Anatolia and Mesopotamia are each a cradle of beliefs.
It is a unique geography in which religions were born, sheltered and spread.
It is possible to find the traces of the entire belief history that has arisen since prehistoric periods until now, since polytheistic religions till monotheistic ones. These traces are waiting for you to discover…
The fact that the first temple of the world was in Mesopotamia, will inform you about the rooted connection of the region with religion and belief. The first temple that was built by humanity, Göbekli Tepe Temple, which was discovered to be dating back to 11,600 years ago is within the boundaries of Şanlıurfa province.
The discovery of Göbekli Tepe has been an improvement that changed the history of humanity. It was thought until the revelation of Göbekli Tepe that humanity adopted a sedentary life then started to worship. However, Göbekli Tepe demolished this order; humans were isolated first, built a temple and prayed in this temple, then settlements were established around the temple.
A large number of round structures have been revealed on a hill in Göbekli Tepe which belongs to Pre-Pottery Neolithic Period A (9,600 – 7,300 B.C.) archaeologically. According to the data obtained in the results of excavations initiated by archaeologist Professor Klaus Schmidt with the support of German Archaeological Institute, these structures were not used for the purpose of settlement. It is known that these hypaethral structures, which are in total 20 but only 6 of them were revealed, were established with religious purposes, so these structures are the first temples of the world. There is a common feature in architecture of these temples remaining from the Neolithic Period, in other words the Stone Age; there are two pillars in T shape facing each other in the centre of these temples that are surrounded by pillars in T shape. Most of these temples were built in a circular form and some of them in spiral shape and none has roof.
Archaeologists think that these pillars in T shape, the lengths of which range between 3 and 6 metres, are depictions of human figures. The reason is that there are portraits of arms and hands in the T-shaped pillars. Furthermore, there are animal portraits and abstract symbols engraved on these pillars.
Bull, wild boar, fox, snake, Eurasian crane and wild ducks are also frequently observed animal depictions. Other portraits in the shape of 3 dimensional embossments have also been found in addition to these animal portraits engraved on stones. The most important one of them is the lion embossment depicted as prowling down to the side of the T-shape pillar.
Another point that is staggering for the archaeologists is the fact that Göbekli Tepe was preserved excellently until today. It is known that Göbekli Tepe was buried under tons of soil and flint stones approximately 1,000 years after its construction but they still don't know why it was buried.
The weights of the T-shaped pillars depicting people range between 40 and 60 tons. Archaeologists have not yet revealed how the pillars were carried and erected in a period when no hand tool was available other than the primitive ones.
Let us give you a brief information; there is a need of the power of 525 men in order to erect one of those steles erected in Göbekli Tepe!
Approximately 1,000 years after the construction of such temples that are surrounded by concentric walls, it is known that the similar cult structures were built in Çayönü, Çemi and Nevali Çori. It is very probable that Göbekli Tepe might be the ancestor of these cult structures.
Göbekli Tepe which is 7,000 years older than the Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, which is the symbol of Archaic Age wisdom with its existence and is 5,500 years older than the first cities in Mesopotamia, yields us the information that make us question our knowledge of history all over.
An important organization is needed in order to ensure the order for the construction of temples, for gathering for rituals and for maintaining the order when people gather. Since all these factors were very difficult even impossible at those times, residents of Göbekli Tepe achieved this success, and this makes Göbekli Tepe unique. This uniqueness will be registered by UNESCO soon.
Göbekli Tepe is a mysterious place that involves several questions such as how people built such an architecture thousands of years ago and what their belief system was; and it is a temple place waiting for its visitors.
Çayönü (Diyarbakır-Ergani) that is one of the most important settlements of Neolithic Age (the most sensational period of humanity jumping from hunters-collectors to permanent settlement, from agriculture and establishment of villages to urbanization) together with "Skull Building" that is a sacred place in the region. This structure is also one of the most significant findings of the ancestor cult. Çayönü Building, dating back to 8,700 B.C., is waiting for you both in Diyarbakır Museum and in Çayönü excavation site.
