Diyarbakir: A Profile
Situated on the banks of the Tigris (Dicle) river in South-Eastern Anatolia, Diyarbakir still maintains a medieval air with its black basalt walls encircling the city.
Starting from the earliest times the city was ruled by the Hurri-Mithani, Hittites and Assyrians. It was once the capital city of the Arami Bit-Zamani Kingdom. It was later occupied or ruled by the Medians, Persians, Macedonians, Seleukos, Romans, the Ilkhanide and the Akkoyunlu Seljuks. It is referred to as Amidi, Amid, Amido or Amida in different reference sources. In Islamic / Arabic sources it is cited as "Diyar - i - Berk". In the republican era it started to be known as Diyarbakir deriving from the copper ore existing in the area.
These black basalt walls are perfect examples of the military architecture of the Middle Ages. They are also very well known since they are the second largest (5.5 kilometers) and best preserved walls in the world after the famous Great Wall of China. Although there were Roman and probably earlier walls here, the present walls date back to early Byzantine times. There are sixteen keeps and five gates, each of which is worth seeing along with their inscriptions and reliefs. There are four main gates along the wall called as Dag Kapi, Urfa Kapi, Mardin Kapi Yeni Kapi, and they open out to four different directions. The walls are 12 meters high, 3-5 meters wide and have 82 watchtowers.
The most famous structure which bear witness to the rich historical heritage of Diyarbakir is its fortress. This fortress located on a solid rock called "Fis" 100 meters high from theTigris (Dicle) river is believed to be built by the Hurri. The citadel has a domed basilica (a Nasturian Church from the 6th century), a mosque, Sahabeler tomb, an Artuklu Palace and some old official buildings.
You will have the opportunity to go back to ancient times at the Deliler Han (Inn) by the Mardin Kapi of the City Walls. It was built by Husrev Pasha in 1527 and also known by his name. It is now restored as a hotel with 120 beds preserving the original air of ancient times when caravan travellers on the Silk Road used to stop and rest in this caravanserai. It is a double structure with a two storey main part and an external stable. The local people call it "deliler" (guides) since guides who took pilgrims from various locations to Mecca each year used to gather here. The remains existing just across from the inn are also attributed to pilgrims.
Another fascinating sight in the city centre is the Ulu Mosque notable for its original architecture and the ancient materials used in the restoration of the building at various times. It is one of the oldest mosques in Turkey. It is known that the Church of Saint Thomas was gradually converted to the current mosque. It is a grand and impressive structure built of cut stone over an area of 80 x 80 meters. The minaret behind the mosque is rectangular in shape . Its fountain (1849), carved marbles and niche are all important artworks. The walls of the mosque are also ornamented with reliefs and carvings. The minaret and the gate bear 20 inscriptions dating back to various periods in history. The tombs in the courtyard were destroyed by the Persian King Ismail in 1507.
The province covers a territory of 15,355 square kilometers. Dry farming and fallow are practiced over most of its cultured land. The population is approximately 1.5 million living in 13 districts (including the central town) and 734 villages. Its administrative districts are Bismil, Cermik, Cinar, Cungus, Dicle, Ecil, Ergani, Hani, Hazro, Kocakoy, Kulp, Lice and Silvan.
Diyarbakir is located on a transition zone connecting the mountainous northern areas and the plains of Mesopotamia. It is presently at the centre of the highway network connecting other important settlements of the region such as Elazig, Mardin, Sanliurfa and Bitlis. The railway reached the city centre in 1935. Diyarbakir has air connections to the big city centres of Turkey such as Istanbul and Ankara.
Despite its present status of dependency on crop farming and stock breeding, Diyarbakir has a considerable potential for other investment ventures and presently it is the second largest industrial centre of the region after Gaziantep. It has an enterprise zone for small industry. Diyarbakir is one of the provinces accorded priority for development. The province is now moving to concentrate on feed and meat production with increased capacity for marketing, while maintaining its traditional branches of industry.
Jewellery manufacturing, silk processing, coppersmith works, pottery, leather works, felt making, textiles, embroidery and carpet making are the leading handicrafts in Diyarbakir. Among them jewellery manufacture is still the most important. Mat bracelets, coriander, necklaces and silver ornamented wooden shoes are the specialised crafts of the province. Sericulture is practiced at the city centre and in the districts of Kulp, Silvan and Lice. However silk production is in decline. Textile production which had its golden age in the 40s now survives only in small workshops.