12,000 year old Settlement Covered By Water! - The Story About the Traveling Band CASPIAN CARAVAN and the Story Overland To India part #8 - Hasankeyf, Turkey

Freja Fri @frejafriAugust 2018 · 6 min read

Welcome again to the story about when I travelled overland to India with a band, funding all our expenses with music. A journey that took 1 year and 8 months, through 32 countries!
catch up on the previous parts:

Part 1 - West Turkey - The Beginning
Part 2 - Central Turkey - Cappadocia & Malatya
Part 3 - East Turkey - Diyarbakir, Kurdistan
Part 4 - Kurdistan, Iraq#1
Part 5 - TV-stars in Iraq
Part 6 - Duhok, Iraq
Part 7 - Midyat, Turkey

Hasankeyf, Turkey, May 2011


From Midyat we hitchhiked straight up the road to the next beautiful town Hasankeyf.
Hasankeyf was even more ancient than Midyat! But first to our arrival!
I remember we went to a café and had some tea. As always we would have to find a place to stay. Normally we would walk around, play music and meet people, and there were always someone who'd invite us to stay with them. Turkish people are some of the most hospitable people in the world!
But this time it was really hot, the spring was starting to set in, so we decided to keep sitting a while longer on the café after drinking our tea. Me, Sparrow and Matt stayed with the bags, while Jeff and Pete went to have a look around. The café owners didn't belong to the hospitable Turks though, and rather wanted to make money, so they didn't fancy us sitting there without buying more drinks, and threw us out. It was a bit of a hassle to get away with all the bags, but we didn't have to walk far up the road, before the neighbouring café invited us in to stay with them :P It turned out to be the most beautiful spot in town with the nicest people!


In a nice shaded backyard full of beautiful plants, we could finally sit down and relax, and we even got invited to eat with the owners!



They had the sweetest little sofa beds on little terraces on the roof, overlooking an ancient bridge on the Tigris River, where we could sleep under the stars. I think it's one of the most beautiful beds I've had!




We met some other musician travellers on the café, some Turkish girls from West Turkey. It was nice to meet some other travellers, which we hadn't seen for a while, especially not while in Iraq.





but to the real deal about Hasankeyf! The village has a bunch of ancient monuments. The Old Tigris Bridge, as on the picture earlier.


Then it has this incredible Cave Citadel, carved into the rocks. Caves which dates back 12,00 years!
Furthermore it has a bunch of ancient mosques, a tomb and mausoleum.


the bridge with the town and Citadel behind


the Citadel closer, from the other side

the whole area is full of caves, some used as stables and some with houses build into them. Some are a part of the Citadel Museum.



The thing is that ALL THIS is threatened by being flooded with the construction of a Dam! This was a very big issue at the time in Hasankeyf, and people were really protesting and upset that such an ancient site and the homes of all the people would be flooded, just to make cheap electricity.


The Dam was scheduled to be finished in 2016, but in 2008 the World Monuments Fund put the city on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.
This caused all international funding to give the Turkisk Governement 180 days to meet 153 requirements on environmental protection, resettlement of villages, protection of cultural heritage, and resource management with neighbouring states (as the construction of the dam will also diminish the flow of water going into Iraq and damage the eco systems depending on the waterflow). As Turkey did not fulfil any of them, the three ECAs indicated in a joint press release issued on 7 July 2009 that they withdrew from the project.



The Tigris River with The Imam Abdulla Tomb and mausoleom of Zeynel Bey on the right

This didn't stop the Turkish Governement though

The Minister of Forestry and Environment, Veysel Eroğlu, on a number of platforms, declared that the government would build the Dam despite all obstacles. The Ilısu Dam became a "project of honour" for the Turkish State which becomes clear in the words of Eroğlu. "We do not need their money. We will construct this dam at any cost." Since 2009 the construction goes on with the financial support of Turkish banks; Garanti Bankası and Akbank. -Wikipedia


the long rock carved stairs. sideways!

There has been many campaigns to stop the construction of the Ilısu Dam, but unfortunately none of them has won.
I've been trying to search the net for the status of Hasankeyf today, and it seems that the Ilısu Dam was completed and opened the 1. of June this year, where the reservoir started flooding, including the sites in Hasankeyf.


Some of the monuments is supposed to have been moved, but how do you move centuries old caves? I guess just the mausoleum and some other buildings could be saved..



Apparently the Ilisu Dam is expected to be operational for 50-70 years before being decommissioned. For this short term use, 12,000 year old heritage is being destroyed - already big parts of the citadel has ben dynamited away and 15,000 people has to move from the beautiful site into this:

"New Hasankeyf" source https://www.dw.com/en/ancient-settlement-primed-for-flooding-in-turkey/a-40195104

I don't know if the town is flooded yet and if now the top of the minaret is the only sign that there once was a city with a history that spans twenty civilizations..



Maybe the top of the Citadel where these tombstones and beautiful meadow is still possible to wander, now with a big lake, covering centuries of life and mysteries, with a few minarets as islands on the waters.






This Article has a quite touching video of the current state of Hasakeyf.

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porters @portersAugust 2018

Oh it breaks my heart that people can be so inconsiderate and think nothing of wiping out that ancient settlement. Why would they not look at other means then to just bull headedly put there dam project over the lives of those to be dispossessed from building it. fortunate for you you still have the pictures and memories of it to keep it alive in your mind.


I know, it's absolutely unbelievable! Unfortunately the rich western part of turkey sees the less developed east more like a resource to be used and "developed" than the treasure it actually is, and think that this "development" is the way forward :(


Another memorable, unique place !!!!
Once again, the nonsense of people in power leaves me thunderstruck ⚡
Correct me if I'm wrong:
They refused money to preserve a priceless historical site, so they could build a dam, flood this ancient site, just for saving money. 🤔❓


as mentioned for some reason they saw it as a project of honor, to be able to build it without foreign aid. i guess they could have gotten money if they decided to look into building it in another way,. And they could have gotten this site to be on UNESCO's world heritage site, but refused. Because then it would have been impossible for them to touch!
It's pretty crazy, but i guess they just have so much ancient history there (because its right in the cradle of civilisation), so somehow they don't really care too much, and the east and the kurds who live there have been really suppressed for centuries where all the money goes to the west..


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Thank you! <3


That view from little terraces on the roof, overlooking the on the Tigris River is to die for..I could see myself all day sitting thr , reading a novel..Bliss.. the ruins holds so much mystery, it's just sad to see it in such conditions..Turkey is still on my bucket list..i would love to see the Citadel...and now I am more curious to know about this place...


well you'd have to be quick, cause it's all about to be flooded as we speak! Or take diving lessons and see the town underwater. Could be quite magical too..!


Wonderful story and pictures...damn I'll visit her at least one time in my lifespan


I'd like to go back too and see the lake one day! Thank you!

Emanuel @eaamezAugust 2018

Wow, such an incredible experience, I really enjoy reading the about the whole trip, hope I can visit those places some day. Good vibes to you!


Wonderful story, @frejafri. It is awesome you still remember so many details about that trip after quite a few years.


Actually I did write a journal, but it's lying in the attic of a house I used to live in and I haven't been around to search for them for writing these posts. If I found them I sure would remember much more, but else the pictures are a good help (and the facts I have to look up to be sure ;D)
thank you!