To travel along Turkey's southern border, take the highway which connects Gazi Antep, Sanli Urfa and Mardin to Syria and Iraq.
Gazi Antep, located on a wide and fertile plain cultivated with extensive olive groves and vineyards, pro duces a variety of agricultural crops. It is especially known throughout Turkey for its excellent pistachios. Industry also contributes to the local economy. The 36 towers of the city's fortress were originally constructed in the Justinian era and were later rebuilt by the Seljuks. The Archaeological Museum has important items from Neolithic, Hittite and Roman times. The Hasan Suzer House, from the turn of the century, has been beautifully restored and houses the Ethnographical Museum. The artisans of Gazi Antep specialize in copper-ware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The kitchens produce some of the best 'lahmacun'-a delicious pizza topped with spicy meat and herbs, and baklava, a honey and nut pastry.
West of Gazi Antep, the Duluk forest makes a good day's outing, or you can stay overnight in the camp-site. In the woods, stroll through the Duluk archaeological site, which dates back to prehistoric times. A Hittite sculpting school was centered in Yesemek, where the 200 works of art on view reveal the beauty of Hittite art. Next to the Syrian border, on the banks of the Firat River, Kargamis, once a late Hittite capital, is another important archaeological site. The site's finds, including immense bas-reliefs, have been moved to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.
The ruins of Belkis (Zeugma) are on the borders of Nizip. It has a mound which has been turned into a citadel. The mosaics from the Roman period are well worth seeing.
In the 12th century B.C., Kahraman Maras was the capital of the Hittite state of Gurgum. A massive citadel built in the 2nd century B.C. houses the city's museum.
Adiyaman and Kahta (which has good accommodation and camping facilities), make good bases from which to visit Nemrut Dagi National Park. You can hire transportation in either town. On the summit of Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut), at an altitude of 2150 meters the highest mountain in Northern Mesopotamia - sits the gigantic funerary sanctuary erected in the first century B.C. by King Antiochus I of Commagene. The engineering involved in creating the artificial tumulus - flanked by terraces on which rest the colossal statues of Apollo, Zeus, Heracles, Tyche and Antiochus - continues to amaze visitors. Time has inflicted heavy damage on the sculptures; their torsos sit with their beautifully carved heads at their feet.
At ancient Eskikale (Arsameia of Nymphaios) a magnificent relief depicts Heracles greeting the Commagene king, Mithridates, in the ruins of what scholars believe might have been the Commagene Palace. Opposite this site, separated by the Eski Kahta river are the remains of the Yenikale (New Castle) built by the Mamluks. Other nearby sights include the Roman bridge at Cendere and another Commagene royal tumulus, Karakus.
In the great plain of High Mesopotamia, Sanli Urfa, known in ancient times first as Ur and later as Edessa, proudly exhibits the legacy of all the civilizations that have prospered in this region. In the second millennium B.C., it was a city of a Hurrite state. Tradition relates that Abraham was born in a cave near where the Mevlid Halil Mosque now stands. Today the cave is a pil gramage site and flocks of pigeons don't seem to disturb the elderly men praying around the entrance. The remains of a castle with two lone Corinthian columns rising above the ruined walls, stands atop a small crest. At the foot of the hills, the lovely Halil Rahman Mosque is built around a quiet pool in which sacred carp swim. The 17th century Ottoman Ridvaniye Mosque and the Firfirli Mosque, formerly the Church of the Apostles, are worth a detour. The archaeological and ethnographical museum, one of the best in Turkey, houses important Neolithic and Chalcolithic finds from the Lower Firat region. To capture the spirit of Sanli Urfa, wander through the vaulted eastern bazaar and linger in the courtyards of the old hans (inns); try to find Gumruk Hani and Barutcu Hani - they are the the most interesting.
Believed to be the ancient city of the same name mentioned in the Old Testament, Harran is known more now for its unusual beehive dwellings than as the place where Abraham spent several years of his life. The archaeological remains include those of the largest ancient Islamic University, city walls dating from the eighth century, four gates and a citadel. The GAP project will transform Harran into one of the most fertile areas in Turkey.
