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Epic History - Culture

Mesopotamia invites you to the firsts and singles of the history of civilization. This geography that is fed by the Tigris and the Euphrates, presents a unique history and culture experience with its civilization history that started 10,000 B.C. and reached today. "Nan (bread)", "kabab" are the words that have been used here for at least 4000 years, and this place bears the traces and culture of tens of civilizations that passed by here.

Civilization history in Mesopotamia dates back to 12,000 years before with the exploration of Göbekli Tepe. Göbekli Tepe that is the oldest monumental temple of the world, changed the civilization history shook the archaeological approaches with a deep impact. The discovery of Göbekli Tepe, eliminated the idea that hunter-gatherer people adopted sedentary life and formed political and economic structures, and that the belief emerged. Göbekli Tepe residents were half hunter-gatherer and they had political and economic structure that enabled them to build monumental structures as large as Göbekli Tepe. In other words, people firstly believed and laid the foundation of today's society with Göbekli Tepe, Şanlıurfa Museum that is the largest museum of Turkey and in which numerous remnants such as Göbekli Tepe, Nevali Çori, Hallan Çemi, Gürcü Tepe are exhibited, and Balıklıgöl in which the oldest sculptures were discovered, are inviting you to Mesopotamia in order to trace of our prehistoric ancestors.

When you reach Karacadağ that is a volcanic mountain located between Urfa and Diyarbakır, you can witness the traces of agricultural revolution that is one of the milestones of civilization history. Einkorn Wheat that is the first wild ancestor of wheat still remains as wild here just like as it was 10.00 years ago. Humanity included this wheat in their culture, improved the seeds and reproduced them, settled here to cultivate it, increased the production and started to feed more crowded societies. Agriculture and population led to division of labour, and accordingly a class society. The first villages have been established in this way. Slaves, masters, priests, soldiers and kings emerged. These villages turned into cities, then they became Empires and lastly nation states in the present day. All these facts started with cultivating a wild wheat nearby a mountain in Mesopotamia and initiating the agricultural revolution.

In addition to Göbekli Tepe in Urfa, Çayönü settlement in Ergani is another important center in which you can trace our prehistoric ancestors. American archaeologist Robert J. Braidwood who inspired Indiana Jones movie and archaeologist Halet Çambel who is one of the monumental women of our republic, operated this excavation site together, and this place bears the traces of starting to engage in agriculture after the transition from hunter-gatherer life to sedentary life. Çayönü shows us one more of the firsts. People started to build grid planned structures instead of circular planned structures here for the first time.  In this way, the foundations of our cities have been laid in Çayönü for the first time.

Mesopotamia is the place where the first political organization, in other words, city states emerged. The history starts after Sumerians, a Mesopotamian civilization, invented writing. Although Sumerian civilizations existed in Lower Mesopotamia, discovery of Göbekli Tepe; existence of wild wheat in Karacadağ; numerous settlements remained under the waters of Atatürk Dam; cattle, sheep, goat and donkey that were domesticated firstly nearby Southeast Taurus Mountains point out that the antecedents of Sumerian civilization are Turkish Mesopotamia.  Sumerian god eyes in Başur Höyük, the oldest game stones of Near East are exhibited in Batman Museum today. One of the cuneiforms at which Epic of Gilgamesh is written, has been revealed in Sultantepe that is close to Harran, and it is exhibited in Urfa Museum. According to Epic of Gilgamesh, the King Gilgamesh went to kill Hubamba with Enkidu. Do you think that the magic cedar forests belonging to Hubamba are still in current Adıyaman-Diyarbakır Mountains? Based on the idea that they built a gate for Uruk city from the largest cedar tree of the forest and carried this gate to Uruk via Euphrates, so that forest could have been somewhere near to Upper Mesopotamia

Acadians that destroyed Sumerians and that reached Mesopotamia via Arabian Peninsula, emerged as an Empire at the end of 2000 B.C. Acadians that formed the first large and regular armies of history, took over the heritage of Sumerians and dominated several points until Upper Mesopotamia mountains. Their famous King, Sargon, used the expression of "King of Universe" for the first time. Acadian language appeared in the region that is the ancestor of Semitic languages spoken in the region such as Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac. Then, Acadian language was replaced with Sumerian language in daily life, diplomacy and commerce.

