16 Şubat 2011 Çarşamba

Hasankeyf is like Istanbul

Hasankeyf is like Istanbul: the geography is irresistible and compelling.  When you stand at this place, you know instantly why it was chosen – not just as a military post – but as a spiritual home. 

But did people settle here first for military reasons or in search of spiritual refuge?  What draws people to Istanbul and why has it remained so important over such a long time?  Is it spiritual endowment or strategic location along the corridors of economic and military power? 

Hasankeyf offers a chance for collective self-reflection about what it is that motivates and enables us to cluster in cities – built environments that support spiritual and intellectual growth and also provide security and economic opportunity . . . and the possibility (i.e., the inevitability if not the necessity) of war.

Hasankeyf, like many archeological sites, enables us to think about “city-ness” as we climb over old streets and collapsed walls.  What is different about Hasankeyf is that we have the chance to experience “city-ness” up close in a medieval and Islamic context.  And, ultimately, Hasankeyf is one of the best parallels for understanding Istanbul, because the city reduces the urban experience to its fundamental elements:

Spiritual privilege
Strategic location

Any great city must combine these basic elements.  In both Hasankeyf and Istanbul, the value of being there adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts, because each place is endowed with a special quality that touches the soul deeply and nourishes it endlessly.

The problem is that Hasankeyf has utterly lost its strategic value.  Once it became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516, it was no longer on the frontier.

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