Six kilometres southeast of Doğubeyazıt is the iconic İshak Paşa Sarayı, an overblown, impossibly romantic palace perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the town. Once the site of a Urartian fortress, the Selçuks and Ottomans built castles here to control traffic along the Silk Route. The palace itself was begun in 1685 by Çolak Abdı Paşa, a local chieftain, and completed by his son, İshak Paşa, in 1784. By 1877 the complex was already in decline, being used by the Turkish army as a barracks; subsequent periods of Russian occupation set the seal on its decay.
The grandiose gateway once boasted gold-plated doors but the Russians removed these in 1917 during their retreat from Anatolia, and they’re now on show at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. From the outer courtyard, an ornately carved portal leads to a smaller, inner courtyard. Straight ahead is the harem entrance, while to the right is the entrance to the selâmlık or men’s quarters. The tombs of İshak Paşa and his favourite wife stand in a türbe in one corner of the inner court.
The harem contains fourteen fireplace-equipped bedrooms (in which four hundred soldiers were quartered in 1877) overlooking the valley below, a kitchen and two circular bathrooms. At its centre is a colonnaded dining hall. The selâmlık also contains a library, bedrooms and a fine mosque, retaining much of its original relief decoration and ceiling painting.
Behind the palace is the picturesque, recently restored Ottoman mosque. It’s possible to scramble up behind the mosque to a rock-cut Urartian tomb flanked by two carved relief figures. Above this, reachable only by a scramble, is a narrow niche in the dramatic ridge-top fortress wall. Squeeze through this and you can descend to the much-visited tomb of the Kurdish poet and philosopher Ehmede Xani. His Mem u Zin (1692), a tale of star-crossed lovers, is the epic work of Kurdish literature. There are drinks and souvenir stalls here to serve the pilgrims.
The foundations on the plain below the palace are all that’s left of Eski Beyazıt (Old Beyazit), a city founded by the Urartians. It was inhabited until 1930, when – in the wake of an unsuccessful local Kurdish rebellion – it was forcibly depopulated and the new Doğu (East) Beyazıt founded in its present location.