Turkey - Kurdistan
Diyarbakir is considered by many to be the capital of the Kurdish people. Built on the banks of the Tigris River it is the largest city in South East Asia. The Roman name for Diyarbakir was Amida, known as "Black Amida" because of its imposing black basalt city walls. Second in size only to the Great Wall of China the walls of Diyarbakir span 5.5 km and include 82 watchtowers. You can climb some of the towers for views over the city and the Tigris. When the city was conquered by the Arabs in AD 636, it was given to the Beni Bakr tribe, renamed "Diyarbakir" (Place of the Bakr).
At the heart of Diyarbakir within the city walls is the old quarter where you will find a traditional Kurdish way of life. Geese are free to wander around the narrow alleyways, children play and shout out greetings to visitors. Shop owners will welcome you, sometimes with the offer of a glass of Turkish tea. Metal tools, mainly agricultural, are still made by hand here.
There are a number of mosques and Christian churches within the city you can visit. Diyarbakir's most impressive mosque is the Ulu Camii, 'the great Mosque' built in 1091. Within the mosque there are parts of an earlier Byzantine church. The mosque was restored in 1155 after a fire.
Diyarbakır is famed for a traditional lamb dish cooked with black pepper, sumac and coriander, rice, bulgar wheat and butter. The city's most famous specialty is Meftune: lamb and vegetables cooked in garlic and sumac. Kaburga Dolması is baked lamb ribs stuffed with rice and spices. Diyarbakır is also famous for its watermelons which are exported internationally; once a year the city holds a Watermelon Festival.
You might want to visit Dengbê Evi, where you can where you can experience Dengbê the art of Kurdish storytelling by song. There is also a tea garden here.
Hasankeyf is an ancient city that has been settled over a period time by practically every major Mesopotamian civilization and is one of very few places in the world where signs of human settlement date back as early as 9500 BC. The settlement is cited as "Hesna Kepha" in Syriac writings and known as Hisn Kayfa (Rock Fortress) in Arabic. It is now an historic site of major archaeological significance with ancient caves, fragments of monuments dating back to the 11 C Seljuk era, minarets and a citadel surveying the river from the hilltop.
Hasankeyf was an established trading post along the Silk Route. The huge stone blocks of the 12th C Eski Köprü Bridge are now all that remain of the former crossing point over the Tigris. Gazing across the river from the town you will spy the 15th C Zeynel Bey Türbesi Tomb, constructed in classical Central Asian style with blue tiles marking out a distinct pattern. At the centre of Hasankeyef are the ruins of 2 mosques Süleymaniye Camii and Koç Camii, dating from 12th C Artkid and Ayyubid times.
The community in Hasankeyf today with a modest agricultural economy faces an uncertain future as the village is due to be submerged under water due to the development of the Ilusu Dam which is currently under construction and will generate electricity for the country. Now is the time to visit before the ancient remains are engulfed.
Van is located 4km from the eastern shore of Lake Van against the backdrop of the volcanic Mount Erek Da, The city is a popular destination and a great base from which to explore the lake's numerous attractions. Van city dates back to the 9th C BC. Over history it has been occupied by Safavids, then Ottomans and was an Armenien city of cultural significance until the genocide of 1915. Today the city has a mainly Kurdish population. The beautiful setting has led to Van being described as the 'Pearl of the East' and in the words of an old Armenian proverb it is said 'Van in this world, paradise in the next.' Van is also famed for its unique breed of cats, striking for their white fur and different coloured eyes.
Be sure to visit one of the town's many kahvalt salonlar (breakfast salons) and enjoy a traditional morning meal when you are in Van. This gourmet spread takes the concept of breakfast to a whole new level. The Van breakfast is served throughout the day and is catching on all over the region. Dishes include a range of local traditional cheese. Kaymank (Heavenly Cream) served with honey, fig jam and crusty white bread, cajik, murtua a wheat based porridge, olives, menemen (scrambled eggs with whatever you want added) all served with traditional Turkish tea.
Van Kalesi,(Van Castle) dates back to Alexander the great and is spectacularly situated high on a rock 3km west on lake shore. You can hike up to the mount to see the stones and ruins. From here you will glimpse the remains of old Van city which was destroyed during WW1 and to the west, enjoy spectacular views of the glittering waters of Lake Van.