed or lancet arch, and is made entirely of cut basalt stone. The bridge was last repaired in 1972.
Great Mosque of Diyarbakır
The mosque as it is known today was built in 1091 by the Seljuk ruler Malik-Shah. The design influenced by the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, used the locally found black basalt rock. The mosque suffered extensive damage in a fire in 1155.
The Great Mosque of Diyarbakir is the oldest and one of the most significant mosques in Mesopotamia. Following the Muslim capture of Diyarbakir in 639, a mosque was built, but the building fell into disuse and ruin sometime later. Even after the conversion of the church into the mosque, it was used by both Muslims and Christians. In 1091 Sultan Malik Shah directed the local Seljuk governor Maidud Davla to rebuild a mosque on the site. Completed in 1092, the mosque is similar to and heavily influenced by the Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus (which was repaired by Malik Shah in the twelfth century prior to work in Diyarbakir). The influence of the Damascus mosque brought Syrian architecture and decoration to Anatolia. The portal of the mosque is carved with two lions attacking two bulls. The mosque consists of a prayer hall which makes up the entire south wall of the courtyard, three aisles which together are more than twice as wide as they are deep. The high roof of the central hall is made of timber trusses, supported by rows of rectangular stone piers.
The mosque is actually a complex of buildings around a courtyard 63 metres (207 feet) long by 30 metres (98 feet) wide. The façade of the courtyard is highly decorated two-story colonnade on the east, south, and west sides, with only one story on the north side. The western façade, rebuilt by the Atabek Inaloglu Abu Mansur Ilaldi between 1117 and 1125 following an earthquake and fire in 1115, reuses columns and sculptural moldings from a Roman theater. The architect Hibat Allah al Gurgani was responsible for both that reconstruction and the square minaret rising above the qibla wall. Also included in the complex are the Mesudiye Medresesi (1193) and, not connected to the courtyard, the Zinciriye Medresesi (1189) . The center of the courtyard has an Ottoman (1849) sadirvan (ablution fountain) and a platform for praying; both block a clear view through the courtyard.
Many Kufic inscriptions record in detail the rebuilding and additions made to the complex throughout its long history. Lavish carving and decoration of the columns of the courtyard are one of the distinguishing features of the Great Mosque. The western arcade of the courtyard includes the first use of the broken arch.
Behram Pasha Mosque
Behram Pasha Mosque ( Behram Paşa Camii, Mizgefta Behram Paşa) is a mosque in Diyarbakır.
Construction began in 1564 under the patronage of the local Ottoman governor Behram Pasha (Behram Paşa) and it was completed in 1572. It is built in the classical Ottoman style with a number of domes mounted on high arches. As with many other historical buildings of the city, it is made of the locally found black basalt with alternating bands of white limestone.
Hazreti Süleyman Mosque
Hazreti Süleyman Mosque (Hazreti Süleyman Camii, Mizgefta Hezretî Silêman) is a mosque in Diyarbakır.
The mostly ashlar structure was built between 1155 and 1169 by Nisanoğlu Ebul Kasim. The mosque is divided into three sections and has a square based minaret which has inscription dated to 555 according to the Islamic calendar (i.e. 1160 CE). It contains the tombs of Süleyman, son of Halit B Valit of the Bekir clan and his followers. The mosque was brought to its current state in 1631 by Silahdar Murtaza Pasha.
Sheikh Matar Mosque
Sheikh Matar Mosque or Sheikh Mutahhar Mosque (Şeyh Matar Camii, Mizgefta Şêx Matar or Şeyh Mutahhar Camii) is a historical mosque in Diyarbakır, Turkey, best known for its unique minaret based on four columns, dubbed the Four-legged Minaret (Dört Ayaklı Minare, Minareya Çarling).
The mosque is situated in the Yenikapı Street of Savaş neighborhood at Diyarbakır’s walled historical district of Sur. The mosque is named after Sheikh Matar (Mutahhar) as it is believed that the mosque’s estate covering 600 m2 (6,500 sq ft) contains the grave of the sheikh.
