Where to Visit in Diyarbakir

Diyarbakir It is the administrative center of Diyarbakir Province.

Situated around a high plateau by the banks of the Tigris river on which stands the historic Diyarbakir Fortress, it is the administrative capital of the Diyarbakir Province of southeastern Turkey. It is the second-largest city in the Southeastern Anatolia Region. As of December 2021, the Metropolitan Province population was 1,791,373 of whom 1,129,218 lived in the built-up (or metro) area made of the 4 urban districts (Bağlar, Kayapınar, Sur and Yenişehir). On 6 February 2023 Diyarbakır was affected by the twin Turkey-Syria earthquakes, which inflicted some damage on its castle.

In ancient times the city was known as Amida, a name which could derive from an older Assyrian toponym Amedi. The name Āmid was also used in Arabic The name Amit is found in Empire of Trebizond official documents from 1358. After the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, the city became known as Diyar Bakr (Arabic: ديار بكرromanized: Diyār Bakrlit.‘the abode of [the tribe of] Bakr’), in reference to the territory of the Banu Bakr tribe, the Diyar Bakr. That tribe had already settled in northern Mesopotomia during the pre-Islamic period. In the 7th century, during the caliphate of Uthman  and under the regional governorship of Mu’awiya, a portion of the tribe was ordered to settle further north in the lands near the city. The city was later also known in Turkish as Kara-Amid (“Black Amid”), on account of its black basalt walls.

In November 1937, Turkish President Atatürk visited the city and after expressing uncertainty on the exact etymology of the city’s name, “Diyarbekir”, in December of the same year ordered that it be renamed “Diyarbakır”, which means “land of copper” in Turkish after the abundant resources of copper around the city. This was one of the early examples of the  Turkification process of non-Turkish place names, in which non-Turkish (Kurdish, Armenian, Arabic and other) geographical names were changed to Turkish alternatives.

In January 1928, Diyarbakır became the center of the First Inspectorate-General, a regional subdivision for an area containing the provinces of Hakkari, Van, Şırnak, Mardin, Siirt, Bitlis and Şanlıurfa. In a reorganization of the provinces in 1952, Diyarbakır city was made the administrative capital of the Diyarbakır Province. In 1993, Diyarbakir was established as a Metropolitan Municipality. Its districts are Bağlar, Bismil, Ergani, Hazro, Kayapinar, Çermik, Çinar, Eğil, Dicle, Kulp,  Kocaköy, Lice, Silvan, Sur, Yenişehir, Hani and Çüngüş. The American-Turkish Pirinçlik Air Force Base near Diyarbakır, was operational from 1956 to 1997.

Diyarbakır has seen much violence in recent years, involving Turkish security forces, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Between 8 November 2015 and 15 May 2016 large parts of Sur were destroyed in fighting between the Turkish military and the PKK.

A 2018 report by Arkeologlar Derneği İstanbul found that, since 2015, 72% of the city’s historic Sur district had been destroyed through demolition and redevelopment, and that laws designed to protect historic monuments had been ignored. They found that the city’s “urban regeneration” policy was one of demolition and redevelopment rather than one of repairing cultural assets damaged during the recent civil conflict, and because of that many registered historic buildings had been completely destroyed. The extent of the loss of non-registered historic structures is unknown because any historic building fragments revealed during the demolition of modern structures were also demolished. As of 2021, large parts of the city and district were restored and government officials were looking towards tourism again.

Many residences and buildings collapsed or suffered substantial damage in the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquakes around 200 miles (300 km) from the epicentre. A Turkish professor and former journalist from the country commented, “It is like having an epicenter of an earthquake in Harrisburg and buildings in New York City are collapsing.

Historically, Diyarbakır produced wheat and sesame. They would preserve the wheat in warehouses, with coverings of straw and twigs from licorice trees. This system would allow the wheat to be preserved for up to ten years. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Diyarbakır exported raisins, almonds, and apricots to Europe. Angora goats were raised, and wool and  mohair was exported from Diyarbakır. Merchants would also come from Egypt, Istanbul, and Syria, to purchase goats and  sheep. Honey was also produced, but not so much exported, but used by locals. Sericulture was observed in the area, too.

Prior to World War I, Diyarbakır had an active copper industry, with six mines. Three were active, with two being owned by locals and the third being owned by the Turkish government. Tenorite was the primary type of copper mined. It was mined by hand by Kurds. A large portion of the ore was exported to England. The region also produced iron, gypsum,  coal, chalk,  lime, jet, and quartz, but primarily for local use.