The first example of stories involving children themes that are left to river inside a basket, tell the story of Akkadian King Sargon. Euphrates and Tigris rivers that vivify Mesopotamia, were sacred for Akkadians. Especially Upper Tigris, Euphrates and Amanos Mountain were very important for Akkadians. All timber need of Southern Mesopotamia was met by Amanos Mountain. A great part of the need of silver also met here. Therefore, Akkadians called Amanos Mountain as Silver Mountains. Akkadians armies reached until Diyarbakır during King Naram-Sim period and built a stela nearby Diyarbakır in order to celebrate a cruise that was accomplished in Pir Hüseyin Höyük.

Then, Assyrian kingdom appeared in Mesopotamia, which affected the current Anatolian culture to a great extent and enabled the writing and trade to improve in Anatolia. Humanity was passing through another phase after sedentary life, agricultural revolution and political organizing. Organized, registered and pretty sophisticated trade type was launched in the history of humanity. A very intensive caravan commerce has been accomplished in Anatolia between 1920 B.C. and 1750 B.C. Our cities such as Antep, Kilis, Urfa and Diyarbakır that are important trade centres, have been over such trade routes for approximately 3,000 years. It was a trade route that starts in Babil and ends in Kültepe (Kaniş / Neşa) that is nearby Kayseri. Assyrian merchants used to sell the textile products produced in Mesopotamia and the tins come from Afghanistan, to Anatolia and they used to receive golden and silver in return for such products. People used to spend approximately 2 months on donkey to leave behind this trade route that is approximately 800 km. The road coming from Khabur Region used to turn into West, and reach Karkamesh through the current Harran. People used to pass Euphrates River by rafts nearby Birecik, then they used to reach Karum in Kayseri by leaving behind Taurus Mountains via Antep and Maraş. Even today, we can see these explicit traces of trade culture especially in Antep.

This trade continued in Babel Kingdom period as well. He established Hittites that was a new political power in the centre of Anatolia, after Hammurabi who was famous for his laws died, then he initiated his conquests. Aleppo was captured in King Murşili I period, and trade routes were entered into Hittite domination. Hittite army that proceeded throughout Euphrates in 1595 B.C., attacked to Babel and terminated the domination of Hammurabi dynasty. In this way, a Central Anatolian based culture appeared in Mesopotamia.

Hurri - Mittani State was established in Mesopotamia when Babel Dynasty was terminated. Indo-European-origin administrators from Mitanni and Hurri society became states. Egyptians called Hurri country as Naharina (nhr = nehir (river)) due to its location on Euphrates and Tigris route. Cremation is one of the most important cultural heritages inherited from Minnanis in the history. On the other hand, Hurris were very well in cultivating horse, and several terms entered into Mesopotamian culture by means of Hurris. Tilmen Höyük that is located in Antep, on the trade routes of Northern Syria, is one of the settlements of Hurri-Mitannis. Kumarbi legend that is called as "the king of gods" has been conveyed to Ancient Greek civilizations by means o Phoenicians and Late Hittite States, and affected the works of Homer and Hesiodos to a great extent.

When Hurri-Mittani State declined as a result of the Hittite attacks, Assyrians again emerged in the history and Assyrian Period started in Northern Mesopotamia in 14th century B.C. In order to feed crowded cities, Assyrians tried to control the regions whose lands are fertile. Diyarbakır was one of such places. We can witness the traces of Tiglat-Pileser I who is the last powerful King of Central Assyria State in the embossment in Birkleyn Watercourse that is one of the sources of Tigris and located nearby Lice. He reached the source of Tigris in the cruise that he made in order to ensure the control of Northern Mesopotamia, and called here as "The end of the world". He built this embossment inside the cave in order to document his power. This embossment has been staying there for approximately at least 3000 years in the cave where Birkleyn Watercourse was born, located just next to current Diyarbakır-Bingöl road.

