2 Kasım 2011 Çarşamba

Hasankeyf values: Six reasons why Hasankeyf matters

Why is Hasankeyf, including the lower city that lies at the foot of the cliff-top castle, worth saving?  

It's a combination of six things: 1) landscape & geology, 2) a rare surviving example of medieval Islamic city planning, 3) fourteen centuries of Islamic history, 4) Islamic architectural history, 5) extraordinary people, and 6) a city in schematic relief . . . the more you look at Hasankeyf, the better you can see Istanbul.

First, the landscape is magical.  Take a walk through the canyons and you begin to appreciate the magnitude of forces that have shaped the surface of the earth.  Standing on the cliff above the river, you see a landscape that is much the same as it must have been in the 15th century, when Akkoyunlu Uzun Hasan and Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II fought for control of Eastern Anatolia, and you wonder how many trade caravans, how many armies have crossed the valley below.
 Second, Hasankeyf is a rare (practically unique) example of a medieval Islamic city where the present contours are reasonably close to what they were in the late-Seljuk era.  Samarra has been destroyed.  Samarkand and Bitlis hold diverse architectural treasures, but their surroundings have been overwhelmed by modern construction.  Lingering among the remains of Hasankeyf’s gardens, khans and mosques, you see the relationship among buildings, streets and open spaces and imagine the daily comings and goings of travelers and traders, clerics and dervishes, scholars and soldiers.  Timgad in Algeria, Palmyra in Syria, and Ephesus in Turkey provide good examples of urban design in the Roman Empire.  In Hasankeyf, you contemplate traces of urban life in a medieval Islamic society.  (Photo: Suleyman Mosque, Hasankeyf Lower City)
Third, from the point of view of Islamic history: Hasankeyf and the surrounding areas of Upper Mesopotamia were among the earliest territories outside the Arab peninsula where Islam took hold and flourished, four centuries before the Seljuk Turks’ pivotal victory at Manzikert in 1071.  Several tombs and holy places in and around Hasankeyf honor the memory of holy men who were Companions of the Prophet. 

Fourth, the remains of Hasankeyf’s large mosque complexes provide valuable insight into the process of architectural experimentation and innovation extending from the first monumental mosques, such as the oblong Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, up to the Ottoman adoption of the large central dome, and culminating in the work of Mimar Sinan.  Hasankeyf's early Artukid-Seljukid mosques do not look anything like the later Ottoman innovations.  Together, the three major mosques of Hasankeyf – The Great Mosque inside the fortress and the Koc Mosque and Suleyman Mosque of the Lower City – provide an exciting opportunity to compare the spatial lay-out, structural engineering and decorative aesthetics with which the Artukids and Ayyubids developed a style of worship space which is distinctive in simplicity and rich in spirituality.  These three mosques stand in varying states of disrepair; what you see of them has been there for centuries, undisturbed by major restoration efforts. 

Photo: Koc Mosque, Hasankeyf Lower City

Photos: Great Mosque, Hasankeyf Fortress

Fifth, the people of Hasankeyf reflect the magic of the landscape in their piety, spirituality and hospitality.  Arabic remains the first language for many.  For others, it is Kurdish or Turkish.  They are proud of their faith and heritage and are open to dialogue with people of other religions.  The earnestness of the townsfolk combined with its open skies and clean, dry air make Hasankeyf a good place to recharge.  Some have suggested that Hasankeyf might serve as a retreat for achieving new perspective on intractable conflicts and challenges.

Photo: Abdullah's Teahouse
Sixth, Hasankeyf holds clues for understanding Istanbul.  Like Istanbul, Hasankeyf was a walled city, with ample open spaces, fields and gardens.  The essential elements of city life are easily visible here: transportation routes, water supply and defensibility.  Istanbul and Hasankeyf share the same basic elements of city planning: palace, defense walls, and residential neighborhoods graced with mosques and their adjacent schools and markets.  Istanbul has morphed into a complex megalopolis, but the features that define Istanbul (or Damascus, Cairo, etc.) have been in place for centuries.  Hasankeyf, however, is where the medieval Islamic urban schema is most vivid.  See Hasankeyf, understand Istanbul.