Hasankeyf; The soon to be lost city in Anatolia

God spoke to Noah commanding him to save his family, build an Ark and take the animals – the flood was coming, Earth needed to be cleansed. The well-known story is related in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and finding the Ark and proving the story true an eternal quest.

Noah reputedly hailed from Mesopotamia, and the last resting place of the Ark is still thought to be in the region of Ararat in Turkish Anatolia, so it’s with some irony that a few hundred kilometers to the south all the talk is of impending flood waters that will drown towns and villages along the Tigris basin, the ancient town of Hasankeyf being the most prominent.

This time the Turkish government is the one preparing to open the floodgates; the southeast Anatolian project (GAP) is an ambitious plan to develop the infrastructure of the impoverished region utilizing the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers via a series of dams and hydroelectric plants. Needless to say there has to be casualties and it looks like Hasankeyf is going down with all its treasure, a chest that includes the partially standing remains of a 12th century bridge, a 15th century cylindrical mausoleum, several Mosques, hundreds of cave dwellings and the opportunity to unearth clearly much more, to say nothing of the fate of the local population who are unhappy about being re-housed.

Fishing the Tigris, in November.

The Silk Road and all those that traded along it kept Hasankeyf alive, the high limestone cliffs providing strategic protection. But the city the Assyrians named Castrum Kefa – the Castle of The Rock – is now facing an ignominious end, the Turkish government is moving ahead and new homes for the local inhabitants are being built. There is still a glimmer of hope in that previous protests have halted the damn and plans are also being made to save and relocate some of the antiquity, but so far it is only a glimmer.


Current Situation In Hasankeyf

31 thoughts on “Hasankeyf; The soon to be lost city in Anatolia

  1. omg, the top image of the ancient relics is sublime, the reflections in the water and the dissolving silhouettes in the distance ♥
    so sad to read of the possible fate of that historical site tho and the relocation of local people…

  2. Fantastic writeup and photos. I’ve been to that region of Turkey – Sanliurfa, Dogubeyazit, Tatvan, etc. Your closing photo, of the gentleman in the coat and hat, brought back a lot of good memories. Hoping for the best possible outcome for the people there.

    1. Totally agree.
      Much of the problem is the way the project is being handled and the length of time the uncertainty has been hanging over them.
      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. bummer. Reminds me of burying ancient communities along the snake river in the North western United states (washington). at least there I hope mud will preserve things.

    But here I image the limestone is fragile and will erode significantly.

  4. What beautiful photographs and an interesting post.

    It sounds like a complex situation. I can understand the need to provide basic services like electricity to impoverished regions and to be honest there is no such thing as a place that is ideal to be flooded by a hydroelectric dam. Such projects always cause inundation of precious ecosystems and sites significant to humans. What differentiates governments is their strategies they implement to take care of the people and animals they are relocating. I haven’t seen much indication that the government of Turkey would do that in a sympathetic way.

    As an aside, have you read the Epic of Gilgamesh? It pre-dates the Old Testament and mentions a great flood and an ark. This episode of In Our Time on the BBC was very interesting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b080wbrq

    1. Thank you my friend.
      Yes sadly its more about the way the government is handling the situation, the project has been planned for decades with little in the way clarity.
      It was a privilege to have visited a couple of times.
      Yes I have read the Epic of Gilgamesh-will check out the link though thank you.
      Thanks so much for the comment, really much appreciated

  5. Beautiful photos – and how sad that yet more history is being destroyed in the name of progress. Our growing population and demands on the world require this of us – but at some point we are going to have to stop and ask ourselves if it’s worth it and when we will have to stop ….

    1. Thank you and in some way I do agree, not so sure that day is close though sadly.
      I think perhaps in some places we are reconsidering the way we live out lives but in the developing world it seems much of the same mistakes will be made.

  6. I always find such interesting articles here. It helps to see a world far far away as closer than you think. When the antique makes way for technology it is tragic, but should communities be left to crumble because they do not adapt to the needs of a hoped-for, better future? Regardless of location on a map, everyone struggles to find the balance between necessity and preservation of cultural heritage and natural resources. In the states, the battle can be about clean water (Flint, MI), water endangerment (Standing Rock) and the conservation/controversy of water for farming such as in drought-ridden areas of California. No matter whether you come from a first-world environment or not, the rights of people as individuals or communities must be weighed against the benefits of progress. Sometimes, the heritage and rights of the people are left out of that equation.

    1. If only the right of the long suffering local population we considered but sadly they are the last to be considered, the south east of Turkey is suffering immeasurable damage and the historical heritage is the very least of it.
      Thank you for showing an interest and taking the time comment-much appreciated.

  7. Amazement: oceans swell, islands in the pacific, Bangladesh, our country (Netherlands) and poor old Venice are threatened. Here and there (China, Brazil, Turkey, Russia etc, ) authorities think that’s not enough. Do’nt wanna hear no word from DT about this. Think Noah should be candidate for the new powerful United (?) Nations Committee on water control.

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