Southeastern Turkey is the
northern extension of the Syrian plain (map),
which means it's hot
Unlike most of Eastern
Turkey, the southeast is
not mountainous, but rather an arid
plateau at around 600 meters
(2000 feet) elevation. The region
is more or less bounded by those
great historic rivers, the Tigris (Dicle) to
the east and the Euphrates (Fırat) to
the west (maps).
Many of the people here are Turkish
citizens of Kurdish
The region was a crossroads of
civilizations in Biblical
times, and even earlier. The Patriarch
Abraham lived for a time in Harran,
south of Şanlıurfa.
To the crusaders, Şanlıurfa
was the Latin County of Edessa. Mardin and
Syriac monasteries where services are
still chanted in Aramaic,
the language of Jesus.
The land can be fertile if irrigated,
which is why the Turkish government
has invested decades of work and trillions
liras in the Southeast
Anatolia Project. This mammoth
public-works endeavor, known by its
Turkish initials as GAP,
has brought dozens
of dams and hundreds of kilometers
of aqueducts to the
region, hugely increasing its capacity
for raising crops and supplying electricity.
This once poor region is beginning
to show the results of huge long-term
The best times to visit are spring (March,
April, May) and
August and September the
sun blazes, and there's rarely a
cloud. In winter it can be chilly. More...
Here's what to see and do:
its mighty black basalt walls looming
over the fertile banks of the Tigris,
Diyarbakır is dramatic, not to mention
historic. The walled city still retains
much of its medieval air, not
to mention its street pattern. Many
citizens are Kurdish. More...
and finance capital of the southeast,
Antep is known for its pistachios and
the baklava made from
them. Although it's a very old city,
only a few bits of its antiquity remain. More...
astounding sight: a warren of beehive-like
mud houses rising from the Syrian
plain. Harran looks like it has been
here forever—and it has; ever since
the Book of Genesis, at least. More...
another ancient town, now grown into
a modern city with
little to show for its long past. Kahramanmaraş
(KAHH-rah-MAHN-mah-RAHSH, or simply
Maraş), has decent hotels if you need
a place to stop. It's famous for its
ice cream, so thick with binder
that you can hang it on a hook for
at the edge of a plateau looking out
over the Syrian plain, Mardin has
several impressive oldish buildings
(1300s and later), but the Assyrian
monasteries around Midyat in
to the east are far older, some dating
from the 5th century. More...
Because it's up in
the mountains rather than on the
Dağı, Adıyaman, Kâhta and Malatya belong
more to Eastern
Turkey than to the Southeast.
But Nemrut Dağı,
the mountain and its colossal statues,
are easily accessible from the
cities of the Southeast, so you
may want to combine visits to them. More...
as it's commonly called, has a rock
promontory at its center crowned with
an ancient fortress. At its foot is
a sacred pool and the reputed
birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham.
It's a popular place of pilgrimage for Muslims,
with a fascinating bazaar and
a few fine old buildings. It's also
the best base for visits to nearby Harran and the world's oldest known religious site at Göbekli Tepe. More...