We know the traces of Polytheistic religion of the Prehistoric Age from dozens of excavations carried out in the region. You can see Mesopotamia Gods, for example the Moon God Sin, Sun God Shamash, priest figures, even the priests of Sumerians having big eyes, in the Museums of Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Batman and Mardin.
They are the late period gods of Hittites, described as the "land of thousand gods" by themselves, in other words, the gods of the period around 1,000 B.C. are waiting for you with a great serenity under mulberry trees in Yesemek Sculpture Workshop.
It is possible to witness the traces of the belief system (paganism) that resembles polytheistic universe of Ancient Mesopotamia in Commagene, Zeugma and Soğmatar.
Mithraicism is a mystic Roman culture developed around the secrets that are revealed only to the people who are accepted into this sect of the Ancient Greek and the Roman world, similar to the traditions that can be called as esoteric. It became popular among the soldiers of the Roman Empire between the 1st and 4th centuries A.D. Mithraism is one of the most mysterious belief systems. Mithraism was established around a secret that is revealed to the people who are accepted into this religion. Since the essence of Mithraism religion is secret, there is not any written documents belonging to this discipline
Doliche (Dülük) Ancient City whose remnants are observed in Gaziantep, is one of the important places in relation to Mithraism religion. The largest two of Mithraism Temples that were built underground, were found in Dülük. The rituals that include sacrificial of a bull, being the most powerful animal of the nature, drinking and bathing in the blood of the bull, symbolising acquirement of power of the god and immortality, were all conducted in underground temples that were deemed as the home of mystical powers.
In the region where is known as Mt. Nemrut today, a king named Antiochus who ruled in 1st century B.C., wanted to establish a new religion with great ambitions. Establishing a belief system that everyone will believe in Anatolia, which is a place that remained between these two civilizations by combining Greek and Persian religions, could only be imaginable in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. King Antiochus, who established a temple area in Mt. Nemrut that is regarded sacred and who built magnificent places that are the apples of tourism’s eye in the area, believed in his ideal so much so that he declared himself as god. Although it existed for a short time, this hybrid religion mustered up supporters and kept the region under its influence for a long time.
You can also find the most beautiful stories of Greek mythology on the ground mosaics of the Roman Villas in Zeugma, one of the most important royal provinces of Commagene, such as the story of Eros (Love) and Psyche (Soul); Zeus's story of kidnapping Europa; and the story of Perseus and Andromeda…
If you want to learn and see these stories in detail, you need to visit Zeugma Mosaic Museum and Zeugma Excavation Site.
Monumental structures of 3 monotheistic religions will welcome you everywhere while tracing the pagan religions in Mesopotamia.
And the Assyrians...
The community that accepted Christianity the first...
There are three different views regarding the origins and the motherland of the Assyrians. The thesis defending the idea that Assyrians are descendants of Aramis; the thesis supporting the idea that the Syriac people are descendants of the Assyrians; and the final thesis claiming the idea that the origin of the Syriac people has its root in all ancient peoples of the Mesopotamia.
Aramaic which is a Mesopotamian language that was spoken only around the first millennia B.C., is quite a rich language that was shaped by Christianity for centuries. Syriac people gained a corporate identity around the church via Christianity that they chose to convert in 37 A.D. They enabled the conveyance of classic Greek literary works to lands afar by translating them into Aramaic and Arabic.
Assyrians are referred to as the Western and the Eastern Assyrians by historians. Western Assyrians have been defined as the people living in Diyarbakır, Antakya, Kahramanmaraş, Urfa, Midyat, Nusaybin and Syria; whereas the Eastern Assyrians as the people living in Iran, Iraq and India: with their historical centre as Mardin, the Ancient Syriac (Syriac Orthodox or Jacobean Syriac Population) people’s together with Mor Nastur’s (St. Barsawmo) opinions are supported by the group of people who are also referred to as the Eastern Syriac people or Nasturi.
