About an hour and a half north of Midyat, and just outside of Mardin Province, lies the small village of Hasankeyf. A small and rustic village nestled on the shores of the Euphrates River, Hasankeyf is about as picturesque a place as anyone could possibly imagine. Although the modern city is not much to look at – as is generally the case with modern Turkish cities – historic Hasankeyf lines the banks of the river. Also noted for it’s hiking and interesting geography, Hasankeyf has at times been called the Capadoccia of the East.
A short walk along the Tigris’ sandy banks give unparalleled views of the remnants of the city’s old stone bridge – formerly the largest in the entire world. Looking at the massive stone pylons still jutting out of the river gives the entire scene a sense of something outside of The Lord of the Rings. The entire time I was there I kept expecting to see a Nazgul fly past the area or to stumble upon the walls of Gondor.
This illusion is only further enhanced by the old castle in Hasankeyf. Seemingly built out of a mountain cliff itself, that was hollowed out, the castle overlooks the river and the bridge in constant vigil. Unfortunately the castle was inaccessible when we went there – heavy rains for the past two days had caused the first floor to be flooded, and a landslide had crushed some unfortunates a few days before that.
This flooding foreshadows the future of Hasankeyf. Guide books from as early as 2005 have warned of damming plans in the area that would cause Hasankeyf to be entirely below water. Every book, though, regardless of year states that within a year or two the town will be no more. When in the city, I ran across a police officer. When I asked him if this destruction was true, he confirmed it… Although he also said that the plan wouldn’t be complete for another five or ten years.
Maybe Turkey’s love of conspiracy theories has rubbed off on me, but how genius would it be to encourage tourists by saying that the sight you want to see will cease to exist in a few years? In any case, Hasankeyf is truly a magical location in Turkey – perhaps one of the most beautiful I have seen in all of Turkey. The only town I can think that could even come close to rivaling Hasankeyf in beauty is Amasya, in the Black Sea Region.
In typical Turkish style too, there was no room in the dolmuş back to Midyat for Fabio and myself. Luckily, the trunk was empty except for an expectant stool and a sack of potatoes. It is always nice to leave a place in style.