Assyrian State accomplished great population transfers when Central Assyrian Period ended up and New Assyrian Period started.  Millions of Aramean-origin population brought to Mesopotamia in order to increase the population in cities, to ensure labour force in agriculture and to meet the soldier need of army. In this way, the ancestors of Assyrian and Keldani culture came to the region, which we encounter today in Adıyaman, Antep, Urfa, Diyarbakır, Siirt and Mardin. Their language, Aramean, has been a common speaking, diplomacy and trade language of the region. This language has been used in Old Testament and Holy Bible was written for the first time in this language. Some of their dialects reached until today as Assyrian and Keldanis. Mesopotamian culture was conveyed to Western Civilization (Greek Culture) by means of this language through Eastern Mediterranean and Cilicia (Çukurova). Western World know this culture very well since the conquests of New Assyrian State were frequently mentioned in Old Testament. New Assyrian State was a large empire whose borders enlarged from Persian Gulf to Egypt, Anatolia and Cilicia (Çukurova) Region. Harran was a very important cult centre in this period. The most significant priest of Moon God Sin was here, and moon temple was enlarged in this period. Harran was the latest capital of New Assyrian Empire.

New Babel Kingdom was replaced with New Assyrian Empire after it retreated from the stages of history. Newruz Festival is the biggest heritage inherited from this kingdom. In these festivals that starts at the second week of March and takes 11 days and that have pretty tough program, people pray around the statuettes signifying Chief God Marduk, present gifts, come into God's presence and parade is performed. Today, Newruz celebrations that are organized every year at 21st of March primarily in Diyarbakır, has been celebrated in the region and throughout Asia Minor for 2,500 years.

Several Late Hittite principalities were established in Mesopotamia in Late Hittite Period. One of the most important of them is Karkamesh city located on zero-point nearby the border of Turkey-Syria, on West coast of Euphrates River and that still protects its name as same since Hittite period. Karkamesh which is an important city on Assyrian trade route, witnessed the most brilliant years during Late Hittite Period. Karkamesh War that was between Egypt and Babylonians does not take part in Holy Bible. Mother Goddess Kubaba cult that is a Hurri cult, is one of the most important features of the city. This cult later has been conveyed to Phrygians as Priapus Goddess Cybele, and then to Greeks as Artemisia. Several works of art revealed in Karkamesh, are exhibited in Gaziantep Museum and Louvre Museum in Paris.

Yesemek Sculpture Workshop is one of other important Hittite assets of Mesopotamia. In this workshop that is located in Yesemek Village of Islahiye District in Gaziantep, there are more than 1,000 Hittite sculpture and sphinx completed. Yesemek is the largest sculpture workshop that is known nearby Near East. Stone quarry that is covered with grey and purple basaltic stones, has been used both in Hittite Empire Period (15-12th centuries B.C.) and Late Hittite Period (9-8th centuries B.C.) Several statuettes belong to Yesemek have been revealed in many Hittite settlements nearby. Yesemek Outdoor Museum will take you a 3,000-years art journey in Mesopotamia heat with its coppice forest that will give you the opportunity of feeling cool.

Persians in the stage of history in 6th century B.C. in Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Achaemenid Dynasty of Persians that dominated these territories approximately for 200 years, and Eastern and Western Civilizations started to come across with each other. Persians bequeathed King Road that is still used and on which Eastern-Western trade was made. Persian King Darius I, made a caravan road done that was at 2,699 km starting from Persepolis to Sardes (Salihli district of Manisa city). Herodotus who is the father of history called the Persian couriers who use this road as "There is not anything faster than Persian couriers in the world". It is known that the road crosses the Tigris over Ongözlü Bridge area in Diyarbakır, and the Euphrates within the periphery of Malatya. The fact that tendency of people on trade and their successes on shopping, is a 2500-years heritage in the route passing through Darende, Diyarbakır, Bismil and Siirt. Siirt Botan Valley is the place where a story at those dates occurred. Persian prince Kyros Pers gathers an army composed of Greek armies and walks towards Babel via Ephesus in order to gain the throne from his brother. Kyros reaches Babel by following Euphrates River, then was defeated in the war that he fought against his brother, and died on the battlefield. Hired Greek soldiers who don't have any objective anymore, try to turn back to their homelands under the command of Xenophon by following Tigris River towards North. Xenophon wrote this story in his work of art named Anabasis. This story took place in between the years 401 B.C. and 400 B.C., and part of it took place in Botan Valley that is just next to Siirt.