The word Chaldean (Asuri) was used to describe Catholic people who lived in 1500s; meanwhile "Malkoye Melkit" meaning the 'Partisans of the King' was the word used to define people who adopted the decisions of Council of Kadıköy; whereas "Marunis" was the word used to describe people attached to " Patriarchate of Maronite" and finally "Mhalmis" was the word used to describe people who chose Islam.
You may visit the monasteries, churches and chapels in Tur-Abdin Region and participate in morning rituals.
Other beauties of the region that should be visited in Tur-Abdin region are: Mor Gabriel Monastery (Midyat) that was established in 397 A.D., having metropolitan centres,and Deyr-ul Zaferan Monastery (Mardin Centrum) which is an even older one, also Gülgöze (Aynverd) Village and Mar Had Bşabo Church in the village; Altıntaş (Kferze) Village and magnificent Mar Izozoel Church; Anıtlı (Hah) Village and Church of Virgin Mary that is one of the oldest active churches in Turkey and maybe in the world; Barıştepe (Salah) Village and Mar Jacob Church dating back to Early Byzantine Period; İzbırakan (Zaz) Village and its Church reminding of Tuscany and Cappadocia.
Rumkale that is said to be the place where Holy Bible was re-written, is an important structure especially for the Christian world. Johannes who is one of 12 apostles of Christ in the first periods of Christianity, chose Rumkale which is located near Euphrates River, as top place for himself. There he wrote Johannes Bible. It is said that the copies of Johannes Bible were stolen and brought to Beirut. However, it is thought that the grave of Johannes is still in Rumkale.
These lands were introduced to Islam as a result of the raids of Arab Islamic armies in 638 A.D. and this new religion rapidly spread across the region. Definitely the most beautiful Islamic structures are the ones that were built by the Artuqids.
The fact that Prophet Abraham, who is regarded to be the godfather of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, was born in Urfa and the fact that lived here for long time, made Şanlıurfa celestial for both three religions.
Şanlıurfa is the city that accepted Christianity first. Furthermore, the handkerchief that was sent by Christ to King of Urfa to get well, is regarded as sacred and is believed to be in Şanlıurfa as it has not yet been found.
Şanlıurfa is one of 'promised lands' for the Jewish. Şanlıurfa and its periphery are regarded to be sacred due to the fact that it constitutes a great amount of the promised lands because of Arz-u Mevdut, the Prophet Abraham. Prophet Jacob who is an ancestor of Prophet Moses, stayed in Urfa for 14 years. Then Prophet Moses also lived here for a while.
Prophet Abraham who is regarded to be an ancestor of Prophet Muhammad was born in Urfa and lived here. Therefore, Urfa is an important city for Muslims. Moreover, Prophet Ayyub lived here, Prophet Shuaib and several other prophets were born and dwelt here. Thus, Şanlıurfa is called as "the City of Prophets".
Diyarbakır is an important centre of three monotheistic religions. Houses of worship, religion centres of three religions live together brotherly in this city. Authorities of the prophets that are accepted in three religions are in Diyarbakır.
Tombs of several companions of Prophet Muhammad are also locate here. The homeland of the Sayyid that are descendants of Prophet Hussein and Prophet Hasan is also in Diyarbakır.
There is a mosque within the castle of Diyarbakır city walls that is believed to be the place where Prophet Suleiman enchained the jinn. According to another rumour, Suleiman who is the son of Khalid ibn al-Walid, the commander of Islamic armies, was martyred in a war took place in Diyarbakır and a mosque was built for his namesake.
There are graves of 27 companions of Prophet Muhammad near this mosque. Indigenous people visit these graves every Thursday and Friday, and they pray and make a wish. This place is indispensable for the residents of Diyarbakır.
Grand Mosque of Diyarbakır is regarded to be the fifth Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) of Islamic world. According to the information conveyed by Awliya Chalabi, "this mosque has constantly a community regardless of day or night and scientific education is given in 70 to 80 places of the mosque. Members of various sects come and pray together in the mosque".
Grand Mosque of Diyarbakır is a mosque enabling four different sects to perform prayer at the same time.
