Excursions to the Far East and Black Sea Coast: Places to Explore

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Diyarbakır

On a bluff above the Tigris River, the ancient city of Diyarbakır, one of the oldest cities in the northernmost region of Mesopotamia (the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) is encircled by a 5.5-km (3-mi) stretch of thick, impregnable black-basalt walls. Inside those walls lie twisting alleyways, old stone homes, mosques, and a lively bazaar. The city's long history has meant it's seen quite a succession of rulers, from the Assyrians to the Urartians and Romans, and finally the Ottomans, who took control of the city in 1515. Diyarbakır has been an important regional commercial and cultural center for centuries, and there are some wonderful old houses, mosques, and churches in the cobblestone lanes of the old town.

In the 1980s and '90s, Diyarbakır was forced to absorb a large number of villagers fleeing the fighting in the countryside between Kurdish militants and Turkish security forces, which taxed the city's poor infrastructure and social services and gave the city a grimey feel. In more recent years, though, the local municipality has embarked on several restoration and beautification projects, such as renovating historic homes in the old city and opening them up to visitors, which is helping bring the city's charm closer to the surface.

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