Top 10 things to do in Diyabakır
Top 10 things to do in Diyabakır
GÖNÜL AYDEMİR / ISTANBUL - Spring is probably one of the best times to visit the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, generally reaching highs of 40-plus degrees Celsius in the summer. With two important festivals taking place in the city in March, here are only 10 of the numerous things you can do and see on your tour of the fortified city:
1- Climb to the top of Diyarbakır Fortress
The Diyarbakır Fortress, the great circuit of basalt walls surrounding the city with 16 towers and five gates is Diyarbakır's most distinguishing feature. Climb to the top for a spectacular view of the city and if you have the chance, watch the sunset, as the sunsets in the east are much more dramatic.
2- Breakfast at Hasan Pasha Inn
As Diyarbakır is one of the centers of the historical Silk Road, it is home to major historical inns. One of these is the Hasan Pasha Inn, the city's second largest extant inn. Restored in recent years, with many of the old rooms converted into quaint breakfast restaurants, start the day with a breakfast "fit for a king" at this double-story inn and scavenge for gifts and souvenirs at the shops located in the courtyard.
3- See the Four-Legged Minaret
Turning in to the street next to Hasan Pasha Inn, you will be greeted by the Four-Legged Minaret. What makes this minaret interesting is its engineering. It is the only minaret in Turkey built on four pillars, each about 2 meters high. The four pillars represent the four madhhabs in Islam, or the schools of thought, and the minaret represents Islam. It is said that if you pass between the legs of the minaret seven times, your wish will come true.
4- Visit the Grand Mosque
Right across Hasan Pasha Inn is the famous Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque), known to be the first mosque in Anatolia. The black and white striped mosque was originally a Pagan temple that was later used as a church, named Mar Toma. The building was converted to a mosque following the city's take over over by Muslims in 639. Each side of the mosque is allocated to one of the four main madhhadbs of Islam, in that one side is used for prayers by the Hanafis, one by the Shafiis, one by the Hanbalis and one by the Malikis. The mosque's courtyard also houses an ancient sundial believed to be from the Roman era. However, some sources state that the sundial was built by Kurdish scientist al-Jizri.
5 Shop at the old bazaars
An important trade center throughout the times, linking Mesopotamia to Anatolia, Diyarbakır boasts hundreds of covered bazaars. Famous traveler Evliya Çelebi states in his 16th-century "Book of Travels" that there are about 676 market places in the city. Handcrafted goods, jewelry, drawers, silver ornamented horseshoes, handwoven carpets and rugs are some of the most sought-after products sold in the city's bazaars.
6- Eat watermelon
Don't be surprised if you see the huge watermelon statue in the city center while traveling in Diyarbakır. Home to the ever-fertile World Heritage Site Hevsel Gardens, Diyarbakır is considered the land of watermelons. The biggest, juiciest and tastiest watermelons of all are believed to grow in Diyarbakır. Do not leave without treating your taste buds to a slice of watermelon, which is sure to have you hanging for more.
7- The Dengbej House experience
Dengbej, storytelling through songs is an old Kurdish tradition. The dengbeji (storytellers), who gather at the Dengbej House, inaugurated by the Diyarbakır Municipality in 2007, transmit Kurdish culture, oral literature, history through their powerful voices. The Dengbej House, open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except Mondays, is said to be the only one in the region. The venue is a century-old Diyarbakır house with two large rooms and a spacious courtyard, with up to 15 dengbejis visiting daily to sing.
8- 'Eyvan night' at Gazi Mansion
Used as military headquarters during World War I, the 15th-century Gazi Mansion was later purchased by the municipality in 1935 and gifted to Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The Orient House in the mansion's garden holds "eyvan nights" every Saturday evening. Eyvan nights are the Diyarbakır version of Şanlıurfa's popular "sıra nights," where families gather and enjoy the music and line dancing while they eat.
9- Join the Nevruz celebrations
Perhaps the biggest event in the predominantly Kurdish regions of the country, Nevruz, the festival ushering in the first day of spring, is celebrated on March 21, draws in thousands of people to the city every year. The Diyarbakır Municipality offers free buses to the festival site for a great day out with music, traditional dance, food stalls and a great atmosphere. An excellent opportunity for a closer look at Kurdish culture.
10- Attend the Murat Carnival
The Murat Carnival, held in Diyarbakır's Silvan district from March 28-30 every year, is one of Anatolia's oldest events. Although the actual start date is unknown, it is said the event dates back to 641 A.D. Every year, the three-day, three-night carnival receives tens of thousands of visitors from various Turkish cities – predominantly from the southeast. With bazaars set up throughout the carnival area, selling goodies for visitors to take back home, the chance to take part in horse races, attend a traditional henna night, join in the folk dances – typically a form of line dancing popular throughout the region – and dhikr, the invocation of God, accompanied by the daf, a frame drum similar to the tambourine, the Murat Carnival is sure to be an extraordinary experience.