Why do we know nothing about it? The renowned designer, jeweler, and traveler Nur, who visited Western Armenia with friends and ended up in Hasankeyf at the insistence of the Kurds, talks about this remarkable city and its mysteries.
…On the territory of Western Armenia, we had specific goals – Arsameia, Nemrut with the Memorial religious complex of King Antioch, and other famous places. On the way, we decided to turn towards Van and look at the door of Mher’s cave. On the way back, we had a flat tire.
To solve the problem, we went to a workshop. The masters, who were Kurds by nationality, welcomed us warmly, treated us to tea, and when they found out that we were Armenians and were traveling from Armenia, they told us about a remarkable Armenian city that few people know about and which was only about 30 km away from this place.
We objected that, according to our maps and historical data, there is no Armenian city in this territory. They began to insist, claiming that it is our – Armenian city, which we simply must see. It’s called Hasankeyf. Of course, the name was unfamiliar to us.
Knowing the Turkish practice of renaming and appropriating Armenian cities, we were surprised at the Kurds’ assertions that this city is indeed Armenian. They showed us pictures of the city. Hasankeyf impressed us so much that it no longer mattered whose city it was – we were determined to see this wonder no matter what.
Knowledgeable people compare Hasankeyf to Cappadocia. Here, too, people lived in rock caves. But what we saw could not even be imagined by the wildest imagination. The bank of the Tigris.
On the bank rises a flat, perfect rock about 100-150 meters high and 3-4 kilometers long. It runs parallel to the Tigris. This unique natural wall with a thousand windows, from which one can observe, shoot, throw, and thus defend, in addition to its main purpose, served as a beautiful defensive structure.
The remains of buildings could be seen on top of the cliff, and what was happening inside the cliff – we were yet to see. An old bridge led to the cliff, the huge piles of which have survived to this day and amaze with their massiveness.
Unfortunately, the bridge itself is no longer there, so we had to climb to the cliff via a modern structure. Nothing indicated the city’s Armenian heritage, and this only further fueled our curiosity.
Below spread a modern settlement with small restaurants and cafes, people were selling souvenirs, decorations, brochures. That’s where we first headed in search of an Armenian trail. We started to ask them whose city it was. Amazingly, everyone answered us that this is an Armenian city, and even the basis of the name are Armenian words.
One of the shop owners showed us a book in English, which wrote about this city with reference to belonging to the Armenians. At first glance, the name “Hasankeyf” had nothing in common with Armenian words… And the first Armenian dash was kept in the coat of arms, which we noticed as we approached the city.
It decorated the old entrance, once connected to the giant bridge. Above the entrance, there was something painfully familiar, we were simply stunned – it was the coat of arms of the royal family of Yervanduni. As for the inner part of the cliff, it is a 70-story dwelling – 70 levels of the city, through which you can trace the development of mankind.
Inside are stairs, corridors, halls, in some places outside you can also see stairs, exposed due to landslides. Each floor is a new epoch and era. The lower part is a primitive settlement with completely amorphous caves.
Higher up are geometric shapes of walls, decorations. The higher you go, the more civilization is clearly read. The rooms are already architecturally worked out. And at the top – a typical Hellenistic ancient city. Hasankeyf is a historical anthology. Climbing the city, you can flip through history.
But for us it remains a mystery why the city ceased to exist. Reaching the very top, we saw the inner part of the city, which to some extent turned out to be the solution to many mysteries.
But first, I want to address how we logically tried to explain to ourselves what this city has to do with Armenians, why it is unknown in Armenia, and what it was intended for. “Hasankeyf” is “Hasan Kefi,” which translated from Armenian means “reached the celebration, festivities, feast.”
There is such a concept as “Kefchi Hasan,” which is often used to refer to people who like to have fun, dance, sing. No one really knows where this phrase came from, but it exists. We were told that the city’s main figure (mayor, in our terms) was called “Kefchi Hasan” – that is, a person who should make a “Kef” – a holiday, keep the city ready to receive guests and organize fun for them.
Indeed, what could a 70-story city in a cliff be intended for? Definitely not for animal husbandry, not for agriculture, not for crafts. This city was meant for fun, that is, figuratively speaking, it was the Las Vegas of that time. Rich people sailed along the Tigris to the city to have fun.
And when we looked at the inner side, we were convinced that it really was a convenient city for fun, because inside it was a multi-tiered amphitheater. This territory was out of reach of humanity for many years, it was a military base.
Information about the city began to appear only in recent years when UNESCO raised the alarm because the Turkish government decided to build a dam there and flood the city.
Of course, this should not be done. Hasankeyf is a valuable historical monument, and it doesn’t matter who it belonged to. However, the Turks have been destroying everything that directly or indirectly indicates Armenian presence or affiliation for hundreds of years.
Author: Elena Shuvaeva-Petrosyan
Translated text Vigen Avetisyan
Gallery photo source: account.travel