Explore The Euphrates and Tigris basin
Famed for its apricots, MALATYA, around 60km north of Nemrut Dağı, is a lively city of around 600,000 people. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and a sometimes uneasy mix of Turkish nationalists, devout Sunni Muslims, Alevîs and Kurds soon becomes apparent. Despite a long history going back to 3000 BC, there’s little left to see within the city, but it’s a pleasant place for an overnight stop before tackling Nemrut Dağı, and the old town of Eski Malatya and the site of ancient Aslantepe are nearby.
Always a political town, Malatya is the home of two former presidents of the Republic, General İsmet İnönü (who gets a statue in his honour) and part-Kurdish Turgut Özal (who has a road named after him). There’s also a huge army base here as well as a university of around 25,000 students.Read More
This artificial, 16,000-square-metre settlement mound, dating back to the fourth millennium BC, has been meticulously excavated by Italian archeologists from Rome University since 1962. Work on turning the site into an open-air museum was approaching completion in the summer of 2009, and it’s possible the pair of Hittite stone lions found here (now in Ankara’s Anatolian Civilizations Museum) will be returned – as will the finds currently housed in Malatya’s archeological museum.
The best of the remains are a vast, fourth-millennium BC palace complex, built of mud bricks on a stone foundation. Also unusual are a pair of wall-paintings from approximately 3200 BC, and a mosaic-style section of Hittite-era flooring from a palace on the northeast side of the mound. The site is attractively surrounded by a veritable sea of apricot trees.
About 12km north of the modern city is Eski Malatya, or “Old Malatya”, a ruined Roman/Byzantine town now engulfed by the modern settlement of Battalgazi. Buses and dolmuşes marked “Battalgazi” depart from the Doğu Garaj (East Garage) a ten-minute walk northeast of the city centre.
Buses arrive at the main square. From here it’s a 200-metre walk southwest to a lovely seventeenth-century kervansaray, restoration of which was approaching completion at the time of writing. A five-minute walk south of here is the wonderful Selçuk Ulu Cami, a huge mosque complex commissioned by Selçuk sultan, Alâeddin Keykubad. Built around a central courtyard, it consists of summer and winter mosques. The latter is of plain stonework with massive pillars, the former consists of a central bay with a soaring domed roof flanked by two wings, the whole surrounding the eyvan. The brickwork of the dome reveals complicated herringbone patterning relieved by pretty blue-glazed tiles.