Mesopotamia met with Hellenic culture in 4th century B.C. Alexander The Great defeated Persian King III after the war occurred in Issos (Hatay/Dörtyol) in 333 B.C. and continued to proceed towards east in order to enlarge the Empire till India. Urfa is one of the places where this destination includes. When he realized that water is squirting everywhere around current Balıklıgöl and it is a very watery place, he resembles this place to the city of Edessa in his own homeland and calls the city as Edessa.

 Current Zeugma Ancient City, in other words, Seleukia ad Euphrates (Silifke over Euphrates). is one of the most important centres inherited from Seleucid Kingdom that are the successors of Alexander the Great. It has been established by Seleukos I in 300 B.C. who is the King of Seleucids with commercial and military purposes. Today, Apamea ancient city is available on east of Euphrates at the opposite coast of the city, and Apamea is the name of Parth's (Persian-Iran origin) wife. Many trade routes in ancient period pass between these two cities by rafts, and therefore gained a great deal of tax and commercial income to the city. Zeugma Arcehology Museum that is the largest mosaic museum of the world and that is located in Antep city center, is full of numerous mosaics taken out from these city villas. Apamea city is completely under the waters of Birecik Dam whereas Zeugma is partially under water. It is possible to see new villas and new mosaics revealed as a result of ongoing excavations in Zeugma. Feeling the atmosphere of this city that is almost Hong Kong of the Ancient Period; and Euphrates River are one of the most important experiences in Mesopotamia. You can also see the mosaics revealed under the waters of Birecik Dam, in Zeugma Archaeology Museum in Antep city center.

A small Hellenistic kingdom, Commagene Kingdom appeared around 162 B.C. when Seleucids lived their latest time in current Antep and Adıyaman cities. Its capital city Samosata (Samsat) is still within the borders of Adıyaman and remained under the waters of Atatürk Dam. Commagene whose Eastern border is surrounded with Euphrates River, is full of monumental works of art starting from Antep to Malatya. Significant places are located on Western coast of Euphrates River from south to north respectively such as Hisar (Fortress), Elif and Hasanoğlu Mausoleums, Araban (Septimus Severus) bridge that was built in Roman period, Sofraz Tumulus Göksu Bridge, Perre Ancient City, Roman Fountain, Karakuş Tumulus, Cendere Bridge, Yeni Kale (Eski Kahta), Seljuk Bridge, Arsameia Ancient City and Nemrut Mountain Antiochus Grave. Commagene was discovered by German Officer Helmut von Moltke by chance in one of his duty travel in 1838. A discovery expedition was made by Germans again in 1882 in order to reveal the secret of Antiochus tumulus at 2,150 metres of height. Main information regarding Commagene Kingdom have been revealed with the excavations started in 1938. German Karl Dörner and American Theresa Goel dedicated their lives to Commagene. Karl Dörner transformed a village house to an excavation house in Eski Kahta that can be still seen. Even the wedding of his daughter was held in this village. Theresa Goel legated to be burnt and his ashes to be sprinkled in Nemrut Mountain mausoleum after death, and his bequest came true. Nemrut Mountain, Thrown of Gods, is one of the best places to watch sunrise and sunset of not only Mesopotamia but also of the world. It is a unique experience to watch sunrise and sunset in front of the grave built by Commagene King Antiochus I for himself alongside huge God statuettes dating back to 2,000 years ago. Karakuş Tumulus, Cendere Bridge and Arsemia City that are inside Nemrut Mountain National Park, are full of surprises belong to Mesopotamia history. Nemrut Mountain has been taken to UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1987 due to its epic history and glorious.

Battlefields of Mesopotamia Western and Eastern Civilizations appeared in 2nd century. Roman Empire obtained its largest borders in East in Hadrianus period, defeated Commagene Empire, and deployed major legions in Zeugma and Samsat. The soils between Tigris and Euphrates were continuously passed in the hands between Roman and Parth (Persia-Iran) Empires. Rome expanded its borders until Til (Çattepe) that is today located nearby Siirt-Kurtalan. Roman Empire defeated Armenia Kingdom that made collaboration with Parthians and that continuously created problems and whose capital city was Tigranakart (place nearby current Silvan). Marcus Licinius Crassus, who is a famous Roman commander who terminated Spartacus, and became the subject of many books, novels, movies and TV series, has been killed in a war against Parthians nearby Harran. However, Caracalla who inherited Roman crown after killing his brother Geta, has been killed by his own guard when he was in a toilet by the time when they were going from Urfa to Harran. Caracalla had people delete the name of his brother Geta from all monuments and inscriptions in Rome. One of them was one of the missing pillars in West edge of Cendere Bridge that is today located in Nemrut Mountain National Park. Mesopotamia, raised one of the most intelligent, spirited writers of Rome in this geography. He became one of the most read authors of Rome during the period of Lukianos of Samosata (Samsat / Adıyaman).