Birecik, 80 km west of Sanli Urfa, straddles the Firat river, its skyline dominated by the town's citadel. A good place to take a break, there is good accommodation and camping facilities here.
Diyarbakir, known in ancient times as Amida, spreads across a basalt plateau close to the banks of the Dicle river. The black basalt triple walls which encircle the old town give the city a rather ominous appearance. These ramparts, 5.5 km in length, with 16 keeps and five gates, inscriptions and bas-reliefs, represent a superb example of medieval military architecture. The Ulu Mosque, built by the Seljuk sultan Melik Shah, is notable for its original plan, and for its utilisation of Byzantine and more ancient architectural materials. The mihrab of the nearby Mesudiye Medrese is made of the local black basalt. The Nebii Mosque represents the typical Ottoman mosque style, while the Safa Mosque exhibits Persian influences in its tiled minaret. The third century Aramaic Church of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana Kilisesi), which is still in use today, makes an interesting visit. For an example of early domestic architecture, stop at the restored home of the writer Cahit Sitki Taranci.
The Deliller Han (1527) by the Mardin Gates, converted and refurbished into a hotel, recreates the at mosphere of the days when trading caravans stopped in Diyarbakir. Just outside the city walls, by the river, stands Ataturk's house, now a museum. South of town at the Dicle Bridge, built in 1065, you can take a great photograph of the Dicle River, the bridge and the city walls.
In Silvan, 77 km east of Diyarbakir you should stop at the graceful Ulu Mosque dating from 1185, to admire the fine flowing lines of stone-relief work that outline the pointed arch portal.
Cayonu, one of the earliest Neolithic settlements yet discovered, dates from the seventh millennium B.C. From a distance, the golden stones of Mardin's houses blend into the rock of the hills on which the city is built. On closer inspection, the stone carving and decoration of the houses and public buildings reveals the city as an architectural treasure-chest. Among the jewels are the ancient citadel and several mosques, in particular, Ulu Mosque. The 15th century Kasim Pasa Medrese is remarkable for its fine stonework. At the lovely Isa Bey Medrese from the 14th century, you can admire the magnificently carved portal and climb to its roof to enjoy the fantastic view over the Mesopotamian Plain.
Only 7 kilometers east of Mardin is the Syriac Jacobite Monastery of Deyrulzaferan, which once was a thriving religious community. Nearby at Kiziltepe, the 13th century Ulu Mosque, one of the best examples of Artukid architecture, has superb mihrab reliefs and a beautiful portal.
Midyat, famous for its silver objects known as telkari, has many elegant, historic houses. Eighteen kilometers east of town, the actively functioning Syriac Jacobite monastery, Deyrelumur (San Gabriel), dates from the beginning of the fifth century.
Batman is Turkey's most important oil-producing center, and oil wells pumping the precious fuel dot the surrounding area. North of Batman, the Malabadi Bridge, built in 1147, spans the Batman River. Undisturbed by time, peaceful waters still reflect the widest single-arch bridge of its day. Two guard towers ensured the bridge's security.
At Hasankeyf are the ruins of the 12th century capital of the Artukids, The bridge, which once spanned the Dicle and connected the two parts of the city and the ruined palace inside the citadel, evokes the ghosts of a vanished dynasty. The 15th century Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, attractively decorated with turquoise tiles, re veals Persian influences.
Siirt was an especially eminent city at the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. Among the city's monuments, be sure to visit the 12th century Seljuk Ulu Mosque and the 13th century Asakir Carsi Mosque. At Aydinlar, only 6 km from Siirt, the Ibrahim Hakki Mausoleum Complex and nearby private Ibrahim Hakki Astronomical Museum are worthy of close examination. Siirt produces fine and large pistachio nuts and is known as well for its excellent goat-hair blankets and kilims.
Sirnak, on the north face of Mount Cudi (2114 meters), derives its name from the Moslem belief that Noah's Ark landed on this holy mountain: Sir City, Nak Noah. Forty-five kilometers from Sirnak, Cizre is the supposed location of his tomb.