The city is served by Diyarbakır Airport and Diyarbakır railway station. In 1935 the railway between Elazığ and Diyarbakır was inaugurated.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Christian population of the city was mainly made up of Armenians and Assyrians. The Assyrian and Armenian presence dates to antiquity. There was also a small Jewish community in the city. According to the  Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition from 1911, the population numbered 38 thousand, almost half being Christian and consisting of Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Armenians, Chaldeans, Jacobites, and a few Greeks. During the Governorship of Mehmed Reshid in the Vilayet of Diyarbakır, the Armenian population of Diyarbakir was resettled and exterminated.

There is local jewelry making and other craftwork in the area. Folk dancing to the drum and zurna (pipe) are a part of weddings and celebrations in the area. The Diyarbakir Municipality Theatre was founded in 1990, and had to close its doors in 1995. In was re-opened in 1999, under Mayor Osman Baydemir. It was closed down in 2016 after the dismissal of the mayor in 2016. The Municipality City Theatre also performed plays in the Kurdish language.

Diyarbakır’s cuisine includes lamb dishes which use spices such as black pepper, sumac and coriander; rice, bulgur and butter. Local dishes include Meftune, lamb meat and vegetables with garlic and sumac, and Kaburga Dolması, baked lamb’s ribs stuffed with rice, almonds and spices. Watermelons are grown locally and there is an annual Watermelon Festival.

The core of Diyarbakır is surrounded by an almost intact set of high walls of black basalt forming a 5.5 km (3.4 mi) circle around the old city. There are four gates into the old city and 82 watch-towers on the walls, which were built in antiquity and restored and extended by the Roman emperor Constantius II in 349. The area inside the walls is known as the Sur district; before its recent demolition and redevelopment this district had 599 registered historical buildings. Nearby is  Karaca Dağ.

Great Mosque of Diyarbakır built by the Seljuk Turkish Sultan Malik Shah in the 11th century. The mosque, one of the oldest in Turkey, is constructed in alternating bands of black basalt and white limestone (The same patterning is used in the 16th century Deliler Han Madrassah, which is now a hotel). The adjoining Mesudiye Medresesi/Medreseya Mesûdiyeyê was built at the same time, as was another prayer-school in the city, Zinciriye Medresesi/Medreseya Zincîriyeyê. Behram Pasha Mosque (Beharampaşa Camii/Mizgefta Behram Paşa) – an Ottoman mosque built in 1572 by the governor of Diyarbakır, Behram Pasha, noted for the well-constructed arches at the entrance. Sheikh Matar Mosque with Dört Ayaklı Minare/ Mizgefta Çarling (the Four-legged Minaret) – built by Kasim Khan of the Aq Qoyunlu. Fatihpaşa Camii/Mizgefta Fetih Paşa – built in 1520 by Diyarbakır’s first Ottoman governor, Bıyıklı Mehmet Paşa (“the moustachioed Mehmet pasha”). The city’s earliest Ottoman building, it is decorated with fine tilework. Hazreti Süleyman Mosque/Mizgefta Hezretî Silêman (1155–1169) Süleyman son of Halid Bin Velid, who died capturing the city from the Arabs, is buried here along with his companions. Hüsrevpaşa Camii/Mizgefta Husrev Paşa – the mosque of the second Ottoman governor, 1512–1528. Originally the building was intended to be a school (medrese). İskender Paşa Camii/Mizgefta Îskender Paşa – a mosque of an Ottoman governor, in black and white stone, built in 1551. Melek Ahmet Camii/Melek Ahmed Paşa a 16th-century mosque with tiled prayer-niche and for the double stairway up the minaret. Nebii Camii/Mizgefta Pêxember – an Aq Qoyunlu mosque, a single-domed stone construction from the 16th century. Nebi Camii means “the mosque of the prophet” and is named for the inscriptions in honour of the prophet on its minaret. Safa Camii/Mizgefta Palo – built in the middle of the 15th century under Uzun Hasan, ruler of the Aq Qoyunlu (White Sheep Turkomans) tribe and restored in Ottoman time in 1532.

St. Giragos Armenian Church – first built in 1519, the current structure is from 1883, and was recently restored after a long period of disuse. The Syriac Orthodox Church of Our Lady, was first constructed as a pagan temple in the 1st century BC. The current construction dates back to the 3rd century, has been restored many times, and is still in use as a place of worship today. Mar Petyun (St. Anthony) Chaldean Catholic Church, built in 1681.  Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church. St. Marys Cathedral, St. George’s Church

The Archaeological Museum contains artifacts from the neolithic period, through the Early Bronze Age, Assyrian, Urartu,  Roman, Byzantine, Artuqids, Seljuk Turk, Aq Qoyunlu, and Ottoman Empire periods. Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı Museum – the home of the late poet and a classic example of a traditional Diyarbakır home. The birthplace of poet Ziya Gökalp – preserved as a museum to his life and works. Ahmet Arif Literature Museum Library.

The Dicle Bridge, an 11th-century bridge with ten arches. The Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape, named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.

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