Hasankeyf is an open museum located at the end of an impressive gorge formed by the Tigris River. The cave dwellings and ruins of Hasankeyf tell of a long history although it is not known when and by whom Hasankeyf was first established. The Romans built the stronghold of Cephe on the frontier separating the Roman Empire from the Persian Sassanid Empire in a strategic place on the steep rocks overlooking the River Tigris. Under the name Kiphas, which means "steep rock", the Byzantines made it also their stronghold in the south-east of Anatolia. In the fifth century, this place became the seat of a Bishopric. Coveted by the Arabs, in the seventh century, the city fell to the Omeyyads who changed its name into Hisn Kayfa, and later to the Abbassids. Hasankeyf had its golden age when it became the capital of the Turcoman Artukids throughout the 12th century. During this period, a magnificent bridge and two palaces were built. Trade, most of which was done on the river, developed considerably (the city was a staging post on the Silk Road). The Ayyubids (descendants of Saladin), who captured the city in 1232, built mosques that made Hasankeyf an important Islamic center. In 1260, the Mongols invaded the city which suffered badly from this period but rose from its ashes for it became the place where the summer residences of the Turcoman Akkoyunlu emirs ruling the area from Diyarbakir, were built. The city, having stayed under the Safavid hegemony for sometime, was incorporated to the Ottoman Empire in 1515 and gradually lost its historical importance and past glory.

Due to its archaeological and historical assets, Hasankeyf has been declared conservation area since 1981. But within the scope of GAP project, the area is to be flooded by the Ilısu dam, and the works implemented for the rescue of the lower and middle parts of the town are still being carried on.

The Old Tigris Bridge was built in 1116 by Artukid Fahrettin Karaaslan. It probably replaced an older one for when Hasankeyf was conquered by the Arabs in 638, they mentionned the existence of a bridge. This magnificent bridge was also considered to be the largest in the Medieval Period. The opening between the two middle piles which carried the large vault is 40 meter. This vault was made of wood so that it could be removed to prevent access to the city in case of danger. However, it seems that this property shortened the life of the Bridge.

The Citadel is perched on top of steep limestone cliff 100 m / 328 ft above the Tigris. It is clear from the rock cut structures that it has been used as dwelling places since remote ages. The access to the citadel is made through a winding footpath defended by four gates (there were seven in total). The ruins of the Small Palace built by the Ayyubids, raise spectacularly on the edge of the cliff at the north-east end of the citadel which offers a breathtaking view over the valley. Over one of the windows, a relief of two lions and plates with Kufic ****** in******ion can be seen. Further are the ruins of the Ulu mosque built by the Ayyubids in 1325 over the remains of a church. The ruins of the Great Palace, built by the Artukids, are located at the north of the citadel under the Ulu Cami Mosque. The rectangle tower, independent from the building, may have been a watch tower.


El Rizk mosque, built in 1409 by the famous Ayyubid sultan Süleyman, stands on the bank of the river with its imposing minaret which has remained intact. The in******ions on the minaret and the portal door, the vegetal ornaments make the charming characteristics of the Mosque.

Süleyman Mosque, also built by Sultan Süleyman, is completely destructed and even the grave of the Sulatn is lost. Only the minaret, which is adorned with plant ornaments and Kufic ****** in******ions, has survived.

Koç Mosque is located on the eastern side of Suleyman Mosque. From its general properties and plaster ornaments, it is supposed that the mosque belongs to the Ayyubid period. Due to the remains of different buildings around the mosque, it seems that it was part of a "külliye", a complex consisting of a medrese, imaret (soup kitchen), hospital etc...


Kizlar Mosque, located in the east of Koç Mosque, is estimated to belong to the Ayyubid period. The section which is used as a mosque today, was mausoleum in the past. Grave remnants have survived to the present day.

Imam Abdullah Tomb stands on the small hill located at the west side of the new bridge. Imam Abdullah was the grand-son of Cafer-i Tayyar who himself was the uncle of Prophet Mohammed. An epitaph mentions that the tomb was restored at the time of the Ayyubids.


Zeynel Bey Mausoleum is situated on the other bank of the Tigris. Zeynel bey was the son of Uzun Hasan, of the Akkoyunlu dynasty which ruled over Hasankeyf in the 15th century during a short period. One can still see traces of the beautiful turquoise and dark blue glazed tiles that adorned the cylindrical body of the mausoleum, and the calligraphical in******ions mentioning the names of Allah, Mohammed and Ali. This türbe is one of the rare examples of its kind in Anatolia.


Next to these historical traces, all of Hasankeyf locality is interesting because of its thousands of caverns and cave dwellings. Some were multi-storied and water supplied structures. There were also churches and mosques carved into rocks, and cemeteries. Until recently, more than 30 millstones carved into the rock were still used to grind all wheat of the region.


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