According to an inscription attached at the minaret, the mosque was built by Hajji Hüseyin, son of Hajji Ömer during the reign of Ag Qoyunlu Sultan Kasım Han in 1500. Locally, it is also known as the “Kasım Padishah Mosque”. It is owned by the General Directorate of Foundations.
The mosque is a single-dome, quadratic-plan building having stone masonry walls alternating with brick. There are three windows at each side, and two in the front and backside each, all arched. The two windows on the qibla wall are closed with masonry. It has a covered area of 221 m2 (2,380 sq ft), and can hold up to 500 worshipers.
The stand-alone minaret in the form of a quadratic prism is ereceted on four massive stone columns. In the “Diyarbakır Salnâmeleri” (Yearbooks of Diyarbakır), it is recorded that the tower was built in 906 as a stable and high structure, and was converted into a minaret with the construction of the mosque next to it after the conquest of the region by Islamic people.Today, local people construe that the four columns at the minaret’s base symbolize the four main denominations of Sunni Islam, namely Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i.
The mosque underwent a restoration in 1960 through the General Directorate of Foundations.
Surp Sarkis Armenian Orthodox Church
This church is in the neighborhood of Alipaşa, on Karabulut Street. It has two floors, a space for women on the top floor and on the entrance floor the litany hall. One can today view the extant baptismal room, the stairway leading to the women’s floor, the altar, the courtyard, and the remnant walls of a destroyed school.
While the exact date of construction is unknown, the first written records we have of the church date to the sixteenth century. Because the church was used for a short time as a rice processing plant, it is also widely known as the “Rice Church”.
This church is in Hasırlı Neighborhood, on Muallak Street, and was built in the 19th century. It’s a two-floor structure constructed in a rectangular shape of cut basalt, the second floor a devotedly female social space. Until recently the church was used as a storage facility. Like the aforementioned Armenian church, it too underwent restoration in 2009.
Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church
Built atop a temple used since well before the Common Era as a space of sun worship, The Mother Mary Church was built in the third century C.E, and today is located in Alipaşa Neighborhood on the street called Ana Sokak. Belonging to the Yakubi denomination, also called Assyrian Orthodox, it is one of the few active churches in a city once with a large and vibrant Christian community. The structure includes a library, quarters for the Patriarchate, a guest house, and residence quarters, along with three splendid courtyards.
Housing many historical artifacts, the church’s doors are made of walnut wood, and in the interior, the centuries-old paintings of saints and the silver lamps are particularly remarkable.
As is custom in many Assyrian churches, there are a number of tombs of past patriarchs and priests housed within the church. When, in 1034, the Patriarchate of the church was relocated to Diyarbakır, the Mother Mary Church served the congregation for eight centuries. In 1933, following the deportation and fleeing of many of the city’s Assyrian Christians, the church was linked to the Mardin Assyrian Metropolitan Bishopric, and remains so today.
Mar Petyun Chaldean Catholic Church
In Özdemir Neighborhood on Şeftali Sokak, Peach Street, is this 17th-century church. From January 8, 1681 until recently, the church served as the Diyarbakır Chaldean Patriarchate for Eastern Assyrian Christians, also known as Catholic Chaldeans. The church is divided by archways into four naves. It is open for worship.
Surp Giragos Armenian Orthodox Church
While the exact origin of the church is unknown, references to Surp Giragos first appear in written records in 1517. The church is located on the street called Göçmen Sokak in Özdemir Neighborhood. In 1827 and again in 1880, there were major fires in the church, and after 1880, additional buildings were attached to the church. After these additions, the structure became the only Armenian church in the world with seven altars, two of them being on the second floor where women gather and five close to the entrance. The church once held as many as 3,000 worshippers. To the left of the church is the Surp Hagop Chapel. The chapel is a remnant of the post-1880s renovations. Linked to the main church by its main entrance, the chapel is still in good condition today. Around the time of World War I, the church was used as the headquarters for German military officers, and until 1960 it was used as a storage space for the military, for Sümerbank, and for other similar aims. Recently, however, the church was repaired by the diaspora Diyarbakır Armenian community and returned to its original use.