Eğil district of Diyarbakır is a small center of religion since it hosts the tombs and authority of several prophets.
It is written in Diyarbakır yearbooks that the tombs and authorities of five prophets are here. The tomb of Nebi Harun-i Asafi who was the clerk of Prophet Suleiman; Nebi Zünnun who now rests at the Tomb of Nebi Zünnun (Some say that this person might be Prophet Yunus. It is written in the Quran that the name of Prophet Yunus is described as Zünnun (al-Anbiya, 21/87) and this fact also supports this opinion); and Tomb of Prophet Elisha.
The name of Prophet Elisha is mentioned in several parts of the Quran. His real name is Elisha Bun Uhtub ibn al-Ajuz. It is described that Prophet Elijah was the caliph of Israelites and that he was then awarded with prophecy. Therefore, Prophet Elisha is an important prophet both for the Islamic and Jewish world.
Do not leave Mesopotamia without visiting the Tombs of Prophets in Eğil.
Prophet Dhul-Kifl also had a similar story. Prophet Dhul-Kifl and Prophet Elisha were the first cousins of each other, and Prophet Dhul-Kifl became the Prophet of Israelites after Prophet Elisha. It is stated that his real name was Hazkıya, Hazkl, Hazkil or Ezekiel. Dhulikh is equivalent of Haziya (Ezekiel) in Arabic language. “Haz” means destiny. According to another narration, it is said that he was associated with the name of Dhul-Kifl since he stood guarantor for Prophet Elisha twice.
The authority of Prophet Uzair whose name is also mentioned in the Quran, is in Adıyaman, on the road between Kahta and Gerger. You can visit the authority of Prophet Uzair and also climb the cult area of Mt. Nemrut. Another important tomb is the Tomb of Safwan bin Muattal who is one of two disciples of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) whose place is certainly known, together with Ayyub al-Ansari. The place is visited by thousands of people each year.
Honoured by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with the hadith "I know nothing but benevolence of him", the tomb of Safwan bin Muattal is also in Adıyaman, who was also known to be a symbol of morality by prophetic biographers. The tomb is 17 km away from the city centre from the road between Adıyaman and Kahta through Samsat.
The tombs of Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, Mahmood al-Ansari, and Abdurrahman Erzincani are also located in Adıyaman. Doruk Village, which is one of the important centres of the order of Naqshbandi that is located nearby Kahta. The village is visited by millions of people each year.
The tombs of Prophet Yusha and Pirsefa His Holiness are located in Bakırcı Çarşısı (Coppersmiths Bazaar) in Gaziantep city center. Prophet Yusha is the cousin of Prophet Moses. Prophet Yusha is from the Israelites and came after Prophet Moses. There are three tombs that are said to belong to Prophet Yusha, still available today. One of them is in Baghdad, another is in İstanbul and the third is in Gaziantep. Pirsefa His Holiness was buried next to Prophet Yusha.
Awliya Chalabi wrote that there are 3,000 graves of the ashab (Companions of Prophet Muhammad) in the martyrs’ cemetery in Kilis and that all of these martyrs passed away in the period of Khalid ibn al-Walid. In the past, the residents in Kilis used to take out their shoes and hold them as they passed by this place barefoot, in order to show their respect to the sacred martyrs. Nowadays only the graves located near the main roads, written "martyr" on them, are symbolically erected in order to determine the boundaries of this martyrs’ cemetery.
Mardin also hosts important Islamic works of architecture. These structures were generally built during the Artuqid period. Kasımiye Madrasa is one of the important structures among the others. Kasımiye Madrasa is open for visitors as the Museum of Al Jazari who is the founder of cybernetics.
Hatuni Madrasah is another important structure from the Artuqid period. It is believed that the footprint of Prophet Muhammad is here.
Grand Mosque (Cami-i Kebir) which is the first mosque of Mardin contributes further towards the beauty of the city. The mosque is from the Artuqid period and it is one of the first examples of a mosque having a prayer room for women.