Hellenic culture and civilization spread to East with the conquest of Asia and Africa continents by Alexander the Great. Alexander The Great established cities in the countries conquered, and sent Hellenic writers, philosophers and scientists to these cities conquered in order to share knowledge and experience. Much earlier than Islam renaissance, science and culture centres have been established in Mesopotamia. Two of these important centres are Urfa (Edessa), Nusaybin (Nsibin) and Harran (Carrhae). Older versions of New Testament have been arranged in Urfa and these texts affected Western texts to a great extent. This is nearly the one single text that was used since its proofreading until today by all sects of Assyrian Church. These texts are the fundamental sources that are referred regarding the problems about the interpretation of Holy Bible.

Nusaybin city that was established between Parth (Pers-Iran) and Roman Empire, undertook very important scientific and cultural roles. Therefore, Nusaybin obtained the titles of Um al Ulum (Inder-disciplinary) and Madinat al-Ma’arif (City of Knowledge).  Nusaybin was already an important science and culture center before Assyrians accepted Christianity. There are numerous Pagan Assyrian poets, philosophers and scientists developed in Nusaybin Academy.

Christianity which is a phenomenon that entirely changed the history of the world, visited almost all cities of Mesopotamia. Today, there are numerous Assyrian, Keldani and Armenian churches in Antep, Adıyaman, Urfa, Diyarbakır, Mardin and Siirt. There are two Assyrian Metropolitan bishops in the region which one of them in Adıyaman and another in Mardin. Some of the temples that were used as Pagan temples before Christianity, are now used as church such as Deyrül Zaferan Monastery, and some of them are used as mosque such as Grand Mosques in Diyarbakır and Urfa. It is sometime possible to see three sects of Christianity that are Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches in Kıllit village of Savur district in Mardin. Grand Mosque of Diyarbakır is one of the exceptional mosques in which 4 sects of Islam pray together. The religion centres of Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran with Jews and Christians, are also located in Harran and Soğmatar. Sabianism is a monotheistic religion that refuses Prophet İbrahim, Prophet Moses, Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad. They prayed in Sin temples. Mithraism is another belief that was very popular especially among Roman soldiers and elites between 1st century and 4th century A.D. It is a religious sect that is pretty mystic, and whose secrets are only revealed to people who accept this religious sect. Their praying place is generally caves and they believe that Mitra was born from a rock, and the theme in which Mitra slaughters a bull, is frequently used. Mitras Temple that is located nearby Antep city center, is one of the rare belief centres of this belief in Mesopotamia. Mitras religion today becomes the subject of various conspiracy theories as the belief of a minority religion that causes the idea that the USA administrates the world socially and economically in secret.

Mesopotamia entered into the domination of Arabs after the revelation of Islam. First the Umayyads then the Abbasids reigned in the region. Tombs of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad that came to the region in this period where Islam spread, are located in across Mesopotamia cities. Turks started to come from Central Asia in 10th and 11th centuries. Turkmens began to migrate to Anatolia in crowds after Seljuks defeated Byzantine Empire in Malazgirt in 1071. Some of Dede Korkut Stories that took place in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia in 9th and 11th centuries, took place in Mardin and Diyarbakır, and nearby Tigris River. Diyarbakır is called as Kara Hamid and Tigris is called as Amıd Water in Dede Qorkut stories. Certain Seljuq works of art are Emineddin Hospital and Külliye, Artuqid Palace in Diyarbakır, Haburman Bridge in Diyarbakır-Çermik, Dunaysır Grand Mosque and Dunaysır Bridge in Kızıltepe, Mardin.

