Exploring Southeast Anatolia: Hasankeyf

Getting to Mardin was a pretty straightforward task, but where to go from there? Before starting my trip, I read about all these amazingly-sounding ancient places, but due that I was not spending too many days in the area and some connections were not fast or regular, I decided to hire a tour company for a day to see a couple of places which were not too easy to reach.

The first place I really wanted to visit is this ancient town built in the eastern bank of the river Tigris called Hasankeyf. It used to be the capital of the region during the Artuklu dynasty, between the years 1102–1231. When I was doing my research, I came across the fateful end that destiny has reserved for this place: Due to the lack of water in an area basically sustained by agriculture, the Turkish Government has been planning, for years, to build a series of dams which will provide water to around nine milion people living mainly in Eastern Anatolia. This is called the GAP Project. One of these dams, Ilisu Dam, which is already being built, will mean that Hasankeyf  will flood and disappear forever.

So this race against time made it a must see place. With the help of Gabriel, I contacted a local tour company in Mardin called Gezi Kutusu. Nükhet, the owner, met me and greeted me in a perfect Spanish. I liked her non-pushy attitude, honesty (Hasankeyf is not what it used to be, she said) and passion for the area. So, for something around 40 euros, lunch included, the next day I had a guide and driver for myself.

Driving to Hasankeyf from Mardin took nearly 3hrs as we encountered some road works on our way. The guide, who spoke perfect English, told me that the visit would be a quick one, as due to some security risks, it was not possible anymore to visit  the old Citadel, Fortress and caves where people used to sleep during the extreme summer heat.

The first thing that surprised to me compared to Mardin was the poorly conditions in which the inhabitants lived in. When we stopped to look over the town from the other side of the Tigris, a group of kids appeared from nowhere begging for money. The atmosphere was a bit strange, maybe due to the place’s fate. However, there is something special about Hasankeyf. Watching the ruins of what it used to be the largest bridge during the Medieval period when the town enjoyed from its brightest times and imagining it in its full splendour it is a pretty special experience. A kind of beautiful melancholy.

Publicado por Lucia Burbano

Periodista independiente. Vivo en Londres desde el año 2010.

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