The main church, the chapel, the Patriarchate’s building, the housing quarters, wells, and three courtyards have lost little of their splendor, and are certainly worth a visit.
The Castle of Diyarbakır
The Castle of Diyarbakır has, for thousands of years, acted as historical guardian of the city’s relics. It sits on a wide plane on the eastern edge of the basalt plateau that rises from the life-giving waters of Tigris. The structure is composed of the earlier Inner Fortress and the Outer Fortress.
As the city’s first site of settlement, the Inner Fortress constitutes the core of the city. The small castle found here was built between 3700-3500 B.C.E. by the Hurrians and the Mitannis.
Because the shape of the Inner Fortress is so intertwined with that of the city walls more generally, some historical context on the walls is helpful: Every civilization that ruled the city expanded the city walls in line with its security needs. The walls were rebuilt from scratch in 349 C.E. by the Roman Emperor Constantius II.
In 362, as a result of an agreement between the Sassanid and Roman Empires, the Sassanids took possession of an important Roman fortification in the nearby city of Nusaybin (Nisibis), and the people of Nusaybin, for religious reasons, migrated to Diyarbakır and settled on the plain along the fortress’ western edge. Following this migration, the western edges of the city walls were destroyed and the people of Nusaybin were brought into the city walls. This reconstruction gave the Diyarbakır Castle its current shape; the new walls expanded the city’s borders, and the Inner Fortress became the administrative center. Another major expansion of the Inner Fortress occurred between the years of 1524 and 1526, when the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent added 16 and two gates. With later repairs and additions, the Inner Fortress took its current form.
What’s more, an archaeological excavation carried out in the Amida/Virantepe Mound also uncovered ruins from an Artuqid palace from the early 13th century. The graves of an important Marwanid rule, Nasruddevle Mansur, and his wife Sittunas are also found in the Inner Fortress.
Diyarbakır has been home to many peoples, cultures and states, representing more than 33 different civilizations.
Also known as Harputkapı, or Harput Gate, after the historic Armenian city of Harput, outside of present-day Elazığ. On the towers to the right and left of the gate are many inscriptions from the Byzantine, Roman, Seljuk, Arab, and Ottoman periods of rule, as well as reliefs of many animal and plant symbols, grape bunches, crosses, and symbols of the sun. Today, the lower floor is used as an exhibition space and houses the Tourism Information Bureau.
Maiden’s Tower-Goat Tower
This curiously named tower is just outside of the district of Mardinkapı. While the exact construction date is unclear, the Goat Tower, built on the site of an ancient temple devoted to sun worship, does contain inscriptions testifying to its repair during the Marwanid Dynasty. This tower is one of the best sites in the city for a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings, with especially fine views of Hevsel Gardens, the ancient Ten-Sectioned Bridge, the Tigris River Valley, Kırklar Mountain, the Seman or Gazi Pavilion, of the spread of Suriçi. This is one of the oldest and largest towers. Of particular interest is the bird figure found on stonework on the front arch just inside the tower. There is also a section inside the tower that was once used as a dungeon. The tower was restored in 2004 by the state Directorate of Surveys and Monuments, and is used today as a reception hall and exhibition space.
Seven Brothers Tower
An artifact of the Artuqid Period, this tower dates to 1208, and was built around the same time as the Grand Wall Tower. There are reliefs on the walls, doubled headed eagles and lions, and the inscriptions are prayers in the name of those who had the wall built.
Evli-Ulu Beden Tower
Built in 1208, this cylindrical tower is considered one of the most beautiful remnants of the period, with delicately carved inscriptions and reliefs of two-headed eagles and the winged lion, an image rooted in regional mythologies.