The first Crusades that started in 12th century, were successful and the Crusaders established Urfa (Edessa County) under the leadership of Bolognian Boudouin who later became the king of Jerusalem. Ravanda Castle is another place that was conquered by Crusades, which is inside Kilis borders today. Since this place was located on a point that is dominating trade routes between Northern Syria and Antakya, it was one of the most important castles of Middle Ages. Zengis that is a Turk dynasty, terminated Urfa County in 1144 that reigned for almost 50 years. Second Crusades were triggered after Urfa County entered into the dominion of Muslims.

Mesopotamia was living Islamic Renaissance in 12th century. Mesopotamia was living its golden era in the fields of science, art and architecture. al-Jazari who was born in Cizre district of Şırnak, was the founder of cybernetics and robotics; and Utilization From Mechanical Movements in Engineering that was written by him is the oldest written record about robotics. Sun clock that is in Grand Mosque of Diyarbakır today, pump system revealing water in Hasankeyf for Artuqid Palace from Tigris River, robot playing saz and elephant clock are the most important works of art. Starting from 1181, El Cezeri served for Diyarbakır Sultan El-Salîh Nâsîrüddîn Ebû'l-Feth Mahmûd bin Muhammed bin Kara Arslan bin Davûd bin Sukmân bin Artuk (1200-1222) for 25 years, and before served for his father and brother. He made several tools such as robot, sprinkler, pitcher, wineglass serving drink, water clock, sun clock, depletion vessel and amusing boat. He accomplished to move the rotary movement to linear movement by using crank and piston rod, and determined the main working principles of industrial revolution that will emerge 600 years after his period.

Artuqids that are an Oghuz Turkmen Tribe, reigned for 300 years between 1102 and 1409 in Harput, Diyarbakır, Hasankeyf and Mardin. They left unique architectural works of art in the region and made great contribution especially to the world of education and science. The most important structures are; Artuqids Palace, Evli Beden in on Diyarbakır city walls, Zinciriye and Mesudiye Madrasahs, Hasankeyf Artuqids Palace and Bridge, Dunaysır (Kızıltepe) Mosque and Bridge, Silvan Grand Mosque, Mardin Grand Mosque, Mardin Abdullatif (Latifiye) Mosque, Çermik, Devegeçidi and Cizre Bridges in Diyarbakır; and Hatuniye, Harzem Şehidiye and Sultan İsa Madrasahs in Mardin. Malabadi Bridge is the bridge that had the largest belt in that period that is located on the border of Diyarbakır-Batman. The belt of the bridge is so wide that Evliya Çelebi wrote "Dome of Hagia Sophia can be placed under Malabadi Bridge" in one of his travel book about the bridge.

Mesopotamia has become one of the battle fields during the conflict between Shias and Sunnis; Ottomans and Safavid State fought wars in the region. After Ottoman Army, under the command of Sultan Selim I, defeated Safavid State in Çaldıran Plain in South of Van, the region entered into the domination of Ottoman Empire. Although a continuous conflict existed between Ottoman-Iran about Diyarbakır, Ottoman Army defeated Safavid Army nearby Mardin-Kızıltepe, and Shah İsmail receded to Iran and Ottoman domination has been ensured in the region.

The Mamluk State ended with the war took place in 1516 in Mercidabık nearby current Kilis, and Islam caliphate entered to Ottoman dynasty.

In 18th century, there were important people in Mesopotamia such as İsmail Fakirullah His Holiness, who lived in Siirt Tillo and his student İbrahim Hakkı who was born in Erzurum. İbrahim Hakkı was a valuable astronomer. He gathered his knowledge about astronomy and geometry in his book called Marifetname. Tillo was a science centre at that period and was famous for its madrasahs. When İsmail Fakirullah His Holiness passed away, his student İbrahim Hakkı said " What good could I expect from the sun that does not shine upon the gravestone of my master?" and built a light system that will set light to head of the tomb of his master on 21th of March and 23rd of September each year on equinox dates. He built a wall on a hill called Kale-ül Üstad, and a wall in which light can pass through, in this way, the light hits a prism system on top of the tomb, and enlightens the head of İsmail Fakirullah inside the tomb. This event can be watched in Tillo on 21st of March and 23rd of September each year. It is an important experience in terms of Islam Science History and astronomy. Islam Science Museum in Gaziantep is another important centre that people, who are keen on Medieval Islam Science in Mesopotamia, need to visit.