Deep inside Turkey’s far east, part of the awesomely-named province of Batman, there’s an ancient little town with almost 4,000 years of history and a pretty grim future.
Hasankeyf has been part of every major empire that existed in the area, from Romans and Byzantines to Arabs and Ottomans. In recent times, the population shifted into a Kurdish majority.
In spite of its rich history and cultural value, the government’s plan to build a dam over the Tigris river means a big portion of the area will be flooded after its completion.
A little intro
The road that leads to Hasankeyf is a beautiful showcase of natural beauty—following the Tigris river, steppes full of sheep and rock walls along them.
Even before reaching the town, some of the cave house and other ruins are easily visible in the distance.
The remains of a castle crowns the entrance to the citadel, with bas-reliefs of lions welcoming friends and warning enemies.
As we made our way up one of the narrow streets, Ugur—my couchsurfing host—and I were received by Bilal, a little kid who offered to be our guide and took us around the area while telling stories, legends and interesting facts about Hasankeyf.
After a while, we decided to take a rest in one of the coffee shops near the entrance of the archaeological site and met the owner, Hasan, who made us taste a delicious Halve Kavhe and offered us to take us to the closed areas of the archaeological site.
Entering the forbidden and facing the sad truth
Most of the site in Hasankeyf was closed after a tragic accident where a massive part of the mountain fell and killed several tourists.
Still, we were able to enter the place by walking through the main gate and waving at the security guard as we passed by. Another perk of meeting locals when traveling.
Hasan told us more stories about Hasankeyf’s past, showed us the cave houses where his family used to live and talked about what it feels like to know the place you’ve lived all your life has a death sentence and can’t do nothing about it but accept it and try to pay for the small apartments being built on a couple of massive housing complexes, just a couple of kilometers to the North.
Before its too late
With the dam project officially 95% finished, it won’t be long before Hasankeyf lays underwater and with it, its invaluable history.
So if you happen to be around the area, you’re still on time to visit this historical site before its way too late.