Commissioned in 1089 by the Seljuk ruler Melikşah. The architect was a man named Selamioğlu Urfalı Muhammed. In terms of its Kufic inscriptions and the variety of animal figures, it is one of the city’s most opulent towers. The sophistication evident in the reliefs of a long-horned goat and a running horse are especially impressive. Also look for the dove motifs next to the inscription and, directly below the doves, the relief of a short-haired woman sitting crossed legged in the nude, holding her feet with her hands. We see that the arts have long been quite advanced in Diyarbakır.
With the Roman construction of the city walls, the Inner Fortress (Içkale) took one a new special role, and in every subsequent period was used as a center of government and administration.
Located in the northwestern corner of the city walls, settlement in the Inner Fortress dates back to the first settled civilizations in the region, the Hurrian and Mitanni (circa 3700-3500 B.C.E.). The mound in the Inner Fortress is referred to as Amida Mound in the archaeological literature, and there are human traces around this mound as far back as 6000 B.C.E., when the city is believed to have been founded. The old Artuqid-era caravanserai inside the Inner Fortress was for a long used as a prison, and is the subject of many of the oral poems in the dengbêj tradition (see below). The other historical sites here were used until 2005 as a Gendarmerie brigade.
Diyarbakır’s city walls have four main gates: Dağkapı (Mountain Gate), Mardinkapı (Mardin Gate), Urfakapı (Urfa Gate), and Yenikapı (New Gate). Inside the Inner Fortress there are also four additional gates, the Saraykapı (Palace Gate), the Küpelikapı (Ringed Gate), the Fetihkapı Gate (Victory Gate), and the Oğrunkapı (Oğrun Gate). The latter two connect the Inner Fortress with outside the city walls, while the former open to the city. Fetih and Oğrun are not in use today.
Dağkapı Dağkapı opens towards the city of Harput.This gate is the site of the governor’s disastrous decision in 1932 to destroy some 200 m of the city walls (the site between Mountain Gate and Single Wall Tower) in the name of increasing air flow in the historic city center.
Yenikapı The eastern gate of the city has a low arch and is a one-way entrance. It links up the city with the Tigris River, and for this reason is also known as the Water Gate or the Tigris Gate.
Urfakapı To the west of the city is Urfakapı, also known Rum Gate or Aleppo Gate. In previous times, the Urfa Gate had two entrances. The first was covered in iron and decorated with animal heads and a two-headed eagle. It was repaired by the Seljuks, and opens onto Melik Ahmet Street. The other door had a stone arch, and in the Byzantine times it was directly connected to the Church of Mother Mary and used only by priests and nuns. A third gate, meanwhile, was built only later.
Mardinkapı South of the old city is Mardinkapı, also known as Tel or Tepe (Hill) Gate. Recently restored, this gate is now open to use.
Who is al-Jazarī?
Considered the father of “robotic” sciences in the Golden Age of Islam, al-Jazarī was the first scientist and engineer to carry out work on cybernetics. His full name was Abū al-‘Iz Ibn Ismā’īl ibn al-Razāz al-Jazarī, and he was born in 1136 in Cizre, in the neighborhood of Tor. This early intellectual spent some time in Diyarbakır, and died in Cizre in 1233. Aside from the early records in Western literature of the Greek mathematician Archytas who invented a prototype of a mechanical pigeon working on steam, al-Jazarī is the earliest recorded instance of robotics and mathematical mechanics. He presented his explorations in his treatise on automata, the Kitāb fī maʻarifat al-ḥiyal al handasiya, which has since become famous in the world history of science and robotics. This extraordinary book contains detailed drawings of the principles behind and potential benefits of more than 50 devices. While the whereabouts of the original is unknown, of the 15 known copies, ten are in various European museums and five are in libraries in Topkapı Palace in Istanbul and in Süleymaniye, in northern Iraq. Another famous work of his, Kitab-ül Hiyel, is a tome of no less than six volumes.