People enter in Latifiye Mosque through two crown gates. These two gates enhance the beauty and mystery of the place. Do not think your travel is done without drinking a tea that is always ready in the courtyard for the visitors after a dawn prayer.
Emminüddin Mosque which encounters us as a hidden place, is the first Islamic-Ottoman social complex of Anatolia, and it is definitely worth to see.
Mor Jacob Church and Zeynel Abidin Mosque are in 'Dinler Bahçesi' (Garden of Religions) that is located in Nusaybin district of Mardin. The tomb of Zeynel Abidin, who is believed to be a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, is also here. There is the first church of Syriac Christianity together with a mosque in the same garden, and this makes the place a 'garden of clemency', which increases its importance.
Siirt, especially Tillo hosts the tombs of several Islamic scholars and Companions of Prophet Muhammad. There are two important scholars come to the forefront when it comes to science and literature. İbrahim Hakkı Efendi who is the resident of Erzurum among these scholars found a special way to show his respect to his master and teacher, İsmail Fakirullah His Nibs. He reflected the first sunlight of the day to the bedside of grave of his teacher from a hill that is 3 km away from the grave of his teacher, located on East on Botan Valley, on the day when day and night rise equally on 21th of March and 23rd of September.
İsmail Fakirullah His Holiness is one of the persons who constituted the moral environment of Tillo. He is the teacher of İbrahim Hakkı Efendi, resident of Erzurum. Another important scholar Sultan Memduh is the student of İbrahim Hakkı His Holiness. Sultan Memduh has a literary work of divan literature. It is worth to see the heaven and hell depictions on top of his grave. In order to breathe spiritual environment of Tillo, we recommend you to participate in the lessons at madrasas.
Another important centre in Siirt is Tomb of Veysel Karani in Baykan district. According to the myth, Veysel Karani lived during the period of the Prophet Muhammad, could not see Prophet Muhammad since he was not able to leave his mother alone although he wanted to see him so much. It is said that Prophet Muhammad send Veysel Karani his sweater after he learnt this truth. The tomb is visited by thousands of domestic and foreign tourists.
The Biblical Flood has an important role among all three monotheistic religions. For that reason, Mt. Ararat is sacred for the Christians and Mt. Judi is sacred for the Muslims. We suggest you visit this sacred mountain in Şırnak province especially during spring.
We have already stated the importance of the area above when talking about Şanlıurfa, as well as the fact that this region is sacred for Judaism, too. Unfortunately, there are no synagogues today which maintain their function. The synagogue in Gaziantep was restored and turned into a Culture Centre. It is planned that the synagogue in Kilis will also be restored as soon as possible.
Ezidism is another religion alive in Mardin, Şırnak, and Northern Iraq. Yezidis and Ezidis are different from each other. Ezidis have no connection with the Yezidi who killed Prophet Hussein and Prophet Hasan in Karbala, who are the sons of Khalifa Ali that take part in Islamic belief of Ezidis.
It is said that there is only one resemblance between Yazid ibn al-İzdiyan, who was the leader of Ezidis with Yazid ibn al-Mu’awia, who was an Umayyad Sultan.
Ezidis state that they did not follow Yazid who is the son of Mu’awia, and that they saw themselves as Ezda, which means the community that believes in the God without any prophets. This community is called as Ezidi among the Kurds in Northern Iraq, whereas they are called as Yazidi in Turkish and English.
Ezidis regard themselves as the beloved human beings of God and believe in that Sheikh Adiy was inspired by God. They also see Melek Taus as an envoy sent by God to differentiate what is right and wrong, but not as a devil. Ezidism did not spread wide since there was no missionary activity in this religion. Having no house of worship, Ezidis visit the tombs of Ezidi sheiks.
There are two holy books in Ezidism. Monotheism is emphasized in these books whereas prophecy is does not exist. Changing religion is forbidden and a sin in Ezidism. Furthermore, anyone cannot become Ezidi afterwards, Ezidism comes with birth.
Ezidis pray three times a day at morning, noon and in the evening. Moreover, they fast for three days before the 'Red Sheet Holiday’ at the second week of April.