Some cities you don’t imagine as tourist destinations, yet it’s often such cities that harbour undiscovered secrets.
In south-eastern Turkey, aside the River Tigris, is the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
Stop! Before you deem it unsafe – open your mind. Architecturally stunning and culturally historical, Diyarbakir is slowly becoming touristic, and with a few precautions, is an eye-opening destination.
Reach the south-east via Istanbul – an idea for a two-centre break. Make the most of your money with extras, such as Gatwick parking, saving time and money.
The best way to visit is with a mixed/organised group. Exercise a little common sense and you’re perfectly safe, with friendly locals.
Famous for its black basalt city walls, the old city is surrounded by 5.5km of these Roman and Byzantine creations, boasting the second largest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Impressive? Peppered with defence towers, walk the walls for mind-blowing views. Whilst you’re here, learn more about the city, its troubled past, and bright future.
The old city is certainly historic, but beyond the walls lies the modern, with bright lights, shopping, clubs and bars. Here you’ll find the best hotels at reasonable prices.
Back on the trail, visit Cahit Sitki Taranci museum, dedicated to the Turkish poet, at his former residence. Built in 1773, inside lies an opulent, green courtyard, with buildings reflecting the seasons. Check the opening times first!
Amongst the old winding streets, you’ll find examples of ancient architecture, even in the simplest of buildings. For something certainly not simple in detail, head to Behrampasa Mosque. From the doors, to the ceilings – stunning. A central dome stands proud, amongst white walls, and sculptured gate. Step inside, your eyes widen in wonder at the brilliant blue tiles adorning the walls. A treat for the senses.
Of course, a mosque-visit is not to be missed for the experience. Avoid prayer-times, observe mosque etiquette, and you’re sure to have an enriching experience. For women – cover your head, legs and arms. For all, remove shoes. Simply stay quiet and observe. For the first-time visitor, you’ll be touched by the sombre, serene atmosphere.
If you want to immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of this eye-opening, but beautiful area, try a village home-stay. Many tour operators offer group holidays, including staying with a family, completely immersed in their way of life. An enriching experience, and the opportunity to find out what life is really like in south-east villages.
Home stay tours are reasonable, considering the experience, but save money with cash-friendly extras, try Luton Airport Parking, or Birmingham Airport Parking.
Life-changing experiences leave you hungry. Thankfully, Diyarbakir has many restaurants, at reasonable prices. Try traditional cuisine, many dishes involving lamb. Not for you? Try the puddings! Kunefe is delicious, loosely compared to cheesecake – a must-try.
A spot of shopping? Head to the local market for hand-crafted goods, or a traditional carpet shop. Hasan Pasa Hani is the place for markets and cafes – sip cay and watch the world pass. The modern city offers more shopping experiences, catering for all.
Nightlife? There are many choices to keep you entertained. Nightlife is in the modern city, infinitely safer at night, with many cafes, offering live music and a relaxed evening. Fancy a show, albeit in Turkish? The theatre is your destination.
Stereotypes aside, like anywhere, be sensible and there’s a wonderful world to discover. Diyarbakir is slowly marking itself on the tourist map. Be one of the first to discover this historic gem.