DOGUBEYAZID & MT.ARARAT

The setting of Doğubayazıt could not be more impressive.  On one side, Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı), Turkey’s highest mountain, stands majestically at 5,137 meters. On the other side, the Ottoman Ishak Pasha Palace, a breathtakingly beautiful fortress-palace-mosque complex, surveys the town from its rocky perch.  Doğubeyazıt has a distinct atmosphere, and the city prides itself on its strong Kurdish heritage, celebrated annually through the Kültür Sanat ve Turizm Festivalı (Culture and Arts Festival).  The city’s history goes back many centuries, owing to its position on the main trade route to Anatolia from the East.  A number of the monuments and ruins here have been lost due to a long succession of battles and invasions in the region, but many traces of the ancient Urartian civilization can still be seen.

The peaks of Great Ararat and Lesser Ararat (3,896 meters in elevation) are the two highest in Turkey, and legends abound regarding both, including that of Noah, his ark, and the great flood.  Many expeditions up the mountains to date have tried to find the remains of Noah’s great ark, but as yet there have been no confirmed sightings.  According to ancient Anatolian mythology, the two peaks were originally sisters who constantly quarreled and were turned into rock because of their harsh exchanges.  The Turkish name for the mountains, Ağrı, means “pain.”

Located six kilometers southeast of town, the Ishak Paşa Palace is perched on a small plateau abutting stark cliffs.  Combining Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, Persian, and Armenian architecture, the palace was begun in 1685 and completed in 1784.  The palace's elaborate main entrance leads into the first courtyard, which would have been open to merchants and guests.  Only family and special guests would have been allowed into the second courtyard, where you can see the entrance to the guards' lodgings and granaries.  An elaborate tomb is richly decorated with a mix of Seljuk carvings and Persian-style reliefs.  Steps lead down to the sarcophagi.  From the second courtyard, pass through the marvelously decorated portal into the palace living quarters.  The highlight here is undoubtedly the beautiful dining room, a mélange of styles, with walls topped by Seljuk triangular stonework, Armenian floral-relief decoration, and ornate column capitals showing Georgian influence, with all incorporating black and white stone.  Explore the Turkish bath (hamam) and rooms with carved fireplaces of stone and windows surveying Doğubayazıt.  Returning to the second courtyard, climb a staircase to a stately hall where guests would have been greeted before being entertained in the ceremonial hall-courtyard to the right. There is also a library, terrace, and a lovely mosque, which has kept much of its original relief decoration and ceiling frescoes.

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