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Diyarkabir: photo city walls

On the banks of the river Tigris, surrounded by grim basalt walls lies the proud city of Diyarbakır. Diyarbakir, located on the cross-roads of Anatolia and the fertile plains of Mesopotamia has a foreign, oriental atmosphere with much of the architecture being of Arab rather than Ottoman style. There are women dressed in the chador or wearing colorful Kurdish headscarves, men with big beards and baggy pants. The old city is surrounded by dark basalt city walls that are perfect examples of the military architecture of the Middle Ages. They are the second largest (5.5 kms) and best preserved walls in the world after the famous Great Wall of China. In the historical center, next to the main streets there is a maze of narrow alleys that lead to ancient Christian churches. You will need some assistance here to find your way. The Orthodox Syrian (Jacobite) church of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Kilisesi) is still in use and beatifully maintained. It is surrounded by a high basalt wall and extremely difficult to find in the narrow streets of Diyarbakir. However, only about 15 families still attend the services. Another church is the Kaldani Kilisesi or Chaldean Church. It is used by Christians of the Syrian rite. Diyarbakir is also famous for its watermelons and each year there is the famous Diyarbakir Watermelon Festival.

Diyarbakır is also a good place for buying Turkish and Kurdish carpets and kilims. Sait Sanık at the Hasan Hasan Paşa Hanı has a huge collection and his prices are very reasonable. He can also be of help in providing a guide for the different churches.

I was in Diyarbakır in 1992, 1997, and 2002. Both in 1997 and 2002, I found Grand Güler Hotel (Tel.: +(90) 412 229 22 21 - 228 17 35 - 228 97 03, Fax: +(90) 412 224 45 09, e-mail: grandgulerhotel@hotmail.com, Kibris Caddesi No 13, Dağkapı) a good place to stay in the city center.

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